At an age when most are surrounded by children and focused on living a life of relaxation, an 80-year-old woman living just outside Ho Chi Minh City is hard at work, scraping just enough cash together to make a living with a little bit left over to pursue her love of music.
The ups and downs of music notes are eerily comparable to the ebbs and flows of Tran Huynh Xuan’s life – nearly 80 years spent fighting off loneliness only to wind up destitute in Hoc Mon District, an outskirt area of Saigon.
Xuan’s personal ‘music score’ consists of more low notes than climactic peaks.
A life of hardships
Despite being born into a rich family, Xuan has lived a life devoid of happiness.
Her mother passed away when she was just a small girl. He father remarried, but Xuan spent her childhood feeling alienated from her new mother.
As a young woman, she was forced into an arranged marriage to an abusive husband.
When she finally reached her breaking point, she ran away with all four children, singlehandedly raising them to be proper adults.
Yet fate still chose not to cast its smile upon her. In 1997, her venture into business proved futile and her second son took his own life as a result.
Unable to continue living with the remaining three children, Xuan once again chose to be on her own.
Today, Xuan bounces from place to place, moving in and out on a daily basis.
Sometimes she is able to convince monks at temples and pagodas to let her stay the night. Other times, she is not so lucky.
Due to her old age, she is considered an “unwanted tenant” by many landlords who worry about the fact she has no guardian or relative to care for her.
Fortunately, her ability to teach English earns enough to support herself.
The sparkling passion for music
Music has always been a part of Xuan’s life – serving as a medicine to momentarily cure her of loneliness and hardship.
Though her personal circumstances had always limited her to being an audience member rather than a performer, her passion to become the latter became ignited one day when she found herself at a private music center.
That was when she made it her personal mission to realize her life-long dream of offering her own hymns and praises to the Lord.
The teacher at the private music center is a sophomore at the Conservatory of Ho Chi Minh City.
Even though the teacher was also on her quest to make a living at the time, Xuan’s earnest desire inspired her to offer lessons free-of-charge.
Fully aware of the kind gesture, Xuan has been a dedicated student to her young teacher.
Even with the financial obstacle removed, learning music hasn’t been a piece of cake.
Xuan’s poor hearing and sluggish movement have made certain aspects of learning the new skill quite difficult. Still, she remained dedicated.
Even when financial problems forced her to take a brief absence from lessons, she refused to drop her pursuit. She even asked her teacher for help in finding a used organ.
After getting wind of the story, musician Le Quang Hien, head of the Le Vu Music & Art School, decided to give Xuan a new keyboard. The act out of goodwill brought her to tears.
Equipped with the precious instrument, Xuan now composes and sings on her own, accomplishing her utmost desire.
|Huynh Xuan receives musical tutelage from Pham Ca Dao at the young teacher’s house in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre.|
Still, her story has sparked controversy, with many questioning her motive.
Her critics say it is odd that someone they deem not fit for music, physically or financially, has chosen to take on such an endeavor.
But still, Xuan pushes on. Music is her respite in a life full of misery.
It gives her what she needs to persist through her dreary days.
And to her, that is enough.