In 2012 the Sinfonietta won the Summa Cum Laude competition of the Golden Hall in Vienna beating other orchestras from USA, Australia and Denmark. This accomplishment launched the Sinfonettia onto the world stage and is now one of Asia’s leading youth orchestras, with all of its players under the age of twenty-two.
I first heard about this orchestra from my violin teacher, Ms. Bing. Some of her students were part of this orchestra and she wanted me to participate as well. We worked together on the audition pieces that I had to play and created a mini repertoire. This was the first musical audition I ever attended. I had no idea what to expect. I kept on imagining a dark room with a single light shining on the judges, I felt quite scared and lost. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. It was a brightly lit room with three very friendly judges. I performed my pieces to to a good standard and after a few days I got selected to be part of Thailand’s best youth orchestra for the 2013 to 2014 season.
I have been playing the violin for over a decade and even though this was not my first time playing in an orchestra, but it was the first time I have played with a professional orchestra. When I went to the first rehearsal, a difference could be felt right away. Everything was much more organized. There were two orchestra mangers and even a librarian for our sheet music! The sheet music was all printed out and placed neatly into folders labeled by the desk where I was sitting. The music stands and chairs were all already set up and a lot of people had already began practicing. It was very different to what I was used to. I sat on the inside seat of the 3rd row of the 2nd violins. I was glad I didn’t get placed in front as I didn’t really know what I was doing.
The rehearsal started off with a Rossini overture at full speed. It was something the orchestra had played before, but for the majority of us it was the first time playing this piece and playing it at full speed was very hard. Even though half of us didn’t know what was going on, it sounded “better than I expected” according to our conductor.
After playing with this orchestra for a whole season and it has been an eye opening experience. As most of the members of the orchestra are studying their instrument in music institutions across Bangkok, there were just so many things that I learned from them. Playing in an orchestra is very different from playing by yourself. In an orchestra, your sense of awareness develops. You are much more aware of what is going on. Also you can experience how powerful an orchestra can be. From making the softest sounds to the loudest, it can all be controlled. In addition, I have worked with two great conductors, Maestro Somtow and Maestro Eric Tang. Maestro Somtow is our resident conductor. He is a well-known composer in Thailand and has also written a lot of novels. His humor and energy keeps the orchestra alive and keeps the players entertained. Maestro Tang was a guest conductor for our orchestra for one of the concerts. He conducted Bethoveen’s 7th and his style of conducting is quite different to Maestro Somtow’s. Working with these two conductors allowed me to gets small insight into what playing in an orchestra feels like and it is something I would cherish for life.
Rehearsing with this orchestra also allowed me to experience firsthand how professional musicians work. As the majority of members are professional musicians that are currently studying their instrument of choice at various music institutions across Bangkok, I was able to see how committed they are to becoming better at their instrument. I have a few of them as friends on Facebook and it is inspiring to see how passionate they all are about music. I find that many are part of as many as 5 different orchestras, playing different pieces and performing at different places. They are all living the lives of professional musicians. I cannot imagine my life without music but for them, playing music, studying music is a whole new level. Their work ethics have inspired me to practice harder and become the best possible musician I can be.
Another important skill that I learnt from taking part in this orchestra was that that my sight reading skills have improved. Sight reading is the art of playing a piece that you have never seen before while maintaining the right tempo, intonation and rhythm. This is extra hard as some of the pieces that we played are very technical. Sight reading at this speed enabled me to develop a quicker reaction time. First, I have to react to the note so I could play it in pitch and rhythm. But I must also look ahead into the score to look at what the next note is and how I should do my fingering. Another thing that I tend to miss are the dynamics. The dynamics can be killers. Many times a fortissimo passage is played and then suddenly without warning a pianissimo section comes after. If you see this and continue to play in fortissimo, then it would be quite awkward. I have become more aware of these issues which gave me a better awareness of the overall process of the orchestra. These skills will come in handy for me in the future when I decide to join another orchestra.
Being part of this orchestra has been a great experience. I will definitely audition for the orchestra again next year and continue to learn from these amazing people.
Video of me playing at the first concert with the Siam Sinfonietta:
(This is the Thailand premiere of Eduard Strauss polka “Ohne Aufenthalt” about non-stop trains. Finding that the music was not for sale from any publisher, my conductor asked the Johann Strauss Society in London for help and they sent him a PDF of the manuscript.)