Off Stage

Trumpeter used to find classical music boring

Trumpeter Lau Wen Rong will perform with musician friends Abigail Sin and Loh Jun Hong at the concert.
Trumpeter Lau Wen Rong will perform with musician friends Abigail Sin and Loh Jun Hong at the concert.PHOTO: CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC

Trumpeter Lau Wen Rong, 26, unites with old friends at a concert this Sunday.

He will share the stage with pianist Abigail Sin and violinist Loh Jun Hong - whom he met in 2011 at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music - for A Touch Of Gold.

The concert at the Esplanade is part of Sin and Loh's More Than Music series, which aims to demystify classical music and break down barriers between musicians and audiences.

Lau graduated from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory last year and is pursuing his master's at the Juilliard School in New York. He is now on a semester off to work with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

How did you get into music, and into classical music in particular?

When I was four, I was enrolled in a keyboard/music appreciation class in Yamaha. I really disliked the class as it took place on Saturday mornings, when all the great children's television shows, such as Power Rangers and Bananas In Pyjamas, aired.

  • BOOK IT /A TOUCH OF GOLD

  • WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Sunday, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $30from Sistic (call6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

I had no interest in classical music at all. In fact, I found it extremely boring.

But this slowly began to change due to my siblings' influence - my brother and sister both play the violin - and classical music was often played at home.

At the age of seven, I attended a performance by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra at the Victoria Concert Hall, where Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra was being performed. I was really captivated by the music and the musicians and told myself that one day, I would be just like them.

Why did you pick the trumpet and what made you fall in love with it?

My Chinese language teacher when I was in Primary 1 was also the teacher in charge of the school's brass band.

During the band's recruitment period, she asked if we were interested in joining, and a close friend of mine wanted to because he thought there were many pretty girls in the band.

That was it. I decided to join the band. But I had no idea what a brass band was. I even practised the recorder the night before the first band practice, thinking that I would be playing the recorder.

Since I was rather small in size, I was assigned the smallest instrument, the cornet, which is rather similar to a trumpet.

I had absolutely no interest in playing the cornet at that time, but after watching Star Wars and Jurassic Park, which had just been released in the cinema then, I was totally blown away by the powerful and amazing sound of the trumpet.

Right then, I knew the trumpet was the instrument that I wanted to use to express myself. At the age of 12, I auditioned for the Singapore National Youth Orchestra with a cornet. I was extremely fortunate to be accepted and it was then that I officially switched to playing the trumpet.

Are there any challenges particular to the trumpet? What's your advice for aspiring trumpeters?

Producing a sound on the trumpet can be very challenging as you need to make sure your lips are firm at the corners but flexible enough to buzz at the center.

Unlike the piano, you can't really see the keys at all. There are only three valves on the trumpet which are used to produce different pitches. This makes it really challenging for a beginner trumpeter to play different pitches.

I was extremely fortunate to have a senior who inspired and taught me when I was just starting to learn the cornet.

My advice to aspiring trumpeters is to get a very good teacher, dream big and never give up.

What's the strangest or most memorable thing that has happened on stage?

During a performance at the Peabody Conservatory in the United States with the Peabody Camerata in 2014, I was performing a new piece that required me to go offstage in the middle of it. I remember leaving my scores on the music stand offstage before the performance, but I couldn't find my scores, and had no time to search for them.

I decided to just play whatever I could remember and hope that no one noticed, especially the composer, who was in the audience. After the performance, I left the stage to search for my scores, and saw them on the ground right beside the music stand. I must have been blind.

What are some misconceptions people have about classical music and how would you dispel them?

One misconception is that it is for the elite and upper class. I believe classical music is for everyone regardless of income or social status.

I'd encourage everyone to attend classical music performances with an open mind.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Trumpeter used to find classical music boring'. Print Edition | Subscribe