Wednesday July 25, 2012
By ANGELIN YEOH
Getting kicked out of violin class for being too young was a blessing in disguise for child prodigy Kevin Loh.
IMAGINE a five-year old child being told that he’s not ready to pick a musical instrument.
“My violin teacher rejected me after three months as she felt I was too young and not ready to play the violin,” said Kevin Loh, now 14, in an e-mail interview.
After that episode, Loh’s father Marcus decided to teach him how to play the guitar instead, using the “Suzuki technique”.
(The essence of the Suzuki method, created by Japanese violinist, Shin’ichi Suzuki, derives from the theory that people are able to learn to play music when they are in the right environment.)
The nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star was the first song he learnt to play.
“My dad and I would play duet while my mum took videos of us as a family project. It was a lot of fun, looking at some of the earlier videos,” said Loh, who hails from Singapore.
What first started off as a bonding activity within the family, subsequently turned into a passion for Loh.
Within months of picking up the guitar, he gave his first solo performance as a classical guitarist.
“I remember dad squatting right next to me when I gave my first guitar performance when I was five! I was so shy,” he said.
Since then, Loh has never looked back.
At the age of 11, Loh became the youngest person ever in Singapore to achieve Grade 8 in classical guitar from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM).
After being spotted on YouTube by someone from the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin School in Britain, he was offered a place in the school’s classical guitar programme in 2010.
Loh has been hailed as “a guitarist with limitless potential” by Richard Wright, the school’s head of guitar (department).
“Studying at the Yehudi Menuhin School has allowed me to be exposed to so many different facets of music.
“From oral to composition and singing, to working with violinists and pianists, it’s just an awesome opportunity,” he said of his experience in the school.
That same year, Loh was also presented the prestigious HSBC Youth Excellence Award for musical excellence.
In February last year, he gave his debut concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall in Singapore.
Loh was also among the performers featured in the star-studded line-up of the President’s Star Charity event held in Singapore last July, which also featured international stars like Italian teenage tenor trio Il Volo and 15-year-old Filipino singing sensation, Julia Abueva.
For someone who has achieved so much at such a young age, Loh modestly said that there are still a lot of things that he looks forward to.
“The journey is still long and I’m enjoying every moment of it.”
When he’s not busy practising the guitar, Loh like any other teenager, enjoys playing computer games and indulges in anime.
He has an eight-year-old brother and a four-year-old sister, who are also being taught the guitar by their father.
Just this year, Loh won the first prize in the junior division of the Guitar Foundation of America, one of the world’s most prestigious and heavily-contested international guitar competitions.
For those who would like to witness the guitar prodigy in action, Loh will be performing at a concert called “An Evening Of Classical Guitar With Kevin Loh” this Friday at Bentley Music Academy Recital Hall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Loh said that the audience can expect to hear a selection of classical, Latin American and modern pieces.
The event will also feature workshops on guitar construction by Malaysia’s own talented guitarist and self-taught luthier Jeffrey Yong, who started making guitars in 1985, and tips on guitar techniques by Kevin’s father, Marcus.
Workshops are free for concert ticket holders. For more information, call Chua May Ling (016-203 4010).