'It was a thrill for a young person to fly around the world'
NAME: Keith Lau Kwok-hung, 33.
JOB: Manager of the Hong Kong-based Asian Youth Orchestra.
What did you study in secondary school?
I took seven subjects including science to Form Five at Po Leung Kuk Lee Shing Pik College, Tsuen Wan, where I grew up.
How about further education?
I went to Hong Kong Polytechnic where I did a three-year diploma in biology.
Did you have any specific ambitions?
I had no ambitions and no idea what my future held.
How did your first job lead you towards the arts?
Working on the front desk at the Kowloon Hotel was pretty good experience, it was fun meeting people from different countries. The Asian Youth Orchestra stayed at the hotel and afterwards I stayed in touch with the director and went to its concerts.
But next you took off, literally, in a different direction?
In 1995 I answered a Cathay Pacific advertisement for flight attendants. It was a thrill for a young person to fly around the world.
Was there a defining moment in your career?
After Cathay, the orchestra said I had valuable travelling experience and hired me. The defining moment was deciding to join a charitable institution with no stable income.
Did you have any classical music education?
No, I only had a one-hour music lesson each week in secondary school. But the director said it didn't matter, come and learn from scratch.
What skills are required?
I'm responsible for the logistics of bringing together 100 musicians aged 15 to 25 from all around Asia and overseeing their tuition during rehearsals, then moving them and their instruments around on a 22-day tour with 17 performances in 10 countries.
What's the biggest challenge?
This is my ninth year and as a charitable organisation every year we have to raise our budget of HK$12 million from private donors and corporate sponsors; we get no government support.
What do you like best about your job?
The music! I love to see the young people get together, many never having played in an orchestra before. Seeing them grow and their playing improve gives me satisfaction.
Any advice for aspiring orchestra managers?
Go with your heart and if you have a passionate interest in music, go for it.
Any recommended training?
There are Arts Management courses in Britain and the US.
The orchestra will play at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre on Thursday and Friday.