For the love of music

THE Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (MPYO) began as the dream of late Petronas chairman, Tun Azizan Zainul Abidin, who wanted to create a stage for young talents, alongside the veteran Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO).

His dream was finally realised in January 2006, when the MPYO was launched.

Aspiring instrumentalists from across Malaysia auditioned, and 110 musicians, with an average age of 18, were selected to form the new orchestra.

After a period of intensive training under principal conductor Kevin Field, and mentors from within MPO, the MPYO gave its debut public concert at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) on Aug 25, 2007.

The MPYO also organises music camps for its members four times a year, culminating in performances in Kuala Lumpur, as well as in other countries.

With a repertoire ranging from specially commissioned works by Malaysian composers, Broadway and film music, as well as jazz and traditional tunes, the MPYO has grown by leaps and bounds.

Besides the DFP, the MPYO has also performed in prestigious concerts, including the opening ceremony of the 128th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session.

It has also collaborated with renowned conductors such as Benjamin Zander, Fabian Russell and Julie Desbordes, and local maestros such as Ahmad Muriz Che Rose (who is the current head of the MPYO), Mustafa Fuzer Nawi and Datuk Mokhzani Ismail.

The MPYO has also performed alongside jazz heavyweights Fritz Renold and Randy Brecker, local artistes such as Julie Sudiro, Yusni Hamid, Sheila Majid, and Ella, and local ensembles such as Yayasan Warisan Johor and Orkestra Tradisional Malaysia.

Now with 98 active members, the MPYO is commemorating its 10th anniversary with several programmes beginning Aug 5, culminating in the MPYO 10th Anniversary Concert on Aug 25. Field will return to conduct this ensemble in a special reunion concert.

There will also be several exciting concerts throughout the rest of 2017 and the first half of 2018. They include collaborations with the Trinity Youth Symphony Orchestra from Indonesia, the Hong Kong Children's Symphony Orchestra, and Orkestra Tradisional Malaysia.

According to the head of the MPYO Ahmad Muriz, the ages of its members range from 11 to 28 years old.

However, exceptions have been made for younger talent in the past, such as nine-year-old double bass player Gillian Too (she is now 11).

Trombonist Mohd Mustaqim Abdullah, 33, a former alumni of MPYO, currently teaches the trombone and trumpet at a local university and several international schools.

He explained that he especially benefited from the music camps organised by the MPYO.

"I feel the orchestra gave me 10 to 50 times more than what I would have learned elsewhere. A lot of my teachers and friends noticed I had changed so much even after the first camp I attended."

Violinist Andrea Sim, 21, has been part of the MPYO since 2014, when she was 18. She is currently studying business at a local university.

"The process of getting members is very stringent, and because of that the talent level is very high," said Sim who studied the violin at the Prayner Conservatory in Vienna.

"When I tell people I am with MPYO they go 'wow'. They don't ask if I have a diploma or a degree to teach.

"Just to play with so many talented people is an experience itself. [You] learn to play music as part of an ensemble instead of playing solo."

For more information on the MPYO and its 10th anniversary concerts, visit the MPO website.