All the world’s a stage and there are plenty of players – which is why it takes something truly special to stand out from the crowd. Last week, twelve talented students vied for the judges’ attention at the Student of the Year performing artist interviews. Musicians, dancers, singers – every young performer had a shot at winning marks from Adrian Walter, Karly Cox and Colleen Lee, who were very interested in students’ backgrounds, their future aspirations, and how they planned to achieve their goals.
Walters told Young Post he was impressed by how tuned in students were to society, and how performers genuinely felt they could bring about change. Meanwhile, Lee, a pianist and former SOTY entrant, said she enjoyed seeing how each performer interpreted the theme: “The future in our hands.”
Young Post deputy editor Cox was just privileged to witness the finalists. “This is the third time I’ve judged this category, and every year I am blown away by the talent and genuine love the contestants have for their chosen art. I love hearing that these Hong Kong students, who are so often characterised as being utterly focused on exam results, have much broader interests and dreams.”
Harpist Katie Lo Sin-yan, from Good Hope School, had the daunting task of being first. “I’m used to it, as the harp is so big,” she laughed with Young Post. Judges asked her about performing arts in Hong Kong – questions she was well-prepared for, but then she was surprised to be grilled on her future goals. She replied that her dream was to study at Juilliard, a top music school in the US, and that she had organised charity concerts for Unicef. She said, “For me, playing music isn’t just about personal achievements, it’s about helping others. I want to use my talent to help people in need.”
Next up, Ma Sin-yee cast an enchanting spell over the judges with her dizi – a Chinese flute. The Chinese Foundation Secondary School student’s main instrument is the guzheng, but she had written a piece especially for SOTY. Judge Adrian Walter praised her determination as a musician, and heard about her goals to pursue music and the importance of traditional instruments.
Two singers followed: first there was Li Man-hei with her song Your Dream, then came Christy Chan Sze-pui, who performed Katy Perry’s Firework to a backing track created by her school a cappella choir.
“A cappella is so fun! It can be performed anywhere, any time,” she shared. She told judges how she has participated in competitions, and regularly performs for the elderly, young children, and migrants all over the city.
Then, Wei Zhong, from TWGHs CY Ma Memorial College confidently performed a sonorous operatic piece in Mandarin. Judges were fascinated as the Tchaikovsky-loving singer told them how he was brought up in Ukraine in a musical Chinese family, and had moved to the mainland before settling in Hong Kong. Identity was a key issue on the young baritone’s mind. He said: “My song asked ‘Who Am I?’ Wherever I go, people don’t see me as a local. But Hong Kong is so multicultural and I’m happy to be part of this community.” In response, Walter told him: “You represent something wonderful with your pride in your background.”
Another singer, Wong Shuk-man showed no trace of nervousness as she delivered a bold yet soulful performance of Rachel Platten’s survivor anthem, Fight Song. Meanwhile, horn player Ma Ka-hei was inspired by Beethoven. She played a lively melody, which she said suited the personality of Hongkongers. Asked by judges what role she played in society, Ka-hei revealed that not only did she want to be a professional horn player, but she also wanted to volunteer as a tutor in her community.
Pianist Kwok Tung’s passion for her instrument really shone through in his piece, Brother’s Keeper, a Chinese song dating back to the 60s. The Pui Ching Middle School student explained that he’d chosen the music as it represented how How Kong merges eastern and western cultures. “Through music, we can understand different cultures,” he said. Afterwards, he told YP that being open-minded and passionate were key to SOTY. “Don’t think of it as a competition,” he said. “See it as a chance to exchange ideas and to meet people with the same interests.”
The most unusual performance of the day came from Chan Ching-wai, from Sacred Heart Canossian College. Her piece consisted of a short drama segment, followed by a singing section. She played a character who was fed up of being nagged by her mum. She fantasizes about losing her hearing, yet is stunned when her wish comes true. The piece was designed to make others “cherish the world around them” and to “remind people of the importance of communication,” she explained afterwards.
She revealed that her teacher had advised her against doing such an unorthodox piece, but she’d decided to go ahead with it anyway.
“This came from me,” she told YP. “I don’t like copying others.” Judges praised her pragmatic attitude towards a career in the arts, and agreed that the world would be a better place if everyone listened to each other.
Rachel Lam Chi-Tung performed a medley of classical pieces, including one written by her piano teacher, who Rachel said was her biggest role model. “Music has been my lifelong companion,” she told judges, before revealing that she wanted to become a music psychologist and that she loves performing for the elderly. She explained, “Students are drowning in stress, which music can help relieve. It can help with perseverance and self-discipline.”
Dancer Beatrice Mak was graceful and composed as she spun and skipped through her choreography. She told judges that she knows lots of different dance styles, but chose to perform a “lyrical dance” for SOTY, as it helped her express the themes of an ideal home, the future of the city, and the spirit of Hongkongers. She said it was her dream to teach dancing, and that she wanted to open her own school one day.
The final performance was down to Cheng Sum-yi, who presented an elaborate fan dance. She had only started rehearsing three days prior to her performance, yet she was confident in her own abilities. “My advice to other students thinking of entering SOTY next year would be not to think that winning is everything. Your goal should be to promote culture,” she said.
Edited by Ginny Wong