Music has a central place in the life of Year 12 student, Amber Chong, who was just five when she began piano lessons.

“I’m so grateful my parents gave me lessons from such a young age,” Amber says. “I have a wonderful teacher, Christopher Smith, who’s influenced my playing in indescribable ways and keeps me falling in love with this instrument.”

Time and effort has brought her full-circle and she is now teaching piano to six students.

“I love having the opportunity to pass on skills and knowledge,” she says. “One student, who is only seven, reminds me so much of myself at that age.”

Amber hopes music will continue to be centre-stage in her life, with plans to study piano at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

The breadth of opportunities for an accomplished musician are proving to be wider than she first imagined. Amber recently had a moving insight into the value of music as therapy.

“I was playing at a nursing home one day and during the piece Londonderry Air—better known as Danny Boy—one of the residents sang along with the lyrics,” she racalls.

“After I’d finished one of the nurses came up to me, amazed, and said ‘this resident never speaks’.”

It was a defining moment for Amber.

Her personal musical tastes are eclectic and include music from the Romantic period—Beethoven’s ‘Tempest Sonata’ a favourite piece—right through to contemporary US singer/songwriter Alicia Keys.

“I love this era because of the emotion it allows the pianist to express,” Amber says. “Beethoven wrote that sonata as he was going deaf and poured all his grief into it.”

But Beethoven’s not top of her list of people she’d love a chat with if she had the opportunity. That honour goes to pianist, Martha Argerich.

“Martha is known as the ‘concerto queen’ because of how well she plays with an orchestra,” Amber explains. “I’d love to hear how she perfected her technique.”

However, like many VCE students, school is the major focus for Amber right now.

Her initial attraction to BSSC was simply that it was closer to home than her previous college. She soon discovered it was also a place where she could reconnect with old friends she hadn’t seen since primary school.

She now describes it enthusiastically as “inclusive” and “a college where independence is encouraged”.

Amber’s previous college, The Alice Miller School, taught her resilience, open-mindedness and a willingness to try new things—and these all helped her to transition to BSSC.

“BSSC creates an environment where finding friends with similar interests is supported,” she says. “I know it can be a big challenge for those ‘flying solo’ but most students—like me—soon find their group.

“I love that we call teachers by their first names and have no uniform. The uni-style campus also means the teachers don’t spoon-feed you.

“I don’t think many students appreciate the amount of work our teachers put in for us? I try to do that.”

Amber has also continued to develop and expand her leadership skills alongside academic achievements.

Back in early 2020, at the Student Leadership Team training day, she found herself surrounded by people committed to making BSSC even better.

After involvement in the communications sub-committee in 2020, she put her hand up for an executive role and is now SLT 2021 Vice-President.

“SLT has inspired me to be my best self and gives me an enriched perception of the college,” she says. “I hear views I might not otherwise have access to.”

Amber especially looks forward to events that bring the college together—such as the college Formal—and says the team are keen to assist students who need more support.

When it comes to study, Amber’s hot tip is: Don’t just read over your notes.

“I’ve found doing past exams is the best thing because it acclimatises you to exam conditions,” she says. “It tests your capacity to recall information—which is exactly what you need to do in a SAC or exam.”

Studying Maths Methods, French, Psychology and English, Amber enjoys a particularly strong connection with Nadege, her “wonderful” French teacher whose support during the long Covid lockdown last year only cemented her admiration.

While French is a favourite, Psychology is not far behind for someone who has already completed 3/4 Biology and is fascinated with everything about the human brain and behaviour.

Unsurprisingly, Amber also has Music Performance 3/4 all done and dusted.

Asked what advice she would offer her twelve-year old self, Amber says she would tell her to just relax.

“Stop worrying about everyone else’s opinions of you! You’re doing well.”