Andrea Sim, making her debut as a conductor after years as a concert violinist, talks about the upcoming concert and her experiences as a musician.
By CHIN JIAN WEI
Reminiscing is klpac String Orchestra’s first concert in three years and will feature music from throughout the ages, starting with Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, and then moving on to other well-known classics including Johann Strauss II’s Blue Danube Waltz and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. Towards the end of the performance, the orchestra will play popular numbers from famous movies, such as those composed by John Williams.
The orchestra welcomes aboard a new conductor, Andrea Sim. She is a performing violinist, turned klpac String Orchestra’s Resident Conductor and Music Director. She comes from a diverse musical background, graduating with first-class honours from UCSI University’s Institute of Music and leading the UCSI University Orchestra Tour in 2018. She has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, klpac Orchestra and the Vienna Young Artist Orchestra in Vienna amongst others. BASKL was able to speak to her to get her thoughts on this momentous turn in her career.
“I was nervous and excited,” Sim says. “Nervous because it’s my first time. I’ve played many concerts as a violinist, so I already know what that’s like. But as a conductor, it’s a bit more mentally taxing, so I don’t know how it will be in terms of stamina. The first few times during rehearsals I could feel the toll on my stamina. Physically it’s about the same as playing the violin, but mentally it’s a lot more tiring. Excited because I’m looking forward to the music that we’ll be playing. Also, it’ll be the orchestra’s first concert in three years, so it will be a meaningful one.
“It happened kind of naturally,” Sim says on how she became a conductor. It was not exactly the position she had in mind when she began her career. “During my Bachelor’s in UCSI, I would coach the violin section and I loved doing that. Then I did a conducting internship under Mr Lee Kok Leong, who is the conductor of klpac Orchestra. Later he asked me if I wanted to take over the klpac String Orchestra; and I never thought I would end up doing that, but in the end, it’s something I always wanted to do without knowing it. It’s like a dream come true, but it’s not that it was always on my list. But in the end, I think it’s something that really suits me.”
Sim elaborates further on the differences between being a violinist and a conductor. “As a violinist, you are one piece of the puzzle. Everyone has their own roles and functions, and as a conductor, you have to put together all the pieces. I think this is a side that people don’t see during the concert, and they may think that the conductor is just waving their arms. That’s the misconception. But a lot of work the conductor does is before the show. During rehearsals is when the conductor is the most important because it’s their vision that’s being carried out through the collaboration with the musicians. It’s a lot of mental practice and seeing the big picture.” Sim describes the transition as like that of an actor becoming a theatre director.
The music for this concert was chosen to explore the development of music through the centuries. Sim says, “I think it’s interesting to see how music developed throughout history. We’ll go back to the Baroque period and then the Classical period. Basically 400 years ago, then 300, then 200, to the Classical Romantic periods, and finally to what I believe is classical music today, which is film music. We’ll take the audience on that journey with us. That’s why the title is Reminiscing. I was actually a member of the klpac String Orchestra 12 years ago, and some of these pieces I played then, and also during my very first orchestra experiences. So I think these are essential pieces of classical music that are important for any musician to play.”
Like all career artists, Sim has put in a lot of hard work to get to where she is. For aspiring musicians, she has a few words of advice. “You have to be passionate. There are many moments of self-doubt. It’s such a subjective art, and it can be tough, so if you don’t really love it and want it, it can be hard to stick it out. You can’t really do it for the money as well. You can definitely earn a living, but it won’t be the same as in the corporate world, for example. And what’s really important is to be humble. Once you think that you’re better than others then you stop learning. As musicians, we are constantly learning, always trying to make our art better. Relationships with people are also important. There are a lot of things that happen by recommendation and word of mouth. If you are humble and kind to others, I think you’ll be fine. Rather than thinking about music as being in competition with others, if we think of it as working together to help build up the music industry in Malaysia, then everyone will benefit.”
Sim has struggled with her share of self-doubt as well. “I myself have considered changing career a few times. I think you have to accept that you can’t be perfect. Musicians tend to be perfectionists and we have to accept that we’re still learning. People tend to compare, and there’re people who are better than you. But I think as musicians, as artists, every voice is valid, so no matter your skill level, you still have something to contribute.”
Sim also mentions that klpac String Orchestra’s next performance will be in November, and it will be Studio Ghibli-themed. Fans of the studio’s many beautiful and heartwarming animated movies can look forward to that concert, sure to be filled with many iconic musical numbers. Local Malaysian arrangers will arrange the pieces, and Sim is looking forward to that collaboration.
Reminiscing with the klpac String Orchestra will be performed at pentas 2, klpac from July 1 to July 3, 2022. Visit the Cloudtix website to read more and buy tickets, priced at RM 50 each.