Lim Yau's status as Singapore’s preeminent conductor is underpinned by a distinguished and enduring career. In addition to a long association with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra since its founding, Lim Yau's work in choral music, opera, ballet, and contemporary music remains unparalleled. He is a Cultural Medallion recipient and in 2011 was conferred the COMPASS Lifetime Achievement Award.
As opera and ballet conductor, Lim Yau remains Singapore's most prolific conductor of the genre, having conducted more than 20 opera and ballet productions with the Singapore Lyric Opera, Singapore Dance Theatre, among others. Testament to his dedication to new music is an impressive record of performances under his direction. In addition to giving Singaporean premieres of works by James Macmillan, Tan Dun, John Adams and John Corigliano, Lim Yau remains the only conductor to have premiered works by every major Singaporean composer, most notably the first Singaporean opera Bunga Mawar by the late Leong Yoon Pin. Lim Yau's contribution to choral music in Singapore is yet another landmark achievement in his multi-faceted career.
Under his directorship, the Singapore Symphony Chorus has become a highly anticipated feature in the SSO concert calendar. Going beyond the standard symphonic choral repertory, the Chorus has distinguished itself with Singapore premieres of 20th century choral masterpieces such as Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, Hindemith's Requiem and James Macmillan's Seven Last Words from the Cross. In addition, The Philharmonic Chamber Chorus which he founded in 1994 is today Singapore's flagship chamber choir. Besides having won major international awards such as First Prize in the 19th Bela Bartok International Choir Competition, Debrecen, Hungary, the choir has had the distinction of having performed alongside the Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus, the oldest professional choir in Asia, at the Tokyo Opera City.
On the international front Lim Yau has guest conducted the Shanghai Symphony, Orchestra of the National Opera and Ballet (China), Guangzhou Symphony, Philippines Philharmonic, State Philharmonics of Tirgu Mures, Satu Mare and Constanta in Romania, State Symphony of Krasknayarsk, Russian Philharmonic, Philippines Madrigal Singers, Lund University Male Chorus (Sweden), Latvian State Choir, and has recorded for the Marco Polo and Naxos label with the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus while he was their Principal Guest Conductor from 1993 to 1997. More recently he has had engagements with the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra and the Hong Kong City Chamber Orchestra.
Lim Yau's unwavering commitment to pushing boundaries of concert presentations has manifested in various pioneering projects with The Philharmonic Orchestra, which he founded in 1998. These include: several symphonic cycles such as those by Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann and Sibelius; critically acclaimed projects like the 100 Years Later series, in which the orchestra surveys the three major ballets by Igor Stravinsky; The Mazu Chronicle, a collaboration with Angela Liong (Arts Fission Company) and presented by Esplanade Theatres by the Bay. Currently Dean of NAFA School of Music, as well Director of NAFA Orchestra and Chorus, Lim Yau is devoted to the nurturing and development of young musicians. Simultaneously he continues his association with the Singapore Symphony Chorus as its Choral Director.
Lena Ching received her early music education in Singapore before going to the Royal College of Music in London for her graduate and postgraduate studies, majoring in both the piano and the harpsichord. She counts herself as part of the privileged beneficiary of her teachers, Victor Doggett, Yonty Solomon, Phyllis Sellick and Ruth Dyson.
Amongst Lena’s passions in life is teaching young people to cultivate a love and an understanding for music and life, as well as to see them excel in their talents and potential so as to contribute to the profession and to society. Since 1986, she has taught, developed and mentored numerous students and young performers from her private studio, from the LaSalle College of the Arts, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (the School of Music and the School of Young Talents), and also lectured for a period of time at the SIM-University of Buffalo.
Having been a prize-winning student herself (1st prize at the National Music Competition 1980, and Runner-Up at the Diners’ Club “Pianist of the Year” Competition 1986), her piano students have also won numerous prizes at local and overseas music competitions, and many have become successful musicians or professionals with a deep interest and love for music.
In the midst of a flourishing career, Lena’s continued search for excellence led her to pursue the Master of Arts degree in ‘Psychology for Musicians’ from the University of Sheffield (U.K.), in order to understand better the development and function of human talent and abilities. Her area of research and specialization was on music competitions and how they impact/affect gifted young musicians and high-ability learners. This is one of the outcomes of her illustrious career in teaching and working with musically-exceptional students.
Her professional experiences have also included numerous opportunities to perform as a soloist, concerto soloist, chamber musician, and accompanist in concerts, auditions, examinations and competitions. Lena was also an adjudicator for the National Piano Competitions in Sarawak and Ipoh (in the 1990’s), the Malaysia National Piano Competition in 2000, DynamicWorkz’s Young Pianist Competitions in 2009 and 2010, and the “Vivace!” Inter-Junior College Piano Duo Competition in 2014. Additionally, she has served as a committee member/ panel member for the National Arts Council in 1996 and 1998.
To date, Lena continues to be greatly inspired and enthused by aspiring young musicians as well as the work of her many colleagues and contemporaries.
Lena is the Head of Keyboard Studies at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, School of Music since June 2015.
As a young teen, Nellie Seng won grants and scholarships from the National Arts Council and other organizations in Singapore to embark on her early musical journey at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, England. There, she studied with Murray McLachlan. Named as the Audi Junior Musician of the Year in 1995, Nellie concertized widely around Europe, including solo recitals in Steinway Hall, London, Blenheim Palace, Oxford and Cannes, France. Prior to her education in England, Nellie studied with Ms Lena Ching. Under her guidance, Nellie was a multiple prizewinner at the biennial National Music Competition in Singapore.
After graduating from high school, Nellie was awarded the prestigious Shell-NAC Scholarship to pursue her tertiary education at The Juilliard School, New York. Under the tutelage of Oxana Yablonskaya and Jerome Lowenthal, she earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Performance. Nellie went on to continue with her post-graduate studies at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, studying with Thomas Sauer, founder and director of the esteemed Beethoven Institute at Mannes College of Music. Nellie has also participated in masterclasses with Krystian Zimmerman, Paul Badura-Skoda, Andrew Wilde and Maria Curcio.
Nellie joined NAFA as a principal study lecturer after completing her doctoral studies. As a pedagogue, she strongly believes in nurturing a sense of historical awareness alongside a strong technical foundation in order for students to excel in their musical endeavours. Prior to joining NAFA, Nellie lectured in the College of Staten Island and City College of New York. Besides solo performances, she is also an avid chamber musician. She believes that the interaction and collaboration between musicians to be an ongoing learning process.
Nellie made her concerto debut with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra during one of their summer tours in Europe, with a repeat performance during one of their regular concert seasons in Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow in 2000. Her notable accolades include the Chopin Prize at the Juilliard-Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition (2001) and 1st prize at the Puigcerda International Piano Competition (2000). In the past year, Nellie has performed in Xinghai Conservatory of Music, Guangzhou and conducted masterclass with their students. She recently premiered a work by Dr. Zechariah Goh, specially commissioned and performed by the NAFA Faculty Chamber Ensemble at the 11th International Chamber Music Festival 2018 organized by the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China. In April 2019, Nellie performed the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no. 3 with NAFA Orchestra at the Victoria Concert Hall conducted by Alexey Vasilyev, Rector and Professor at The Rimsky-Korsakov St. Petersburg State Conservatory. Nellie was also a committee member and clinician at the inaugural Nanyang Piano Academy 2019 in Singapore.
Wong Sun Tat is currently Head of Chinese Instrumental Studies at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). Prior to joining NAFA, he was an Assistant Gao Hu Principal in the Singapore Chinese Orchestra for more than 10 years. Sun Tat graduated from the Central Conservatory of Music, majoring in Erhu. He was the first international student to receive the full government scholarship for a diploma at Chinese Instrumental Department, The Attached Middle School of the Central Conservatory of Music, since the Chinese Economic Reform.
Sun Tat has performed in concerts in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan since a tender age. Some of his performances were broadcast on TV and radio. At the age of 8, he was invited to perform with the Hong Kong Symphony Orchestra in a fundraising concert - “The Platinum Super-Star Music Event” at the Hong Kong Stadium. The concert received rave reviews from local media and Sun Tat was dubbed “an Erhu prodigy”. Renowned composer, the late James Wong described him as “graceful and confident” and “a dazzling star” in a concert review titled “The Future Master”, published in his Mingpao column.
At the age of 9, Sun Tat won the First Prize in the Erhu Open Category, Hong Kong School Music Festival with “Ballad of North Henan Province”, being the youngest champion in history. He also won many prizes in other international Erhu competitions in China and Taiwan.
Sun Tat was frequently invited to perform in various prestigious international music festivals and events, collaborating with world renowned Chinese orchestras and symphony orchestras. He also represented Singapore for three years in “Spotlight Singapore”, held in Russia, South Africa and Mexico.
Sun Tat has released two personal Erhu recordings, both produced by The Decca Records Company in Taiwan.