WRTI Young Artist Spotlight: Pianist and Cellist Nina Braum-Bharti
Nina Braum-Bharti, a junior at Germantown Friends School, was born in Hong Kong and lived there and in Singapore before moving to Philadelphia. She plays the cello and piano; is a member of Musicopia String Orchestra and a mezzo in Germantown Friends School A Capella; and is preparing to take the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music piano diploma exam.
She earned a superior ranking at the 2022 Dorothy Sutton Performance Festival and performed at the PMTA Piano Concerto Festival in November 2022. Nina is passionate about science and community service.
10 Questions with Nina James Braum-Bharti:
1. Outside of classical music, what do you like to listen to?
Outside of classical music, I tend to listen to the music my a cappella ensemble is rehearsing and performing. Some of my favorite songs from the last school year include “Distance” by Yebba, “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” by Destiny’s Child, and “Waterfalls” by TLC. I also enjoy listening to the Beatles.
2. What are some differences between your musical experiences as a pianist, cellist, and vocalist?
Singing, especially as part of my school’s a capella group where our focus is on vocal harmony, is more social than playing piano and cello. I’ve been playing piano for 12 years, and I’ve had more time to develop my musicianship and skill as a pianist. My appreciation for playing piano has grown immensely in the last few years, and it is my favorite instrument. I began playing cello in 4th grade as the school I attended in Singapore required students to play a string instrument. Playing cello has provided me with opportunities to play in an orchestra which has helped me grow as a musician.
3. What was one thing about your instrument(s) that surprised you when you started learning to play?
When I began playing cello, I was surprised by how difficult it was to play an exact note–it is very different from pressing a key on the piano. I was also pleasantly surprised by how my confidence performing developed by taking part in a capella.
4. What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?
My favorite thing about Philadelphia is the murals that decorate some of the buildings in the city. I think that they give the city personality.
5. What do you like most about playing cello in the Musicopia String Orchestra?
One of my favorite aspects of Musicopia String Orchestra is the dedication to pIaying music written by a diverse selection of composers and their commitment to inclusion in music as well as providing opportunities to anyone who aspires to play an instrument.
6. Do you find that some of the ensemble skills you learn from playing in an orchestra are transferable to singing in an acapella group and vice versa?
Listening to the musicians around me in both MSO (Musicopia String Orchestra) and a capella is an important and transferable skill. Learning to watch and respond to the conductor in the orchestra helped prepare me to pay close attention to the a capella music director who provides direction to the group when we are performing.
7. What did you enjoy most about taking part in the Dorothy Sutton Performance Festival?
I enjoyed the opportunity to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone by first competing, then performing. The performance at the festival at Kutztown University was the first time I performed a piano piece for an audience since before the pandemic.
8. What advice would you give your 9-year-old self?
It's important to become invested in and enjoy the piece you’re playing. I also find it's helpful to learn about the composer and, if possible, their motivation for writing or what they were trying to express through a piece of music. This background information often leads to more expressive playing.
9. What was an experience with a teacher or peer that was impactful to you in your music education?
My piano teacher, Dr. David Hughes, demands the highest level of playing possible. This has led me to improve the way I practice and helped me develop my skills as a musician. His attention to detail has had a strong impact on me, leading me to carefully consider and respond to every notation in a given score.
10. Do you have any advice for people just getting started with learning an instrument?
Patience is a skill that is important to cultivate in the beginning because it will be necessary as you learn your instrument. Finding joy in playing your instrument and in your selection of music is crucial.
Nina's Recommended Playlist: