Lydia Hwang McCool has been a professional piano teacher teaching children and adults to experience the joy and reward of playing the piano, composing, singing, and sharing the gift of music for over 20 years. She has performed as a pianist in recitals, as a collaborative pianist with singers and instrumentalists, and as a singer in choruses.
How It All Began
Lydia's parents believe that music is necessary for a good life, and a child who learns to play piano studiously will grow up to be a good and wholesome person. This belief she inherits and holds dear.
Lydia studied classical piano privately starting at age 6 and sang in the children's choirs starting at age 9. In her grade school days, she often entertained her classmates playing by ear the latest jingles on TV, anime theme songs, pop songs, on the classroom organ. All the way through high school, Lydia studied with Mrs Shu-Fang Young who specialized in piano and composition. She gave Lydia rigorous sightreading and ear training, solid technique, and exposed her to a wide range of works of various composers.
Lydia started her early teaching experience in helping her classmates learn their music using solfege, rehearsing, conducting, and accompanying during music classes throughout her school years. Sharing the joy of music with others and performing for people have always been enjoyable and important to her.
Growing up with her gifted older sister Zoe Hwang, The Juilliard School trained musician and a winner of the International Queen Elisabeth Music competition, Lydia was always surrounded by classical music and talented musicians. In her youth, owing to her good sightreading skill Lydia was often the page turner for the accompanist at Zoe's concerts and as her rehearsal pianist. As children, they were often invited to play improvised piano duets for guests and friends. Zoe not only fostered a music immersion environment for her, and remains today an influential music mentor in her life.
Moving to the US
Upon graduating from high school, Lydia moved to New York City from Taiwan to pursue higher education in science and engineering. Often while she tried to decipher complex Assembly language code or baffling Organic Chemistry formulas, she was also serenaded by opera music and Zoe's exciting narration of composers and libretto stories. During her years living in New York City, Lydia was exposed to fusion music of Jazz and classical, and 20th century music that challenged her ears and stretched her musical taste.
Preparing for her First Career
While working on her Bachelor of Science Computer Science degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Lydia continued studying piano and composition with the piano professor Livingston Gearhart (of the Morley & Gearhart Piano Duo) who made an exception to accept her, a non-music major, into his piano studio, and passing on to her his piano training from Curtis, and his composition legacy from Nadia Boulanger and Stravinsky.
Lydia continued to obtain a Master of Science degree in Computer Science at Pace University, New York City while working full-time as a software engineer. Music was a sustenance and solace in her high-pressure techie's life on Wall Street.
Transition to a Career in Music
Soon after her move to the Bay Area in the late 1990's to work for a startup software company, her musical life took a more public direction. She began serving as pianist of the St. Joseph church of Mission San Jose, and teaching piano to some children from the church. She also auditioned and became a soprano member of the semi-pro chorus Peninsula Women's Choir.
Inspired to further her pursuit in music, she went back to school full time, and received her Bachelor of Arts in piano degree from San Jose State University, California (SJSU) under the tutelage of Dr. Luba Sindler and Professor Sharon Brook (retired 2020), who are both renowned pianists and experts in collaborative piano music. At SJSU, Lydia not only advanced her classical piano study including piano pedagogy and chamber music, but was also formally introduced to the wonderful world of jazz, studying jazz piano with the late professor Frank Sumares.
Her study of collaborative piano granted her the opportunities to observe and learn teachings from masters of voice and various instruments, while working with other musicians. This training greatly enhanced her interpretation of music from multiple perspectives and ability to incorporate those perspectives into her own teaching. At the same time, she studied voice, the playing and teaching of guitar, as well as various orchestral instruments. To enrich her knowledge in education, she also studied Multiple Intelligence, Psychology, Exceptional Children, and Curriculum Planning that further prepared her for a teaching career.
Being a Multifaceted Musician for Life
Besides teaching piano, she actively works as a collaborative pianist for vocal and instrumental contestants at auditions and competitions in the Bay Area. While still a student, she started working as a piano accompanist at the voice studio of Professor Erie Mills at San Jose State University, and continued on as a staff accompanist after she graduated. She has also been a staff piano accompanist for the Silicon Valley Boychoir.
Her role as church pianist at the Congregational Community Church in Sunnyvale has won her praise and appreciation for her choice of inspirational music. Her original compositions have appropriated the theme of the Sunday services and have seamlessly kept to the exact length of each procedure within the service.
She currently serves as a pianist for the English youth mass of the Mission San Jose St. Joseph Church Chinese group, and is responsible for training the youth pianists for the role of full fledged church musicians.
Lydia continues her life long learning in music through rigorous practice routine, and through learning in private lessons, masterclasses, pedagogy and performance groups, and in seminars at Stanford University, conference by MTAC and CAPMT(MTNA), Music@ Menlo and attending high caliber performances and concerts that Bay Area has to offer.
She regularly performs at various performance groups sharing music with colleagues and guests, and with Palo Alto Two Piano club, sharing the joy of duet/duo piano music. She recently sang with Menlo Park Chorus as a soprano.
Lydia is an active member of the Music Teacher's Association of California MTAC, Palo Alto Branch serving many years as the branch newsletter (Tarantella) editor and currently as a board member; and the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) CAPMT Santa Clara Chapter.
She is fluent in English, Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, and specializes in German diction. She enjoys learning languages and reading in multiple languages on various subject matters.
She has been a recipient of STARTALK and BAFLP (Bay Area Foreign Language Program) scholarships to receive training at Stanford University in teaching Mandarin Chinese.
She has trained as a Kenshi at the Palo Alto Kendo Dojo and is an avid cyclist. In Spring 2019 she completed a bike tour with her family around the entire island of Taiwan, covering 900 km in 9 days. One can often catch her zipping through Shoreline Park on her blue Cannondale mountain bike enjoying the morning breeze of the bay and the serenity of the birds.