While most university students are planning a career path based on their major, former concertmaster for La Salle College Symphony Orchestra Jonathan Law Wai-ting, 20, has carved a very different path for himself. Studying Integrated BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) in Chinese University of Hong Kong, Jonathan sees the business potential of music.
Two years ago, he founded The Strings Amarta, an amateur association of 20 musicians. Young Post caught up with Jonathan to find out more about The Strings Amarta, and to check in with the SCMP Student of the Year 2013 - Performing Arts runner-up on his musical journey.
“My mother used to play piano,” says Jonathan. “She stopped when she reached Grade 6, but she always hoped that I would complete her dreams for her.”
Jonathan started playing piano when he was five years old, but he didn’t stop there. Four years later, he picked up violin. Today, he plays both of them at LTCL level (Licentiate of Trinity College London). But for Jonathan, certifications like these don’t mean a lot.
“Music examination grades cannot fully describe a musician,” says Jonathan. “Grades issued by a specific institute can only show that the candidate has fulfilled ‘its’ requirements. And a lot of times these exams just make the students hate their instrument. And if that happens, then the exam itself is a failure. Sadly, this is very common here in Hong Kong.” But while many local students practise for countless hours just to get a certificate, Jonathan and his friends in The Strings Amarta play for a different reason.
Even before university, Jonathan had made a lot of friends through playing music. He thought it would be a pity to lose them after starting his new study. “So after finishing the DSE, I sent my music friends some Facebook messages asking whether they wanted to form a string group,” says Jonathan. “And The Strings Amarta was born.”
In its first two years, had only 20 commercial performances. But last month, when Jonathan decided to make The Strings Amarta a real business, something changed.
“Studying for a degree in business and marketing has taught me about developing a business,” says Jonathan. “Since drawing up a business model and making real plans, we’ve already been booked for four performances this month alone.”
One of Jonathan’s business strategies was to make the music of string instruments more accessible to the public. He did this by offering more than just traditional classical music, and added some pop music into his selections. At first he wasn’t sure if the idea would work.
“I was a little worried about it,” says Jonathan. “I wasn’t sure if that was what I really wanted to do, and I didn’t know whether other musicians would support the idea.”
But the other musicians were all for the idea, and now The Strings Amarta performs everything from Mozart to Bruno Mars, as you can see from its YouTube page. And while you can find many classical musicians playing pop hits on YouTube, The Strings Amarta continues their online success offline, with concerts ranging from solo performances to the full 20-member Amarta Chamber Orchestra.
Their next performance will be on Sunday at 3pm, when they take part in New Town Plaza’s annual “Music in Town” series. The group will perform eight pieces, including works by Mozart as well as some modern hits, and admission is free.