Alumni Check-In | Ashley Cheng

Woman next to a piano

PCM: Where are you right now and who are you with?
AC: I’m at home with my family in Chino Hills!

PCM: How are you feeling and how have you adjusted to life at home?
AC:It feels like I’m in high school all over again, but not in a bad way. I’m an only child and have always been close with my parents, so we’ve been passing the time with various activities, like marathoning the Harry Potter franchise or baking whatever the internet is into these days. Granted, it gets a little distant and lonely some days, but I think everyone’s feeling that. I’m happy enough knowing I’m doing my part by staying home.

I have a bad habit of tying my self-worth to my productivity, so one of the hardest things for me has been getting out of the mindset of expecting myself to use this period of time to do as many things as humanly possible. It’s important to take a deep breath sometimes and remind myself that even if I don’t write the next Symphony No. 5 in quarantine, I’m still doing pretty okay. :’)

PCM: What does a typical day look like for you right now?
AC: During the summer, I had a job as a research assistant for an English professor at Pomona College, so I’d work on that (remotely) for most of the day until my eyes swim. Later in the afternoon, I practiced piano, dabbled in guitar (I’m a newbie, really, but it’s fun!), drew, and composed when I was in the mood. Right now, since I’m back in school, I’ve got a full schedule of classes every day! Also, on Thursdays, Erica and I record episodes for our PCM-sponsored podcast Practice Break, so I usually outline the episode a day or two prior. (New episodes Wednesday at 4pm!)

PCM: In what ways (large and small) has the current situation impacted your lessons, practice schedule, and music education experience in general?
AC: Since my dad’s work has him working from home some days, I no longer have the freedom of practicing whenever I want (since piano’s not the most quiet or relocatable instrument). My piano and voice lessons are also over zoom, which requires a little finagling (but isn’t impossible!). Musicians thrive when they’re playing for an audience, so between last semester’s cancelled concerts and the uncertainty of when things will return to normal, it’s hard to find motivation sometimes. But despite all the challenges, music seems to be doing a good job transferring to an online landscape, and I had a lot of fun participating in a LA Phil student open mic a couple months ago. It’s nice to know music is still so easily accessible in our lives.

PCM: What are you most looking forward to when everyone returns to campus? What, if anything, will you miss?
AC: Pomona’s completely online for the fall, so I’ll have to miss my friends a little longer. Until then, I’m committed to sending them snail mail and keeping my skills sharp so we can play together again when things get a little closer to normalcy. As for things I’ll miss, I hope we don’t lose this hard-earned appreciation of our loved ones and all the happy moments in between. I can’t wait to hug everyone a little tighter than usual.