Playing Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra at the Philharmonie Singapore (Esplanade Concert Hall), January 2015. Photo courtesy of the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra (BHSO website | BHSO Facebook page).
My earliest recollection of music, at about five years of age, is a Beethoven symphony, possibly the fifth. My mother had brought me to a live performance of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and would continue to do so, planting and nurturing the seeds of a lifelong love for symphonic sound. My music education began in earnest with violin lessons from Mr. Reuben Yap, the owner of a local music shop. As I progressed, he passed me on to a teacher I only ever knew as 窦老师, under whom I made quantum leaps in technique. In later years I studied the violin under teachers who were also orchestral conductors and musicians: Yan Yin Wing, Conductor Emeritus of the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra, and Alexander Souptel, then concertmaster of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Under their tutelage I was exposed to both the western European and Russian violinistic doctrines in both solo and orchestral repertoire.
Earlier on, around 1994, I had joined the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra, which has nurtured me as an orchestral musician ever since. In 1995, I was one of three students selected by the Ministry of Education to represent Singapore at the Pan Pacific International Music Camp in Sydney. I was also appointed concertmaster of the Anglo-Chinese School String Ensemble which was awarded with Distinction at the 1995 Singapore Youth Festival. In 1998 I served as chairman of the Raffles Junior College String Ensemble, and was involved in staging rare collaborations with the college's symphonic band and choir, and with orchestras from high schools across Singapore. Besides instrumental performance, my all-round development as a musician was overseen through my teenage years by Lily Ng, Chan Yen See, Constance Wong and Mary Wong, my teachers in Singapore's Music Elective Programme. Towards the end of my formal music education, I delivered a student lecture on the symphonies of Gustav Mahler to my classmates in General Cambridge Examinations Advanced Level Music.
With Sir Simon Rattle (now conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic) and my music teachers and classmates, backstage at the Konzerthaus in Vienna after a concert of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 1997. I am third from left.
Around this time I shifted my focus to the keyboard, studying the piano under Chew Kuan Ni and Teo Kian Seng, and later the organ under Evelyn Lim, Dean of the Singapore Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. My foray into keyboard music culminated in an organ performance at the Concert Hall of the Esplanade, Singapore's premier performing arts venue, in a public masterclass by international concert organist Carlo Curley. During this time I also undertook historical research on the pipe organs of Singapore, resulting in several publications including an article in The Organ magazine (UK). In addition, I initiated and organized an organ recital by American organist Arthur LaMirande at Singapore's oldest pipe organ at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in 2007, presenting a programme considered highly adventurous by local standards at the time. In the UK, I held a solo photographic exhibition on the pipe organs of the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with Directors of Music at various university colleges and sponsored by the university.
At the organ of the Concert Hall of the Esplanade. Photo: Yoo Ji Eun.
Subsequently I returned to the symphony orchestra which I have found to be my true calling. As a result of playing concurrently with several orchestras in Singapore and the United Kingdom, including some of the top ensembles at the University of Cambridge, I enjoy a diversified portfolio (in financial parlance) of music-making that transcends the programming styles of individual orchestras. In addition, I have served on a major orchestral committee, taking on an even more proactive role in making music happen for the enjoyment of performers and audiences alike. I also created The Orchestra of Music Lovers and organized its inaugural concert in Cambridge.