Sunday, February 18, 2018
Last updated: 2 years ago

UBC Music students | Roydon Tse and Jocelyn Lai

Roydon Tse

Annie Ju


Roydon Tse is only in his second-year at UBC’s School of Music, but he is already well on his way to becoming a successful composer. With three orchestral works already completed and several commissions on the way, Tse is confident in his pursuit of a career in music.

Tse began his musical endeavors with piano lessons at age seven. While attending Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, he had a chance to write for a professional ensemble. Listening to his own music come alive through a highly-esteemed orchestra left him in awe, and that’s when he decided to pursue composition.

At this time, he was also studying under the famous composer John Estacio, who wrote this season’s Vancouver Opera. Tse says that the best tip Estacio ever gave him was “to not take composition too seriously.” This freedom of thought has allowed Tse to experiment in unconventional ways–for example, his ensemble piece written solely for chopsticks.

Aside from personal avant-garde experiments, Tse spends most of his time focusing on commissioned pieces. Last January, he wrote a commissioned piece for eight trombones for Red Shift Music–a non-profit organization promoting new composers. Two months later, he was among six students in the Lower Mainland whose works were chosen to be performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Athough Tse seems to have already made a name for himself in the Vancouver music community, he says that for him, originality is key. “I don’t want to say what people have said before–I don’t want to imitate a style.” Although Tse is still finding his voice as a composer, it seems that his emphasis on authenticity will go a long way in getting him to where he wants to be as an established Vancouver artist.

Jocelyn Lai

Matthew Piva


As a student in the Faculty of Commerce as well as a student in the Faculty of Music at UBC, Jocelyn Lai is a very busy person. In her dual degree pursuit, Lai faces many harsh challenges, not the least of which is her often seven-classes-per-term course load.

But Lai seems to be keeping up with her workload just fine–partly by keeping a tightly organized schedule. “I try to keep Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as my commerce days and Tuesday and Thursday as my music ones,” said Lai. Her hard work has payed off so far: just last year, she was awarded the prestigious Hnatyshyn Foundation Grant for Classical Piano.

One may find it strange that one of the best up-and-coming pianists in Canada would be spending so much of her time on a degree unrelated to music. But for Lai, academe and music have always gone hand in hand. Lai attributes part of this to her parents, “My parents always thought of my piano playing as second to academics in high school.” However, Lai states that she will have to choose one route in particular for grad school. Which one will it be?

One person who has played a major role in helping Lai decide has been Jane Coop, Head of the Keyboard Division in the Faculty of Music. Coop has been the principle teacher that allowed Lai to gain national status as a piano player last year. More importantly, she is the person who truly gives Lai the desire to succeed. “It’s her passion that makes her such a good teacher. I’ve never had a teacher with that much passion before,” she said. Indeed, after only one year under Coop’s tutelage, Lai no longer doubts that music will be the path she will take.