Making music with friends
Violinists and friends Chan Yoong-Han (right) and Zhao Tian (left) will share the stage in a classical music concert on 14 Apr. (Photo: Singapore Symphony Orchestra)

Making music with friends

Not every colleague becomes a close friend. For twoSingapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) violinists Chan Yoong-Han, 46, and Zhao Tian, 29, however, their relationship has grown from colleagues on stage to friends off stage.

Besides their obvious love for classical music, the duo, who met in 2018, also share many common interests such as cycling, hiking and exploring Singapore hawker centres. Audiences can look forward to their chemistry in their classical musical concert, DUO! – Chan Yoong-Han And Zhao Tian, which will feature string works by renowned composers at Victoria Concert Hall on 14 Apr.

We speak with them on what it is like for classical musicians to “jam” together, support each other as musicians, and maintain friendly rivalry.

What is it like being both friends and colleagues?
It is truly a blessing to be able to engage in a hobby and develop it as a lifelong discipline and career, while working with friends you enjoy.
Zhao: As we are both professional orchestral musicians, we remain professional while at work and have fun talking about personal things outside of work. It is truly gratifying to have a friend who understands your profession, thoughts, and is also someone whom you can share the joys of life with at the same time.

How do you maintain friendly rivalry?
We are very honest and critical towards each other as far as music and playing the violin are concerned. But we don’t take criticism personally; it is a vital part of our artistic growth.
Zhao: We give honest comments to each other and that is what I treasure the most about our friendship. Additionally, we both know that the feedback is for improvement and nothing personal, so we always come with an attitude of learning from each other.

What is it like for classical musicians to “jam” together? 
 Jamming for classical musicians is a ritual in creativity, self-expression, communication and edification through constantly rediscovering and bringing music that was written in the past to life.
Zhao: Because we came from a similar background, we often have a lot of fun jamming with each other. I am constantly learning things or discovering new ideas from Yoong-Han, and that has benefitted me greatly.

What advice would you give to aspiring classical musicians? 
You are embarking on a priesthood. 
Zhao: Never stop learning and practising. 

Replies were edited and condensed for clarity. Learn more about DUO! – Chan Yoong-Han And Zhao Tian here.

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