Honour for cellist, captain

When cellist Aoden Teo Masa Toshi was a baby, he used to wail during long car journeys. But his parents worked out how to stop him crying: put on some classical music.

Aoden enjoyed it so much, it was no surprise that when he turned three he asked them for music lessons. The youngster, whose mother is Irish, and father is Japanese-Singaporean, ended up specialising in the cello, and at 10 years old, he has already played for audiences at numerous shows and festivals here and overseas, including at New York's Carnegie Hall in March this year.

Now, he has a new achievement: the 2012 HSBC Youth Excellence Award in the musical excellence category, which he received at an awards ceremony-cum-charity concert last night.

Also receiving an award was Ms Lim En, 24, a Captain with the Singapore Armed Forces, who was honoured in the category of leadership excellence and community service at the ceremony at the University Cultural Centre at National University Of Singapore. The awards were presented by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Ms Lim, who has a bachelor's degree in economics from the University Of Chicago and a masters in international relations from Cambridge University, was honoured for her longstanding dedication to leading community service projects, and for displaying qualities of a good leader. She has been to Myanmar, Nepal and China to help build schools and orphanages.

The member of the Youth Executive Committee of the Bukit Merah Community Centre since 2005 spends time caring for the elderly and also teaches ballet to underprivileged kids.

The HSBC Youth Excellence Awards, which are now in their 12th year, are part of the bank's Youth Excellence Initiative, which helps provide support and create developmental opportunities for young Singaporeans to hone their abilities, character or leadership qualities. Past recipients include guitarist Kevin Loh, 14, for musical excellence, in 2010, and Orchestra Of The Music Makers, a volunteer orchestra that was awarded the same honour in 2009 for its dedication in pursuing philanthropy through music.

Ms Lim will receive a $10,000 grant she can then use to fund a self-proposed community initiative that she must lead.

Aoden, on the other hand, will not receive a specified amount, but he can propose plans for developing and honing his cello skills, such as attending contests or study trips, and request the relevant amount of funding.

HSBC gave a donation of $300,000 for the initiative last night, and has already donated close to $4 million for this over the years.

Aoden, a Primary 4 pupil at Anglo-Chinese School (Junior), told Life!: "Every time I meet people at performances or competitions overseas, and I tell them I am Singaporean, they always say they do not know where Singapore is. With this award, I hope it can help me improve my cello technique and skills more, so that I can become a really good professional cellist one day, and let everyone know about Singapore through my music."

He is the older of two children, and the son of a housewife mother and a medical doctor father.

Ms Lim, whose parents are divorced, is the only child of an administrative executive mother. She said she has not confirmed how she will use her grant money, but it will be something to help "the elderly, the youth, and young children".

"The award is strong encouragement for me to continue doing what I'm doing now," she added.

Proceeds from last night's event, which sees pledges from corporate and community members, and then matched dollar-for-dollar by HSBC, will go to charity concert ChildAid, which supports The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund.