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Kettekun Vanna Sok practises on the drumkit at Simphony Music School
Kettekun Vanna Sok practises on the drumkit at Simphony Music School ahead of Sunday’s concert at the InterContinental Hotel. Pha Lina

Sweet Simphony as music students prepare for show

From Bach to Pharrell Williams to Cambodia’s own late King Father, composers from the world over will be represented this weekend in a performance by one of Phnom Penh’s only classical music schools.

Students from Simphony Music School will showcase their work in Movements, a concert on Sunday evening at the InterContinental Hotel before an anticipated crowd of hundreds.

Cambodia has its own very rich musical tradition that was, like all of the arts in the country, decimated during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. But Hun Lak, who founded Simphony in 2010, said it’s important for children to learn Western music as that of their ancestors.

“Music has no boundaries – Cambodian music and Western music is the same. After the war, everything started from zero, so that’s why our music education in this country is still so young,” he said.

Students at the school are about 50 per cent Cambodian and 50 per cent expat and the performers on Sunday will include 9-year-old Kettekun Vanna Sok, who prefers to be known as Alex.

The student has been learning piano for three years, but on Sunday he will play the drums in front of an audience for the first time with his band The Dragons – consisting of drums, piano, bass and cello.

He said: “I like music and I like to listen to music. Maybe when I grow up, I’ll be in a band as well.”

Teachers at Simphony are recruited from countries including Hong Kong, the United States, Australia and Taiwan. The school focuses on Western music in particular, and has about 200 students aged 5 and above who learn instruments including piano, drums, violin and ukulele as well as singing.

The school offers both individual and group lessons, all taught in English by international teachers.

According to Simphony’s music director Chung Eden, 70 per cent of those performing on Sunday will be children, 20 per cent teenagers and 10 per cent adults. Last year they performed to an audience of 600, and they are expecting similar numbers this year.

Kanika Kumar, who is 8 years old, comes from an expat Indian family. She will be playing piano in Sunday’s concert, and said her growing love of music has infected the family. “My dad is about to start learning guitar, so when he’s good enough he’s going to teach me too”, she said.

Lak believes that music can benefit young people in many ways. It not only brings joy to them and to others, he said, but it can give them practical, transferable skills as well. “Music can create a good memory for young people growing up, and it helps them to be patient. I compare the students here to young kids I knew, and you can really see a difference”, he said.

Movements will take place at the Intercontinental Hotel, #295 Boulevard Mao Tse Tung, on Sunday June 1 at 3pm - 6pm.

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