No Strings Attached

Published on 26 September 2017

Photo: Min Lee

Violin virtuoso Min Lee channels her childhood experiences as a music prodigy into her work as a music educator today.

By Melanie Lee

Thirty-four-year-old Min Lee started learning the violin at the age of two. When she was eight, she won the Best Performer Award at the National Music Competition of Singapore. From the ages of nine to 17, she studied music under some of the best musical minds in the U.S. and Prague. She was, at 14, also the youngest student to be admitted for graduate studies at Yale University.

“It was never really a conscious decision to be a violinist,” Lee says.  “It has always been a part of my life. I enjoy the violin and I love performing. When I was given the opportunity to study music at the University of Michigan at the age of nine, that pretty much set the path.”

Later at Yale, Lee was mentored by the late Erick Friedman, the great American violinist. When she was 16, Friedman made her promise that she would teach, one day, alongside performing. Having himself been taught by the legendary German violinist Jascha Heifetz, he wanted Lee to continue that legacy of mentoring the next generation.

“I agreed, but, at that age, it was not something I was thinking about,” recalls Lee.

Today, she is the programme director of Wolfgang Violin Studio, a school she set up eight years ago with her mother that focuses on nurturing talented young violinists. In fact, her star protégé, 12-year-old Samuel Tan, won the prestigious 2014 Andrea Postacchini International Violin Competition in Italy when he was just nine. This November, she will perform with Tan at the Esplanade — Theatres on the Bay.

“That’s the beauty of teaching,” Lee says, “being able to impact young musicians and inspire their passion for music. I am often  asked why I choose to be based in Singapore when I could go somewhere where there are more musicians to train. But I think that for such a small country, we have an incredible amount of talent.”

Her most challenging student to date? Her six-year-old son, Connor, who first started the violin two years ago. Lee, who also has a two-year-old girl, recalls that “practising with him was like pulling teeth”. However, when Connor managed to get a distinction for his Grade 1 violin exam last year, she was delighted to see him feel that sense of achievement.

“He may not be a prodigy, but he’s learning how to enjoy the music,” Lee says. “He doesn’t have to be a musician, but I hope music will always be a part of his life because it’s a great outlet for the soul.”

Min Lee with her 12-year-old protégé Samuel Tan. (Photo: Min Lee)

Wolfgang Violin Studio has two schools in UE Square and Katong. For more information, visit www.wolfgangviolin.com

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