Closer orchestral manoeuvres
If you want a career in orchestral music, there is no better time than now to consider enrolling in the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (APA).
Over the past two years, the APA has developed a closer relationship with the city's major ensembles and among them is the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HKPO).
Last April, a group of APA music students were taken in by the orchestra for a week and they gave a public performance of John Adams' works. It was an unprecedented partnership between the two government-funded bodies.
The joint effort was so successful that both sides agreed to make it a tradition. Their next collaboration will be on April 26.
HKPO chief executive Timothy Calnin said such practical training was important for students because being part of an orchestra took more than technique.
'It is a lot about fitting in and blending as integrated sounds. There is no space for anyone to stand out in the texture,' Mr Calnin said.
He cited an example in which a young Hong Kong violinist was given the opportunity to play with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. After an exhausting first rehearsal, he decided to practice hard to get ready for subsequent runs.
'He knew the next round would be for a Wagner piece, so he worked for weeks on it. He proudly went to the next rehearsal feeling all prepared, and when it started he launched into it. Then he discovered that his partner next to him wasn't playing,' he said. The young musician only realised later that he had practised parts of the piece that were not required of the violinists.
'In an orchestra there is so much going on that sometimes there is no point for you to work your instrument because the other sounds would just drown you. But then, all of a sudden, it's all just you,' Mr Calnin said.
Having an experienced orchestra musician as a coach offers trainees inside views and teaches them orchestral sensitivity.
The close co-operation between the APA and HKPO did not exist years ago - no one had thought of doing it. But management changes on both sides breathed new life into the institutions.
In 2003, Benedict Cruft, a respected violinist with a far-reaching career in orchestra music (including being associate HKPO concertmaster from 1980 to 1984), was appointed the APA's dean of music.
In 2004, world-renowned conductor Edo de Waart took over as HKPO artistic director and chief conductor, raising the troupe's benchmark in skills.