Prodigy pianist Benjamin Boo grows up

Benjamin Boo will accompany Brazilian soprano Taiana Froes on the piano in Sunday's concert.
Benjamin Boo will accompany Brazilian soprano Taiana Froes on the piano in Sunday's concert.PHOTO: COURTESY OF BENJAMIN BOO
Benjamin Boo will accompany Brazilian soprano Taiana Froes on the piano in Sunday's concert.
Benjamin Boo will accompany Brazilian soprano Taiana Froes on the piano in Sunday's concert.PHOTO: ART-MANAGEMENT.COM

Singapore pianist Benjamin Boo says balancing his two start-ups with his performing career boils down to discipline

By age 11, home-grown pianist Benjamin Boo had three albums, a performance with legendary pop pianist Richard Clayderman and the title of child prodigy under his belt.

And while he discovered his passion for entrepreneurship - choosing to study business in university and launching two start-ups along the way - he has not left his first love behind.

Boo, 24, balances his budding businesses with his career as a performer, playing six to seven gigs a week.

On Sunday, he is set to stretch himself once more, with a repertoire of songs by well-loved Brazilian composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos, in PianoBotanica.

  • BOOK IT / PIANOBOTANICA 2016

  • WHERE: Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage, 1 Cluny Road, Singapore Botanic Gardens

    WHEN: Sunday, 6pm

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: www.pianobotanica.com

The annual concert, which is organised by art-management. com, celebrates the friendship between Brazil and Singapore and offers audiences here a taste of the music Brazil has to offer.

Boo will accompany Brazilian soprano Taiana Froes on the piano in the free concert at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

He counts himself lucky to be able to hold on to a childhood dream while nursing a newfound interest.

"I'd always wanted to be a professional pianist since I was young and I'm glad to be able to call this my career," he says.

"Along the way, I discovered a passion for entrepreneurship. So far, it's been great. My schedule lets me pursue both passions at the same time."

He had a tough time choosing between studying business and music in university, but went with the former, which he felt could give him more flexibility with career choices.

Still, he was bent on making time for music too - a challenging task amid his burgeoning commitments.

Even before he graduated from the National University of Singapore Business School with a bachelor's degree in business administration in July, he had already founded two start-ups.

He started Le Driving Instructors, an online portal which helps learner drivers find suitable driving instructors, in 2013; and Catholic Wedding Solutions, a one-stop portal that offers help to couples planning their weddings, last year.

Juggling the many demands of his adult life - performing, studies and his companies - boiled down to discipline, he says.

Over the years, he has become a better performer, particularly when it comes to figuring out what repertoire to play for which crowd, how to interact with the audience and how to respond to situations.

"As a child performer, these were not expected of you, but as a grown performer, it's a different stage," he says. "The audience expects a lot more of you and there are a lot more considerations to make when you plan your performance."

He is a member of two bands - Vintage, whose music harks back to the 1920s and 1930s; and the four-piece Paraphrase, that covers a range of genres and eras.

For the upcoming concert, Boo has been putting in four to five hours of practice a day and is looking forward to working with Froes, 38, who he calls "a really fantastic soprano".

On going back to his classical roots, he says: "I'm glad to be able to rekindle this flame in PianoBotanica 2016, where there'll be a number of brilliant Brazilian classical pieces."

This is the fourth edition of PianoBotanica and it is sponsored by Keppel Offshore & Marine and co-sponsored by Brazilian food conglomerate BRF, in collaboration with the Embassy of Brazil in Singapore.

Froes, who is based in Portugal, began training as a singer at the age of 15 and graduated with a degree in singing from the University of Brasilia. She is a member of Portugal's prestigious Gulbenkian Choir and has sung in iconic venues such as the Royal Festival Hall in London.

It will be Froes' first trip to Singapore and she is excited to perform outdoors. She says: "This is an opportunity of a lifetime."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'Juggling music and business'. Print Edition | Subscribe