How does it feel to be back after a year's absence, and what are this year's highlights? Asian Youth Orchestra artistic director and conductor Richard Pontzious: 'It feels great. The sabbatical allowed me to take a deep breath and renew the energy level necessary for the challenges that are part of the job of bringing the Asian Youth Orchestra together every summer. 'True to the expression that absence makes the heart grow fonder, audition numbers were way up and so too the quality of the candidates. We have some terrific horns, low brass, double basses and celli, not to mention the rest of the orchestra. ' Tell us about the guests for the two forthcoming concerts: 'Guest conductor Okko Kamu was recommended to us by a friend in Singapore. He and I met there and again in Tokyo, and talked a lot about music. There's no question that he's a match for our Asian Youth Orchestra. We have programmed music by Mozart and Mahler on his programme. Mahler's Fourth requires a soprano soloist, and we settled on a choice of arias to feature Ida Falk Winland, who will be making her Asian debut with the orchestra. 'Violinist Stefan Jackiw is a rising star in the US, and we wanted to be the first to bring him to Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. He'll be playing the delicious Samuel Barber Violin Concerto on the programme I will conduct.'