Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where does it come from?

So, I've been having new auditions for my orchestra, the Siam Philharmonic. You don't know what to expect with such things; anyone could come in the door. This kid shows up. He looks about 13, but I find out he's about three years older. And he starts to play. He's very very musical, plays with good style, has a few wonky technical problems, and, after a false start sight-reading, goes on to read the beginning of a Mahler symphony with real panache. He must have been studying since the age of 2, I figure, like all the other Suzuki babies. He's a nice kid, though, so we all tell him to hang out for a while, after I note down that he's definitely a yes for the orchestra despite his youth.

After the auditions are over, his stress level goes down and he starts playing for fun. Almost any piece we suggest, he knows well enough to at least fake. He can play almost any concerto (at least the first five minutes of it). And with incredible passion, and astonishingly in tune as well.

Then I start to find out more about him. He hasn't really been having proper lessons, just learning from whoever agrees to teach him from time to time. In fact, he hasn't been studying that long, and he helps to play his family's bills by busking at the Chatuchak market on weekends; indeed, I found a youtube clip of him (see below) put in by some tourist, where he does a bit of Vivaldi followed by the theme from Doraemon! Ok, it's not Paganini. But what you can see is a door in a dark room, cracked open a hair, and behind it a brilliant light. (There's also a bit of the "One Froggy Morning" syndrome; he's still a bit too shy to really play out, except in private. You won't see him play the Tchaikovsky concerto on youtube, but I've seen a pretty good approximation of it in my living room.

His parents couldn't afford to buy him a violin when he was 12, so he bought a lottery ticket and won just enough to get one. He got his next violin by winning a TV quiz show. Is there a pattern here? Sure, because after hearing his story I've decided to send him at my own expense to one of the best violin teachers in Bangkok. That teacher said only one short sentence: "Kid's got a future." That is high praise coming from this man. (He also said he'll have to unlearn a number of bad habits.) It's perfectly clear that despite the lousy hand he has been dealt, someone "up there" wants him to be a violinist.

My next quest, if he really shapes up in six months, is to get the kid a proper instrument. If anyone reading this blog has any ideas, let me know.

So, where does "it" come from? I'm sure we would all like to know....

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