Photo by Alan Lim Studio
Before Singapore had the Esplanade and a conservatory of music, Singaporean violinist Lee-Chin Siow blazed a trail for this little red dot on the classical music map by winning the Gold Medal of the 1994 Henryk Szeryng International Violin Competition. Her victory launched her career as one of Singapore’s first homegrown soloists on the international classical music stage, with performances broadcast on BBC World News, China Central TV, America’s CBS, National Public Radio, and Singapore’s MediaCorp.
Lauded by USA’s Fanfare Magazine for her ability to “seduce listeners…with just a few notes”, Lee-Chin touches audiences with her charismatic stage presence in intimate recitals as well as the grandest of stages. As soloist, she has collaborated with renowned orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, Dallas Symphony, National Philharmonic of Ukraine, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Chile, Mexico State Symphony Orchestra, Avignon Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia; as well as at major concert halls and festivals in Asia, Europe and Americas including the Royal Albert Hall, Osaka Symphony Hall, Carnegie Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Beijing Concert Hall, City Hall in Hong Kong, Esplanade Concert Hall, Hangzhou Grand Theatre, KonzerHaus Vienna, Petronas Concert Hall, Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre, Suzhou Arts and Cultural Centre, Tchaikovsky Hall; the Aspen Music Festival, Banff Music Festival, Cervantino Music Festival, Kansai International Performing Arts Festival, Lucerne International Music Festival, Ludwigsburg International Music Festival, Music Fest Perugia, Suzhou Jinji Lake Arts Festival and Singapore Arts Festival.
A musical ambassador for Singapore, Lee-Chin has given command performances to Heads of State and extended Singapore’s cultural influence beyond its shores. In 2015, she took centrestage at the 2015 South East Asian Games Opening Ceremony performing to a live audience of 40,000 and reaching many more through web broadcasts.
Cited by Singapore’s Prime Minister in the 1999 National Day Rally as an inspiring Singaporean who has made her mark in the arts world, Lee-Chin has broken new ground and contributed to Singapore’s classical music scene since the beginning of her career. While still in school, she served as the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s youngest trainee in the orchestra’s formative years, performing alongside professional musicians in public concerts. At 15, she became the first Singaporean musician to be talent spotted and offered a place at one of the most selective music schools in the US – the Curtis Institute of Music. When she made her debut as soloist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in Singapore in 1992, The Straits Times reported that she was the first Singaporean musician to solo with a visiting, internationally established orchestra. In 2000, she helped Singapore acquire the 1750 J.B. Guadagnini violin, and became the first Singaporean violinist to perform and record with the instrument under the National Arts Council’s Violin Loan Scheme. Her debut album Songs My Father Taught Me became a HMV classical bestseller and won her praise in the American Record Guide as “a distinguished cultural asset of international stature”. For her artistic excellence and outstanding achievements, she was honoured with the Singapore Youth Award for Excellence in the Arts, the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award, the Fellowship in Music Performance by the South Carolina Arts Commission, and in 2015, by the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS) with the Meritorious Award for her contributions to the development of music in Singapore.
Beginning her violin studies with her late father Siow Hee Shun, Lee-Chin traces her musical lineage all the way back to the legends of Eugène Ysaÿe, Henri Vieuxtemps and Henryk Wieniawkski through their disciples and her teachers at Curtis, Oberlin and Mannes: Aaron Rosand, Jascha Brodsky, Felix Galimir, Almita and Roland Vamos. Today, she continues their pedagogical tradition in her work with young people all over the world from China’s Beijing Central Conservatory of Music, Soochow University School of Music, Chicago Institute of Music, to the Singapore National Youth Orchestra and as violin professor at the College of Charleston. Equally proud of her Asian origins, Lee-Chin bridges the East and West, championing the music of Asian composers to the West. At the 2015 City of London Festival, she performed the world premiere of “Air”, a piece specially written for her by acclaimed composer Yao Chen, who has been commissioned by Grammy award winning artists. In 2017, she premiered “Air” and Singaporean composer Kam Kee Yong’s “Chinese Rhapsody” at Carnegie Hall.
Lee-Chin is honoured to share her musical journey in her first book From Clementi to Carnegie which the internationally respected Strad Magazine praised as an “inspiration to young performers”.