"Students are my companion on the way of music"



Musician Pham Thuy Hoan was born on Jun. 26, 1942 in Nam Dinh Province. She achieved Gold Medal at the Saigon National School of Drama and Music in 1960 and graduated with the first position in 1962 from this school, specializing in zither. One year later, she once again occupied the 1st position at the graduation examination but this time from the faculty of universal music. From 1962 up to now, she has been working in traditional music field and also a professor HCMC Conservatory. Reminding of her, traditional music lovers will think about a familiar image of a lady in Vietnamese ao dai. She is always smiling, and very seldom expresses her annoyances.

v     Reporter: As many people working in art field, were your dreams related to traditional music? Why does your name sound as boy’s?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: When I was young, I didn’t know much about traditional music, so had no dream about it, my dream is to be a teacher. About my name, I’ve asked my mother and she explained “ HOAN means happiness-the most precious in one’s life and named you as HOAN with the wish that the happiness will follow you at any time, in any circumstances. It’s not you own happiness but also the happiness you bring to other people”. And what’s about THUY? I asked, she told me “ THUY means soothing, I hope that you are always gentle”. I don’t forget the meaning of my name and try to behave as the meaning my parents gave in my name.

v     Reporter: Now, can you remark at what side traditional music attracts you?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: Traditional music expresses delicacy and close. Playing a piece of music, you will feel as if you are opening your heart to your close friend. In addition, traditional music also has many unique characteristics in comparison with music of other countries. I both have a passion and pride of the affluence of the traditional music of my country.

v     Reporter: Up to now, many students of yours have become famous artists and also been the core of traditional music movement in VN and overseas. Thinking about the dream being a teacher, are you proud of this?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: I’m very proud of them and thank my dear students so much. In the old days, they’re my little students, now are my companions and in the future, they will be my substitutes in contributing to Vietnamese traditional music.

v     Reporter: now can we tell that you are a successful woman? How do you think about the gap between success and failure?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: I think that I’m really lucky in my life and also in my career (I think it’s favors of the God and supports of my friends). I only think I’m a happy woman who has been done what she likes doing. About the gap between success and failure, I think it’s your will. You have to be energetic in self control in order not “ to sleep on success” and also to take a lesson from failure as “failure is the mother of success”

v     Reporter: You husband must be the mainstay in your profession, mustn’t he?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: In my family, all members are the mainstay for each other.

v     Reporter: When your two daughters – Hai Phuong, Hai Yen, were little children, did you think that they must take up your career? Have you ever forbidden them in choosing other objects? Why don’t you have a son in order to take over the profession of your husband?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: I have wished and created a lot of conveniences in instructing my children to take over my career, but I didn’t ban them if they want to do the others. My husband and I have the same idea that it’s not important your kids are sons or daughters, the most important is that they must be good citizens.

v     Reporter: During 30 year living together, what makes you pleased as talking about your husband? What made you and your husband fall in love with each other in the old days?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: My husband – Mr. Nguyen Hai Phuong is a poet. We love each other because we respect our own ideal and profession. One loves poem, one loves music and that two loves have harmonized and created a thirty -year deep love. I still remember the first poem my husband presented me:

Lenh denh muoi sau day tinh

Moi nghieng canh nhan da thanh cau rao

Gio mua nuong nao day nao

Tinh anh sao bong lac vao nuoc may

Khuc dan bac menh nao day

Ni non khoe mat hao gay dang tho

Ngon tay uop le bao gio

Giot roi cung oan giot cho cung ai

Cung nao ma toc to bay

Ma hiu hat gio ma cay nang vang

Tay em niu nhe day dan

Ru anh ve voi bien ngan xot thuong

Sao khong chuyen khuc to vuong

Cho xanh anh nhac cho huong bo moi

(Anh nhac – 1968)

v     Reporter: What did you discover between thousands of poet of your husband? Which one do you love best?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: he loves me honestly so that his poem is also overflowing with love, especially writing about traditional musical instruments. The poet writing about Sao truc (Bamboo flute) is the one I love best:

Veo von loi gio giong chim

Cho choi voi moi canh tim choi voi

Ngon tay khep mo tinh nguoi

Lay hon tho day, thuyen moi bap benh

v     Reporter: It seems that you have a special power in persuading other people, do you have any secrets?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: I have no secret. When doing anything, I always do my utmost, do it with all my passion. To my students, as mentioned above, they’re my companions so I give them all my love and belief.

v     Reporter: Have you ever met difficulties caused by material, economic life? How do you define a satisfactory life? What are you lacking now?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: No, I haven’t, I don’t care much about material life. People said that if you feel fee, it’s fee, it comes from inside, not outside. I’m lacking of time and health to finish a lot of my plans such as compiling 02 more textbooks for Zither (Book IV and V), musical pieces for zither (Book II), Zither Research Book….

v     Reporter: Founded Tieng Hat Que Huong Troupe at HCMC Labor Cutural Palace from 1981 up to now, can you self comment about this?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: The achievement is that we have created many cores having real ability and the love towards traditional music, but it’s a pity that potentialities of the troupe haven’t been full utilized.

v     Reporter: in the past two years, Tieng Hat Que Huong Scholarship has created good impressions. Is it one form of socialization of traditional music?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: the purpose of scholarship is to support, encourage excellent students of the troupe. Dr. Prof. Tran Van Khe  agrees and supports  this idea very much. He and Ms. Tuong Van (his close friend) are the first two people to contribute to this scholarship. In the past two year, there have been a lot of supporters from USA, Germany, France, funding to this scholarship. I think that this is one tend of socialization but the benefit is not revenue, it’s to encourage the young talents to keep going on the way become professional artists.

v     Reporter: Among teaching, composing, performing activities, which one you like best?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: When I was young, I like performing, getting a little older I like teaching. At the moment, I love teaching and composing. I would like to make favorable conditions for the youth to perform and become fond of traditional music through three ways I chose.

v     Reporter: But there is the fact that not all people can accumulate enough conditions/chances to do these three activities at the same time, isn’t it?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: Yes, so you have to share your life into segments, and in each segment of your life you will devote for one current activity. Life always provides challenges to people and I try my best to overcome them.

v     Reporter: You compose a lot of pieces of music for zither, during doing this, which image do you choose to create the piece?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: I usually take the images of school, teachers, students and the love towards our motherland/ country. My husband’s poem and my love to literature are also the source of inspiration for me to imagine about musical atmosphere in every my works.

v     Reporter: One private question, do you think that being a wife of a poet is more difficult than being a husband of a musician cum teacher?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: (smile) I don’t think so, but due to our career we have to bear some obstacles in our daily life. For example, when he is versing, no one can have his help, vice versa when I’m preparing my syllabus or compiling music and haven’t prepared meal yet, he will have to wait with his empty stomach until I finish my works.

v     Reporter: How can you keep your balance in your life even in unsteady circumstances?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: Besides my self efforts, I also receive a lot of support from Dr. Prof. Tran Van Khe, my husband, Hai Phuong, Quoc Thai, friends and Tieng Hat Que Huong’s members. These love, belief and working sharing have help me finish my work year by year. When facing obstacles, I always remind myself with some sentences of poem I learnt years ago “Vi phong duong doi bang phang ca, anh hung hao kiet co hon ai” (if life is always smooth, there will be no hero). I have composed a song named “Yeu nguoi”:

Duong doi day gian kho, day chong gai, chong gai hiem ngheo

Duong doi day trac tro day gian nan thu nguoi

Nen em oi dung dau kho

Nen em oi dung than tho

Va dung doi, dung doi chi co yen vui

v     Reporter: To you, which factors take important role in maintain family happiness?

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan: I think they’re sympathy and work sharing

v     Reporter: Are you afraid of lonesome? People said that women working in art fields usually feel lonely

v     Prof. Pham Thuy Hoan:I have a lot of works to do so there is no time for lonesome to occupy. Sometimes, I wish I could be lonely, because in a certain side, loneliness is necessary for composing.  However, my works always bring with them the love towards life, so the lonesome hardly affects me.

v     Reporter: Thank you so much and wish you happy forever.


(Minh Doan translated - Extracted from Women Margazine – Sunday version, No 41 dated Oct. 27,2002)