Despite his many detours, Samuel Kwan pressed on to his true calling as a violinist.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF OF SAMUEL KWAN|
“Music,” begins Samuel Kwan, 34, “is a language that communicates beyond words, because when you play music it can bring out all kinds of emotions.”
With a violin in hand, the happily married man is the picture of someone who knows exactly where his destiny lies.
Despite being one of the pioneer teachers of violin at Yamaha, Kwan had a rocky start to finding his career in music. He faced many obstacles, from financial instability to losing his job. Yet somehow, each step back turned into a step closer toward his dream job.
When he picked up the violin at the age of 13, Kwan was already considered too old for the instrument. “My sister, who plays the piano, started out at the age of 3, and by the time she was 14, she had achieved Grade 8 (the top grade) in piano.
“Many people told me not to do it, they just felt it was too late for me, but with the encouragement from my family members and relatives, I decided to do it.”
His family were fully behind his decision and paid for his lessons and instruments.
As Kwan was in school, he found it hard to cope with both studies and music. So finally at Grade 6 he decided to drop music altogether. However, the one thing that set him back on track was senior pastor Kong Hee’s sermon on finding one’s focus in life.
“Pastor Kong told of how, by focusing sunlight through a small point of a magnifying glass, you can start a fire. It really hit me that I needed to find out what I wanted to do with my life.”
Kwan chanced upon a musician’s testimony that encouraged him. “There was a lady, a left-hander, who won several gold medals in music. In an interview, she was asked why she didn’t want to train her right hand for a balance between both hands. She replied: ‘Why would I want to waste time on my weakness when I can train more on my strength?’
“It hit me: why was I not concentrating in music? Why was I concentrating on other stuff? So I came back into the music world.” Kwan then took up songwriting at the School of Creative Arts in 2004, a small branch of the School of Theology.
At that time, Kwan worked for the theater group Act 3. “I was in theater and drama, working in backstage management, but I was terminated due to the bad economy. It was quite a big wake-up call for me: I realized that nothing is secure and that I have to do something of value.”
Then Kwan joined Yamaha as a sales executive. “I feel that it was a divine opportunity, an open door for me. While I was in Yamaha, circumstances propelled me toward becoming a violin teacher.”
He met with many music educators. “These were people who love music and have a great passion for it. They influenced me a lot and I decided to switch to being an educator.”
Though he was close to his goal, Samuel still had one more barrier to overcome: he had not received his Grade 8 diploma in violin, which limited him to teaching only private students.
By then he was almost 30, but despite his age, he decided to “keep moving forward”. “Once I achieved Grade 8, everything just began to roll, I went for an audition with Yamaha and immediately became a full-time teacher.”
Kwan desires to be a testimony for adults who think that they cannot pick up an instrument. In fact, he is now the oldest student pursuing his Diploma in Violin at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
He believes strongly that whatever God intends for one to do in life, “you’ll discover that things will just happen and lead you to his intended career path for you.” Kwan believes that there are many talented musicians in Singapore and he encourages them not to give up their craft.
“I want to believe that one day Singapore will be like other countries, where laocal talent is recognized and the arts can sustain itself. Hopefully from our church we can see more musicians emerging as well.
“Music is a journey,” Kwan says to encourage struggling musicians. “So have fun with it and just keep walking. Don’t stop and never give up.”