From The Straits Times    |

Credit: Lawrence Teo

They are talented, highly accomplished, and are making waves on a global scale. We speak to three extraordinary youths under 21 about their remarkable achievements in advocacy, entrepreneurship, and the arts.

Even when she’s performing to a live audience numbering thousands, violin prodigy Chloe Chua has never experienced stage fright. “I just can’t wait to get on stage and play [the violin],” she enthuses.

A natural performer, her lack of fear could be attributed to the trust she has in her violin. She likens the relationship with her musical instrument to what one would have with a close childhood friend – not surprising for someone who enrolled in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) School of Young Talents programme at the age of four.

Chloe’s strong sense of musical expression is what makes her performances so compelling. She shares that when she tucks the instrument under her chin, she thinks about conveying emotion and depth through her playing. “To me, the expressive tone that a violin produces is very similar to a human’s voice,” she says.

Chloe Chua, 16, award-winning violinist and artist-in-residence for Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s 2022/23 season. Credit: Lawrence Teo

The thought of becoming a professional violinist came when she was seven, after she participated in several violin competitions.

Her most momentous win to date is clinching first prize in the junior division of the Menuhin Competition, a prestigious international music competition for violinists under the age of 22, that is often referred to as the “Olympics of the Violin”. She was only 11 then, and she shared the win with 10-year-old Australian boy Christian Li.

In June 2022, Chloe was announced as the artist-in-residence for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s (SSO) 2022/23 season, a position typically reserved for experienced performers.

Her primary focus throughout the year-long residency will be the exploration of Mozart violin concertos with SSO and its music director Hans Graf, as well as album recordings that will be released over the next couple of years.

For someone who has just turned 16, it seems like there’s a lot on her plate. Chloe is homeschooled to allow for more flexibility over her schedule, of which she spends up to six hours a day practising. So how does she find the time to be a teenager?

“I am aware that I am leading a lifestyle that is different from others. However, I am also experiencing things that are fun too, such as travelling overseas for performances and exploring different cultures. That being said, I still hang out with friends to do what teenagers would normally do during the school holidays.”

Violin prodigy Chloe Chua performing as the Artist-in-Residence with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Credit: Lawrence Teo

Recently, she has been exploring cooking and making desserts. One of her most accomplished moments in the kitchen is baking an entire loaf of bread from scratch with her father.

She also loves to treat herself to fun gaming sessions when she needs a break from practice and her studies, and she laughs when she tells me that her current favourite video games are Call of Duty, an action-packed firstperson shooter, and Brawl Stars, a third-person shooter set in a multiplayer online battle arena.

With travel restrictions now lifted, the violinist is delighted to be able to travel to different countries to perform once again. One of her most memorable trips was to Saudi Arabia for two concerts in July 2018. She describes the trip as an eye-opener in terms of food – her favourite is lamb kabsa – and culture. This month, she’s looking forward to performing in Los Angeles.

It has been 12 years since she first picked up the violin. Does she ever get tired of playing it ?

“Never,” she replies without hesitation. “I feel very blessed to be able to share my music with my audience and bring positive energy to them.”

HAIR & MAKEUP Benedict Choo