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A Lifelong Affair With the National Orchestra

A Lifelong Affair With the National Orchestra

The 24th of January 1979 was a milestone for Singapore and nine-year-old me. For Singapore, it was the birth of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. For me, it was the first time I attended a live symphony orchestra concert, an event that would influence the rest of my life.

At that age, I really loved playing music on my violin but practising was a lonely chore, with only my dad and the occasional cane as company. What I witnessed at the concert made me realise playing music was so much more fun and complex. With so many different instruments and their own characteristics coming together to create a majestic sound. A particular highlight of that concert was the “Dance of the Yao People”, with its very charming tunes and dance rhythms!

A few years on, I was lucky to progress enough to be accepted as a student of Mr Jiri Heger, principal violist of the SSO. He was a very inspiring teacher and was a strong push for me to make music my career.

My teenage years as a member of the Singapore Youth Orchestra meant spending lots of time at the home of the SSO, the Victoria Concert Hall. There, my heroes in the orchestra, Mr Pavel Prantl and Ms Lynnette Seah would talk to me and encourage me to work harder. In fact, Lynnette was the one who parted with her beloved instrument to me, when I needed a better violin, to study at the Royal Academy of Music, London under a PSC-SSO scholarship.

Besides performing great music, my time as a member of the SSO was filled with much fun and friendship – one of the most memorable being the tour to France, Romania and Egypt. It was also during this time when I joined three colleagues to form a string quartet. Again, the VCH was our home and we spent hours after SSO rehearsals, practising and planning concerts. Playing in the SSO was great but we chose to part company from the orchestra to perform as a professional string quartet. It has been 26 years, and I’m still enjoying a wonderful career as a member of the T’ang Quartet.

Today, I am glad to be in a position to share my passion with the next generation of young musicians, as artist faculty at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore. I am also truly honoured to be a member of the Board of Directors of the SSO.

My childhood ambition was to be a lawyer or politician but I guess that moment 40 years ago and the subsequent events changed my life and led me to find my true calling!

My heartiest congratulations to the SSO for 40 years of bringing great music to audiences in Singapore and worldwide. May the orchestra continue to be the torch and yardstick for our aspiring young musicians in the next 40.

Finally, thank you for helping me be who I am!