SOTY 2017: Performing Artist finalists on how the arts aren't just a hobby, they're vital to teenagers' stressful everyday lives

These young performers want to change the culture of arts appreciation for everyone in Hong Kong

Jamie Lam |

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It takes courage to step on to a stage and perform live, but the 12 finalists for the Student of the Year Performing Artist award are no strangers to the spotlight. They gave it their all in front of the three judges during the final selection auditions held on February 14 at the Christian Family Service Centre in Kwun Tong.

Charis Chan Tsz-Wun, of Diocesan Girls’ School, shared a personal vision through her performance, which is to “Harmonise the World”. Fittingly, Charis plays the harmonica, and hopes to use the uniqueness of the instrument to bring people together.

She remembers a community service outing at Queen Elizabeth Hospital where she performed for young patients. “At first, there wasn’t much of a reaction. But when I took out my miniature harmonica, which is only four centimetres long, all the kids rushed over to ask me about it. That’s when I realised I could use my music to console.”

Rambo So Ki-hin from King’s College certainly knows a thing or two about consolation. Though his signature song Do You Understand (which he wrote, arranged and produced himself) seems to be about romantic love at first listen, he revealed that it was actually inspired by loss.

Rambo So sings his heart out during the interview process.
Photo: SCMP

“I had lost a singing competition and I was incredibly sad. But my friend consoled me by saying ‘Rambo, it doesn’t matter. You’re still my number one’,” he said. “That made me understand that sometimes we may want recognition from some big organisation, but it’s your friends and family that really matter the most. I took those feelings of encouragement from him and changed it into a love song.”

Victor Wei Zhong of TWGHs C. Y. Ma Memorial College also wants to show some love. Love for music as a calling rather than just another thing to put on their résumés, that is. The bubbly baritone can’t believe some Hong Kong students view the performing arts as something that can be ignored, especially in the face of the dreaded HKDSEs.

“Hong Kong parents always say, be a good student, study hard, grow up responsibly. When you prepare for university, don’t touch your instrument during these two years,” he said. “For me, this is very sad. That’s why I want to do all I can to change the culture of music appreciation here.”

Colleen Lee Ka-ling, the celebrated local pianist and one of this year’s judges, is happy that some students are devoted to performing arts. As someone who has successfully turned a love of music into a career, she wants young artists to remember that “performing as a career is a lifelong commitment. Keep working hard at your craft and use it as a tool to teach others while also entertaining them”.


Her fellow judge and Deputy Editor of Young Post Karly Cox was most impressed by the variety of acts. “You can be forgiven for thinking Hong Kong students are limited to piano and violin, because there are so many talented young performers on those instruments,” she said. “But these finalists proved that there is a much wider range of interests, from drama and traditional Chinese dance to a harmonica performance and even some classical opera.”

The final judge, professor Adrian Walter, director of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, said originality was one of the most important factors in picking the finalists. “It is very exciting for me to see someone create a piece of work that is all their own. It’s very special, because it is quite rare and it opens up new creative domains.”

With such a dedicated new generation of performing artists, appreciation for the arts will only grow stronger in the future.

The Student of the Year Awards competition is organised by the South China Morning Post and Young Post and sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge