With a passion for music that was handed down from his father, Num Bunnaroth decided to pursue his dream of becoming a musician. After spending many years studying music, Num Bunnaroth now works as a singer-songwriter for local music production companies and is quite well-known among teenagers. While Num Bunnaroth chose to go to the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) for his education, there are a number of options in the country for people who hope to make music their livelihood.
The Royal University of Fine Arts is the only higher education institution that provides scholarship classes for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music. Every year about 50 scholarships are awarded to music students by RUFA
The university offers classical and folk music courses, as well as Western music featuring orchestral instruments and even popular instruments such as the saxophone and accordion.
With a variety of musical instruments and qualified lecturers who have studied in other countries, the university offers professional training to students, some of whom go on to find careers in music as composers, musicians, singers and music teachers, among other jobs. If being a professional musician is your goal, RUFA might be your best bet to get your foot in the door.
However, if you aren’t willing to commit to music just yet, but you want to play for enjoyment and pleasure, you can visit Sovanna Phum Art Association, located on Street 99 (corner of Street 484), Phsar Doem Thkov, Phnom Penh, to take part-time classes. The private arts school provides you with training in traditional Khmer instruments and art forms such as the tro, sitar, zither, chapey and the sadeav.
Established in 1994, Sovanna Phum has trained hundreds of people including Cambodians, Koreans, Japanese and Europeans who like Khmer music and want to preserve it. “Before going abroad, some people came to learn how to play the flute and tro so that they can play them when they miss their homeland, and they want to show their identity, culture and civilisation to others,” said Mann Kosal, artistic director.
If you love traditional music, want to help preserve Khmer identity and can afford the cost of US$5 per hour, visit Sovanna Phum Art Association next time you have a free moment.
With a growing trend in Cambodia towards modern music, Popular Music Center located on Street 165, Vel Vong, Prampi Makara, Phnom Penh, offers music classes in guitar, organ, piano, bass guitar and drums to teenagers who are keen on music.
Lay Panhavorn, manager of the centre, says most of the students study for pleasure because they have free time and do not want to waste it. If you do not have your own instrument, the centre can lend you one. However, you should have one to practice at home if you are serious about learning.
Lay Panhavorn recommends that students pay attention, come to class punctually and practice for at least 10 minutes each day to get fruitful results.
Open for nearly six years, the centre provides classes all week at a cost of $12 per month for guitar and organ, $15 per month for bass guitar and drum, and $20 per month for piano. Recently, the school has given a special price of $25 per three months for music classes.
For orphans and the poor, the school provides a special discount. Furthermore, if you can afford $100 per month, you can hire a teacher to teach you and your friends at home.
Similarly, Light House Christian Assembly provides music classes in guitar, bass guitar, drums and the organ for fun and leisure. The cool thing about Light House is that the classes are free for everyone, no matter who you are. You can contact their office, located on Russian Boulevard, Phsar Depo II, Tuol Kork, Phnom Penh, to sign up.
Ieb Vanna, a guitar teacher at the assembly, says students are busy with school on weekdays and that classes are only open on the weekend. He adds when signing up for the class, students need to take a test so that the church can divide them into two levels: 1 and 2. If you know nothing about music, you are automatically in level 1.
Unlike Light House, Tiny Toones has been teaching students who love music how to craft tunes in genres like hip-hop, R&B and Pop with a laptop and a computer programme called Reason-Fruity Loop.
Everyone can bring his or her own laptop to Tiny Toones’ centre near Russian Market in order to sign up for classes, which are free of charge and run from 5pm to 8pm on weekdays.
However, if you do not have enough time to study music at school, and you own a laptop or DVD player, just go to DVD shops south of Russian Market and purchase a $2 or $3 DVD programme teaching you how to play the guitar and piano, such as the Emedia Audition Method disc. This way, you can become a great musician at your own pace and practice whenever you want.