IT IS NOT uncommon to hear educators recounting how a kind teacher inspired them to take up teaching as a life-long career. But for Paul Yau Yat-heem, principal of the new Logos Academy in Tseung Kwan O, it was music that turned his 'dream school' into a reality. From the age of four, Mr Yau started learning to play the piano and taking singing lessons from experts and visiting scholars at the Alliance Bible Seminary in Cheung Chau, where his father taught. A few years later, he became a church pianist and a conductor for the choir, leading a group of children who were about the same age as him. The principal first considered education as a career when he decided to study music education instead of the more popular options of musical performance and music history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in the 1970s. 'Talented musicians can only survive in Hong Kong with strong support from an audience. So, I saw the task of cultivating youngsters' interest in music and attending musical performances as vital for musicians,' says Mr Yau. After finishing university, Mr Yau taught music at CNEC Christian College in the New Territories, a school not noted for producing talented musicians at the time. But he managed to persuade more than a third of the school to join the choir, which went on to win numerous awards in the annual Hong Kong School Music Festival. Despite the satisfaction gained, Mr Yau realised that a music teacher only had limited influence on creating a school environment where children could experience the joy of learning. After some years working in adult education and as a music inspector with the Education Department, Mr Yau decided to take up the post of principal at Queen Maud Secondary School. Under his 13-year leadership, the school has become a major attraction for thousands of visiting educators and renowned for its innovative approach to teaching and developments in information technology. Now Mr Yau has decided to take up an even bigger challenge. Last year, he drew up a proposal for a through-train school - the Logos Academy - which will be the first in Hong Kong to run a five-year primary schooling system when it opens next September. Many people had praised his plans as a breakthrough in education, but no one had dared to implement them. At the new school, students will follow the International Baccalaureate diploma programme. However, unlike international schools in Hong Kong and overseas, its students will devote three - instead of two - years to studying the curriculum so that each subject can be covered in more depth. The principal says the school will adopt an activity-based and textbook-free approach. It will also combine the best elements from education systems around the world. Mr Yau attributes his zeal for reform, revealed in the new school proposals, to the training he received in music. 'Because of my background in the arts, I always try to break free of any imposed framework. Like any artist, I look for creative and non-traditional approaches and I try to get as close to perfection as possible,' he says. His new school has received over 800 applications for its Primary One places starting next year. Apart from being a principal, Mr Yau also occupies important posts on many education committees. The talented musician also continues to play the organ for his church once a week, goes on air to discuss music with radio hosts and conducts choirs during his free time.