Participants of the Overseas Masters Winter Piano Academy. Pix by Zaharah Othman/ NSTP
MUAR 24 DECEMBER 2016. Bobby Chen (sitting) with participants of OMWPA 2016. Pix by Zaharah Othman/ NSTP

COBHAM, United Kingdom: THE fourth Overseas Masters Winter Piano Academy (OMWPA) ended on a grand note, marking the end of 10 days of immersive and intensive music learning for 27 young music students from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

The resonance of their performances of pieces by Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart, to name a few, at Menuhin Hall, built in memory of the school’s founder, was all the more meaningful as the Yehudi Menuhin School celebrates the
centenary of the great musician and humanist, who had inspired so many music greats around the world.

One of those who was inspired and benefited from the school is pianist Bobby Chen, who is also the founder of OMWPA.

“This group is the most talented of all since the establishment of OMWPA in 2010.

“They are all very good and, hopefully, with good training and teachers, they will be successful,” Chen said.

He came from Sabah and went to the Menuhin school at 11.

Chen, who performed at Malay-sia’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2007, was one of the pianists selected for the Southeast Asian debut of the complete Beethoven Sonatas Cycle in Singapore.

He also represented Malaysia in The Rising Stars Performance Showcase for the 27th Annual Federation for Asian Cultural Promotion (FACP) Conference.

He has performed in concert halls all over the world.

For the humble and soft-spoken Chen, success would have meant nothing if he did not share his knowledge and experience with

Starting with only Malaysian students in 2010, Chen said he would like to see the participation of music students from other countries for his future workshops.

“I am hoping for a more international participation. Look at this,” he said, pointing to a picture of the young Chen with two music students.

With them was Menuhin. The picture was taken when he was touring Britain with Lord Menuhin and
the Beethoven Triple Concerto in 1996.

“I am part of the school’s history now,” he said in a rare display of self-promotion.

“I am still in touch with my friends here. We practise together and perform together. Hopefully, OMWPA will be like that.”

During the course, which runs once every two years, participants will not just learn about playing musical instruments, but also about composing, conducting and improvising, chamber music and Ba-roque.

“This is an experience of a lifetime,” Nurin Nabihah Mohd Sa’adi, 14, said.

The home-schooled student said the exposure and learning with experienced music teachers had been priceless.

Nurin was home-schooled since the age of 7 by her mother, who saw music as a healthy balance in her pursuance of other subjects, such as mathematics and science.

“I get to meet so many people with similar interests here.

“We had lots of fun practising and improvising.

“I particularly enjoyed sight reading classes, as well as Baroque.

“I find improvising classes very interesting, putting pieces together.

“The experience has taught me how to play an instrument and play it with passion,” said Nurin, who is aiming to make a career in the Science field, but would also consider teaching music.

Among the participants this year were two siblings, Chan Shao Yong, 12, and his sister, Chan Jing Yuan, 13, both from Tenby School.

The siblings found the course fun and enjoyable.

Their parents, Jones Chan and Marinda Yu, agreed that while the music workshops were most beneficial, they had learnt to be independent and were able to manage their time well.

All participants came with their parents and one with grandparents in tow.

The courses were conducted at the school but participants were also taken out on excursions in London to attend concerts and visit the museums.

Although most of the participants were self-sponsored, there were those who were partially sponsored.

The British Malaysian Society (BMS) started partial sponsorship of
two students two years ago and this year, the recipients were Tan Jing Ern and Yap Xin Wei.

Each received £750 (RM4,100).

“We will continue to support participants of OMWPA.

“This is indeed a wonderful effort by Bobby Chen,” said BMS chairman Datuk Anthony Cooper, who attended the gala concert yesterday.

The next OMWPA will be held in 2018 and Chen is hoping to get as many talents over for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“There are many talented students in Malaysia, and they need to be given the opportunity and the exposure.”