This is the first instalment of the Charting Pathways series, where YST graduates look back on their experience at the Conservatory, and give us a peek at their plans for the future.
In this article, we hear from Kong (BMus '18, Trumpet) about the diverse learning opportunities that have shaped his growth as a musician.
YST graduate Teerapol Kiatthaveephong (BMus '18, Trumpet), who goes by the name Kong, is on track to becoming a professional orchestral trumpet player. Over the past few years, he has worked in the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) as a freelance musician, and played in top concert venues in Singapore with the YST Conservatory Orchestra as well as his prize-winning brass quintet, Brass Lightyear.
Originally from Thailand and always striving to improve and excel, Kong thanks his peers at YST for constantly encouraging him to do better - not just in music, but in other areas such as language. “It’s great to be in such an international cohort of students. I came to YST with weak English skills, but the environment has helped me to improve my English a lot - and I have even picked up some Mandarin and other languages from my course mates!”
While studying at the Conservatory, Kong was under the tutelage of Mr Jon Dante, YST Artist Faculty and Principal Trumpet of SSO. A key part of his training to be an orchestral musician was learning how to play in the style of different composers, and fine-tuning stylistic nuances expected of the principal or section chair.
Sharing about lessons with Mr Dante, Kong says, “He says the truth and keeps it real. It can sometimes be hard to hear - but that’s the way we improve.” Kong also appreciates that he was encouraged to be a holistic musician - outside of the classroom, he has nurtured a keen interest in photography.
Kong has also been inspired by the many brass masterclasses he attended at the Conservatory. For him, the most memorable masterclasses were with Bill Williams, former Principal Trumpet of the San Francisco Symphony and Joe Burgstaller, Artist Faculty at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University. “It was great hearing their perspectives, especially on topics such as confidence, stage presence, and how to overcome anxiety and nervousness.”
In 2016, Kong became a freelance musician for the SSO and has been performing for its children's and pops concerts. His most notable SSO performance was his first gig with the orchestra, playing Ein Heldenleben at the Esplanade Concert Hall. “I got to perform the offstage trumpet parts with my teacher, Jon Dante and Lau Wen Rong (BMus ’15, Trumpet), which was very exciting and truly an honour.”
Kong also performs around Singapore with his brass quintet, Brass Lightyear. The group was formed in his freshman year as part of the YST Chamber Ensemble module, and coached by Mr. Dante as well as by Dr Brett Stemple, Associate Professor and Head of Brass at YST. Even after freshman year, the quintet continued to collaborate closely in subsequent years. “We were all friends and worked very well as a team. When one of us shared an idea, we would all share our opinions and speak freely even if we were being critical, because we wanted to help the ensemble to grow.”
The quintet's communication, teamwork and effort paid off. In 2016, Brass Lightyear won 1st Prize at the Open Division of the Singapore Ensemble Competition. And in 2017, they advanced to the final round of the Jeju Chamber Music Competition in Korea.
Commenting on what he learned from Dr Stemple, Kong shares, “Brett helped me to open my mind and see a broader picture beyond the technique of playing a brass instrument.”
After graduation, Kong will continue to audition for various orchestras, and hopes to return to Singapore in the future. He says, “My life at YST has been spectacular! Although I am a bit sad to be leaving the YST family for now, with my experiences with the Conservatory Orchestra, the wide variety of repertoire I have learned, the inspiring faculty and supportive administration, and the great venues I have been able to perform in, I feel well prepared for my future performance career and am confident for what lies ahead.”