Student Snapshot: I Could Sing Before I Could Talk
My full name is Jillian Mirja Ann Joy Kuhn, but everyone calls me Joy. I'm in the 2nd semester studying Medicine at Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) and only moved to Riga from Kapellen, which is a village close to Cologne in Germany, in September this year.
Have you ever lived abroad?
No, not yet. I was still at home while all my friends had already moved away to go to university, so I've been really looking forward to finally getting to Riga.
What are some of the first things you might do to connect with your new city?
I definitely want to play some sports. I want to check out the basketball or running groups at RSU. I really like basketball and volleyball. These would be good ways to meet new people. I also think there's a good music scene in Riga. Some of the other students in my semester also play music, so I would like to do that with them in Riga.
Tell me about your music.
I do all kinds of musical things for fun, like this little song I wrote that I just posted on Instagram. We have to learn chemistry formulas by heart, so I wrote a song to help me remember! That's how I learn.
I play 23 instruments, but have only formally been taught piano and clarinet. I also sing, perform, participate in competitions and compose.
How did you learn all of them?
Sometimes I just see an instrument and want to know everything about it, how it sounds and how it can be played. Other times I just try something, even if I haven't seen anyone play it before. I like to try it on my own and see what I can do with it.
How do you choose an instrument?
It depends. Some are instruments that my friends play and I'm impressed by them so I want to try it as well. But others I have found online, like the theremin. It's an instrument you play without touching it. It's amazing, but I don't know anyone who plays it, so I ordered one and am practicing by myself.
What's your musical background?
It's always been a hobby. I started when I was 4 years old. My mother told me that I was able to sing before I could speak. I joined a choir when I was 6 and participated in musicals when I was 8: Sister Act and Blues Brothers at the Apollo Theatre in Stuttgart. I have been playing the piano for 2,5 years now.
Tell me about the musicals you're writing.
The first one is Dear Holly Cooper. I wrote it last year during the corona pandemic. The story is about finding your passion. The main character is a girl who moves to Paris (pretty similar to me moving to Riga) and she wants to find out what her passion is. She joins a theatre because she loves music and thinks that this might be her passion, but then she meets some people in the streets, children and homeless people. She soon finds that she enjoys bringing music to them. They can sing and dance and she does a project with them where she earns money and is able to provide them with homes. That's the story. It will be performed in 2022 in Stuttgart.
The other one is Close To You. I'm working on it now. I've composed 13 songs and written the script, but there is still a lot left to do. It's about a serial killer, so it's a totally different theme! But it's very humorous. There's a lot of irony in the story.
How did the collaboration with the theatre in Stuttgart start?
I posted on Facebook that I had just written a musical and asked if anyone wanted to cover one of my songs. A woman answered that she was interested in bringing it to the stage! I didn't write it for the stage, but just for me, for fun, so I was surprised! The woman has now set up a team with a casting director, and a general director, someone to work on the lyrics with me, someone on the costumes and the set design. I think we're a team of 11 people by now. There will be a casting call in December this year and then the rehearsals can start by January.
I wrote the whole script, and I also had some costumes in mind, and I'm good at dancing, so I filmed myself dancing to some of the songs, but this team is helping me take it to the next level.
All the rehearsals will be in Stuttgart so I'll be flying from Riga to Germany a couple of times a year to be there and see it. It's going to be difficult, but I will try to be as present as I can through Zoom to give my feedback. It is my work, after all, so I want to be able to see what they're doing.
Joy singing at the Nights in White Satin concert in 2019.
Sounds like a lot of work! Do you get overwhelmed?
It works for me. I didn't do music for a living because I want to keep it as a hobby and just do it for fun. And if someone else likes what I do, that's great, but I really don't do it for other people. Studying medicine is my deep interest, and music is something that I do to relax and something I just love doing. There's no pressure in it for me.