Timothy Leong, Violin
What is your favorite Hawaii Symphony moment?
My “favorite” moment as a member of the Hawaii Symphony was when our string quartet played at Kuhio Elementary School for an Educational Performance to 2nd & 3rd grade children. Our last piece was “Let it Go” from the movie “Frozen” and as we began to play the children all instantaneously began singing with us in unison as if it was rehearsed; it was really touching!
How did you choose your instrument?
I started very late in the 6th grade public school system after my results from the Seashore Music Aptitude Test. I was expecting to be handed a trumpet or at least a clarinet and when the Teacher showed up with a car full of violins I was really disappointed! So in retrospect I never really had a choice.
Do you have any performance rituals?
I used to worry about whether my shoes were shined but now all I really care about is whether I have clean reading glasses!
What would you consider to be the perfect classical concert program?
The content of the program is not as important as whether or not we can reach the audience with our delivery. Many of our very best performances have included rarely programmed works but the audience reception was fantastic and that is what is important; that we serve both the music and our audience to the best of our ability.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
This question to me is like asking, “How would you stay alive without air?” I absolutely cannot imaging NOT being a musician however I also am an Architect with my own practice in Honolulu. I’ve managed to manage both professions quite well for the past 35 years!
What was the first piece of music you fell in love with?
After I started the violin in school my Mother gave me my very first recording which was the Brahms Violin Concerto performed by Jashca Heifetz and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I listened to that record every afternoon after school and I still love that piece just as much today.
What was your earliest musical memory?
Sitting on the grass under the stars at the Waikiki Shell and listening to the Honolulu Symphony under George Barati.
When was the career of music chosen?
During my Architectural Graduate Program I had stopped playing the violin completely before returning to Hawaii. While in Colorado I “acquired” a dog for my wife and noticed an advertisement for auditions for the Honolulu Symphony while placing the newspaper on the ground for the dog. I went down to the Musician’s Union to pick up the audition music (looking more like a surfer dude than a violinist) and Bob Karol who was the chairman didn’t want to give me the music because he didn’t believe that I could play the violin! After I convinced him that I studied with Dale Bechtel and Lavar Krantz he finally let go of the music folder. I dusted off the violin and practiced for a few weeks and played the audition and got a letter from Bob Karol a few days later saying that it was a successful audition! I suppose that music picked me more than I picked it!
What is your biggest hurdle faced as a musician?
Balancing your life as a musician is a difficult process, especially if you have another career and a family. Music has never “paid” well financially and while this is a historic problem with the career all of my other colleagues have to find other ways to make ends meet. Educating the public of the true value of music is the only way to rectify this problem.
Who were your major teachers?
Dale Bechtel (Kalani High School) & Lavar Krantz both were members of the Honolulu Symphony and Mille Stubblefield (University of Colorado) from the Denver Symphony. I also studied chamber music with George Rochberg (University of Pennsylvania).
What is your favorite stress reliever?
A week long High Adventure Trek in the wilderness with Troop 33 (Troop 33 Manoa, Hawaii Aloha Council Boy Scouts of America).