LEONG Siong Quen knew at an early age that music was her first love and would also be her future.
She was determined to achieve her dream and bravely walked up to her brother’s tutor to make arrangements for her own piano lessons when she was just four years old.
The prodigy later won a scholarship to study the violin at Chetham’s School of Music in the UK.
As a member of its symphony orchestra, Leong has performed in venues such as Windsor Castle, the Royal Festival Hall, Cadogan Hall, Isle of Man and Bridgewater Hall.
She has also taken part in international festivals such as the Salzburg Music Festival and Haus Marteau Meisterkurs.
As a solo performer, Leong won the Gold Prize at the Euroasia Strings Competition, the first prize and Senior Category Patron Prize Awards at the 10th Malaysian Youth Music Festival (Young Artistes Solo Performance) in 2016.
Currently, Leong is serving as the principal second violinist for the Kamerata Kuala Lumpur strings ensemble and occasionally plays for the Selangor Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Virama and the National Symphony Orchestra.
Looking back, the 28-year-old Leong made the right choice of approaching the piano teacher. Otherwise, she may not have achieved her dream career as a musician.
What attracted you to the violin?
I was fortunate to know from a young age that I would be a musician.
It was actually through my piano teacher’s recommendation that I started on the violin, as she noticed my strong interest in music. Luckily, it worked out as I fell in love with the instrument a couple of years later, and I have not stopped since.
How old were you when you started to play the violin?
I was just shy of my ninth birthday when I began my violin lessons. My teachers in Malaysia were very encouraging and suggested to my parents that I audition for Chetham’s School of Music, a specialist music high school in Manchester, UK.
I entered with a scholarship when I was 11.
I later finished my Bachelor of Music at the Royal Northern College of Music. I am very thankful for the amount of support I received from so many people and remain in touch with many of my teachers.
My family played a big part in helping me realise my ambition. Not being musicians themselves, it was a pleasant surprise for them when I suddenly started plotting my own course in music, but I am grateful for their unwavering trust in my choices from such a young age.
What would you consider the most memorable moment in your life?
One of my fondest memories is my first violin summer course in Italy when I was 14 years old. It was at a small abandoned castle in Tuscany and roughly a dozen of us stayed there over the course of a week.
Days were spent on lessons and practice in the vacant rooms, and every other evening was filled with concerts for the enthusiastic locals.
Definitely, it was one of the most inspiring weeks of music-making I have experienced, listening to what my friends were working on and sharing ideas with each other on practice techniques and interpretation. I have attended several other excellent summer festivals since then, but that particular summer has a special place in my heart as the first I ever attended.
What is your goal?
I would like to explore more repertoire, as I feel there is still so much for me to learn. I’ve also really enjoyed playing with other musicians recently and would love it if I could perform in more chamber concerts and be involved in bigger orchestral projects in future.