Singapore's very own drummer boy, Ethan Ong (10), beat 51 other Chinese junior hopefuls to clinch the coveted championship position in the junior drum category at the 4th National Youth Percussion Instrument Competition at Shanghai, China.
Organised by 10 professional music institutions in China (the National Institute of Chinese Percussion Music, the Central Conservatory of Music, the Chinese National Academy of Music, the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Shenyang Conservatory of Music, Sichuan Conservatory of Music, Tianjin Conservatory of Music, Xi'an Music Academy, Wuhan Conservatory of Music, and Guangzhou Xinghai Conservatory of Music), this annual competition is currently the largest of its kind in the world, attracting more than 300 individual participants and 47 teams comprised of 400 participants from 46 provinces and cities, including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Participants competed over 9 days from July 27 to August 5, in 6 different categories featuring teams or individuals performing with percussion instruments such as the marimba, timpani, electronic and modern drums.
Judging this high profile event was a panel of 14 top professionals and authorities in the field of music and percussions, hailing from the Chinese National Academy of Music, the People's Liberation Army Institute of Arts, Nanjing Institute of Arts and other top orchestras in mainland China. This is in support of the event's objective to establish credibility, fairness and openness in identifying and developing the best percussionists in the youth sector.
In the junior modern drum category, 52 children aged 6 - 12 competed in the heats by playing 1 out of 5 pre-selected competition pieces. Ethan, along with 11 other competitors, made it to the finals where the bar was raised. Each competitor had to play another pre-selected competition piece and a composition of his choice that will best demonstrate the player's full skill range and complexity. Ethan chose a fusion jazz piece by Japanese band Casiopea and ventured further to add a 1-minute drum solo immediately after - A bold feat not undertaken by another.
Ethan said: "I was the last to perform at the finals and I had the chance to observe the others play. They had obviously practised very hard for the competition and it really showed. I knew I had to do something different if I wanted to set myself apart from the rest. Even though playing a solo would put me under heavy scrutiny by the judges, I was confident that I could pull it off."
Ethan's championship score of 92.8 was met by the audience's rapturous applause. Said a judge, Liu Gang, Percussions Deputy Professor at the Chinese National Academy of Music: "We are thrilled to have met Singapore's Ethan Ong [at this year's competition]. He is without a doubt, a drum genius. Aside from having demonstrated mastery in his rhythmic acumen and preparation, it is rare that he already possesses his own musical style at 10 years old."