Sean Lee Shing-hin is a shy 13-year-old boy, who covers his face with his hands when he doesn't know what to say. Yet, when he picks up his viola and places it on his shoulder, his fingers move with ease and his face radiates confidence.
The Form Two student at St Paul's College, Mid-Levels, performed at the prestigious Golden Hall of Musikverein, in Vienna, Austria, with the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Hong Kong, a charity and youth orchestra in Asia.
"Vienna is so beautiful and green and I was so happy to be there," Sean says.
He joined 28 other MYO members on the 10-day Vienna Musikverein Performance Tour, in July. They were able to learn from experienced musicians from the Vienna Philharmonic and perform at the venue renowned for its acoustics and concerts staged by the world's leading orchestras.
The young musicians played a combination of Western and Eastern pieces, including three Cantonese songs. Three of them, including Sean, wowed the audience with the One Bow Concerto.
"The three of us have to pass around one bow while playing the whole piece," Sean says. "It was so hard; I was afraid I'd drop it, like I did during a rehearsal."
Luckily, he was performing alongside 16-year-old Kitty Wong Hiu-fung, a violinist and more experienced musician, who has been with MYO for two and a half years. "We needed a lot of co-ordination and communication between us," says Kitty, who studies at Renaissance College, in Ma On Shan. "It was nerve-racking but we managed it - no one dropped the bow."
Synthia Ko Tak-yee, the MYO's artistic director and chief conductor, was also in Vienna. She says teaching a group of 228 musicians, aged five to 21, and taking a smaller team to perform abroad, is not an easy task. "Training young musicians to play with our senior, more experienced players has always been a huge challenge; it didn't happen overnight," she says.
"Yet I'm glad to see they've improved by leaps and bounds under our guidance and care. Seeing how they grow through practice and from the trip is extremely rewarding, too," Ko says.
Cellist Hailey Tam Hei-yin, 12, has definitely benefited from the trip.
"To be able to play in such a famous concert hall was a rare chance for me," says Hailey, who studies at Pooi Ching Middle School, in Ho Man Tin.
"The cello teacher in Vienna taught me many things: how to count more accurately; how to move my wrist so the bow has contact with the strings in a faster, more flexible way. These are all valuable tips for me."
Kitty says: "The experience of going to Vienna was memorable and I've learned a lot, too. In Hong Kong, our teachers often focus on us playing perfect notes. But the musicians in Vienna taught us how to be bold when we play, and express the music with character."
For Sean, the trip also produced new friendships. "I am new to the MYO team, so it's nice to make some good friends by joining the performance tour," he says. "I've kept in touch with them since we got back to Hong Kong, which is nice.
"I also practised so much more than usual while I was in Austria. And that's got to be good for me."
Video produced with the help of Campus TV at CUHKFAA Chan Chun Ha Secondary School, in Ma On Shan