Manhattan jazz pianist revisits Flushing Town Hall

By Rashmi Vaish

Energetic and full of life, Lin, 31, is a jazz pianist and a violinist. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in music education at Columbia University Teacher's College and he teaches music at various camps and programs across the country, including the Stanford Jazz Workshop.”Technically I've been pursuing my doctorate for six years,” Lin said in his room in a shared apartment off Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan, which he's occupied for as long. “But it's really the interaction with the students that have kept me here this long. I'm a student on paper, but I'm also a teacher and a musician. I can't separate these roles. They all blend in. It's like field research, I guess. It's hard to explain, but it makes sense.”Music, according to Lin, is the backdrop against which one gives a larger education. “You can't separate music from its culture,” he said. “It's the most universal culture. But today music is just another product being fed to young people.”It's why he said he's trying to move away from the conventional, linear formats of teaching.”The first 15 years I was taught that there is a right way to play the piano and a wrong way to play the piano,” he said. “Now I try to teach kids how to tell between what is right or wrong and what makes it so. I try to teach kids that so much is possible.”Lin said he's quite aware that most of his students will not go on to become pros. Yet, it's the joy of interaction, teaching and going through a learning process himself that keeps him going. “If I hadn't taken up music, I would have been a social worker or a youth pastor,” Lin said.While music always came naturally to Lin, a Taiwanese American who grew up in Seattle, it was when he was a freshman and became an evangelical Christian that he decided to pursue music in earnest.”(Being an evangelical Christian) had a gigantic influence on me,” Lin said. “It showed me how music can move people. And when you have the ability to move people it becomes a kind of responsibility.”Ask Lin if he's classically trained and he's a little uncomfortable, he said.”People say 'you've got great technique,'” he said. “But that's just the way I've always played. The problem with training me classically was that I was always very energetic and hyper and never really wanted to play classical music.”Apart from the piano and violin, he also plays bass, which he took up after he was unable to find a bassist to accompany him when he was learning the piano.”When you're just starting out, no one has the time to accompany you,” Lin said. “So I was always extremely grateful when people agreed to accompany me on bass. I never want my students to have to play without bass, or look and not find one.”Lin's play list includes not just jazz, but classical and popular music of all kinds. But he wears his talent lightly and wonders why most are surprised by his extensive repertoire.”People always exclaim, 'you play so many instruments!'” Lin said. “I don't do it to impress people. I do it because it's necessary. It's not what I do, it's what I do with it that's important.”