My Life is Average (Part 4): Who Am I Today?

by Tian-Yuan Zhao (Music & Electrical and Computer Engineering)

This year, CTSI has worked with students to explore their perspective on learning at UofT. This blog post is the fourth and final post in a series showcasing a student’s view of UofT, concluding with why he chose to combine two different majors, and what he has learned from his first two years at UofT.

I have a friend in Winnipeg who’s also in electrical engineering at the University of Manitoba and is an insane connoisseur of music. One thing he told me challenged me and led me to make the decision to take a music minor and it was “taking a music minor is too difficult”. During the summer, I took a look at U of T’s Faculty of Music website and found that the music minor here wasn’t all that difficult to achieve – only four courses? So, at the beginning of the school year, I auditioned for the Vocal Jazz Ensemble full year course and got in! And in the beginning of this semester, I took a history of western music course. It has so far been an interesting ride, that’s for sure to say the least.

The thing is this, many may comment on how artistic I am as a person, but fundamentally they don’t realize that I’m actually a person who adores practicality. As much as I can preach it on the mountaintops as to how wonderful music can be, its spiritually, emotionally and even physiologically healing properties, as well as the fact that it’s a great way to release, relieve and relax, I can’t pursue a career in music. The practicality in pursing such a degree as a major is very low, for if you want to succeed and make it big, you’d have to be that %1 of individuals and I know I’m not one of them.

So, while taking this music minor, the Vocal Jazz Ensemble course is the one where I’ve not only found the most joy, but usefulness. I was able to transfer what I’ve learned to my choir even – Tales of Harmonia, such as conducting techniques, singing styles, and song selections. During the second semester, we sang a lot of Georgian music and for our choir, we performed one called Adiloi! But, the Western Music Survey course I’m currently taking has given me only one thing, a better understanding of the development of music to this day. By taking this course, I can firmly say that it will benefit my compositional and arranging skills, which is something that I worked on for Tales of Harmonia with great dedication.

Some day I think there should be an Audio Engineering minor, or something to that effect. The world of entertainment is incredibly expansive and yet there are many engineers who can’t find a safe haven where they can merge the best of both those worlds of music and engineering. If it’s possible to create a Global Engineering Certificate as advocated by students, why not this?  An observation that many of us have made is there seems to be a huge community of not only music lovers, but proficient players of the craft in engineering. Why not try to provide them a practical platform to realize their talents, knowledge and skills?


As you can probably tell, I’m still more-or-less the man I used to be when I started at UofT, but there are subtle differences. I began university as a lost sheep and hope to come out a shepherd seeking for its lost sheep. Where am I now? Nowhere close, but getting there. My life like yours is a work-in-progress, but it’s one where I’ve still chosen to be diverse. I can’t tell you what ideal I’m going to settle with, but what I can tell you is “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, therefore we call it the present”. Therefore, what I’ve chosen to do today is to gather all my gifts, as diverse as they may be and attempt to unify them before those hallowed doors of university close behind me. I can never relinquish my love for music and the arts, at the same time appreciate how science has led to such progress and development in today’s ever-changing world. I can never let go all that I am today because as much as sacrifices have to be made; I know I can do it.

Now, who am I today? Well, instead of MLIA, My Life is the following:

  1. Chinese-Canadian
  2. Christian
  3. “Tales of…” RPG Series Lover/Fanatic
  4. Music and the Arts
  5. STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
  7. Tales of Harmonia
  8. Balanced
  9. Passionate
  10.  ____

That last one exists because I’ve yet to fill it up with something that I so deem fit. So, as lofty as this may sound, I hope to be one of the first to pioneer something and fill that number 10 with something worthy. I read somewhere that many of us Generation Y folks would have to create jobs instead of find them and hopefully one day I’ll create that dream job that satisfies both the spectrum of my passions. As arrogant as this may sound, I don’t want to just be another number in the crowd, because considering what I was given at birth, it would be too much of a shame.

I’ve already been able to come up with an idea that has both the idealism and realism that could lead me to that ultimate goal. It involves integrating my loves for music and technology by utilizing tablets for the sake of musical innovation and social connectivity. But the thing is, it’s still a faraway land that at least what I can say now is “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and I believe I’ve already taken that single step and inching ever closer.

I look back at these past two years with much regret and sorrow, but I know that tomorrow will be a better day, for I now have something more concrete than yesterday. I can now look at tomorrow with much thanks, hope and optimism. I know everything happens for a reason and 2012 is not the end of the world, but the end of an old world, at least for me and will be the beginning of a brand new one!

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