Wake up, Silpakorn : Know yourself and be yourself!

The audience’s extraordinarily enthusiastic reception at the end of the concert given by the Silpakorn University Student Orchestra at the Siam Society on Tuesday, February 4, 2020, set me thinking. In 1968, I was among the “alien” elements that constituted the creation of the second campus of Silpakorn in Nakorn Pathom, but I have always been appreciative of the arts, and teaching at Silpakorn for 3 decades has induced me to engage in Interart Studies: colleagues at the “original” faculties have not treated me as bastard.

The concert tonight proved that the original “University of the Arts” is still very much alive and is contributing much to the recognition and prestige of the University, which has since expanded into other disciplines, some of which have done well. Congratulations!

Our great assets are our students, and our strengths are still in the arts. The students distinguished themselves tonight in ways that we could not have imagined 20 years ago when the late Professor Trungchai decided to pick up what had been left off unfulfilled by Phra Chen Duriyang in the 1940s and launched a Faculty of Music against all the odds. Tonight the students’ playing of the classics in the first half was stylish, with perfect ensemble and tonal richness. Two young female students showed no stage fright at all in the Concerto for Two Celli by Vivaldi. The other soloist in Haydn’s Violin Concerto in G was a Thai graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, London, whose virtuosity was enhanced by remarkable sobriety and good taste.

But it was the second half that stunned people. In a programme of pop, jazz , blues, plus one of Rama IX’s compositions, all chosen by the students themselves, they exhibited an unheard of versatility. Two alumni, one a harmonica player, the other a jazz violinist, who certainly rank among the country’s very best, joined them in this delectable music making.

These are the students who have been left to rot in the pitiable row houses in Taling Chan, premises unworthy of any institution of higher learning. But they don’t rot; instead they have managed to “reach the unreachable star”. But the “Phuyai “ should not take too much for granted.

While the University, like other Thai institutions (mis)guided by the philosophy of life known as “4.O”, is fixing its eyes on marketable disciplines, it has forgotten where it has come from. The Faculty of Music cannot be left to fend for itself, for talented students with little or no money to pay for the fees need support that the central administration should provide. The concerts that have proved to be the pride of Silpakorn have so far been supported by external funds raised from business concerns, which are now re-channeling their contributions elsewhere, for reasons that cannot be openly discussed.

It is time that Silpakorn tried to learn to know itself, its roots, its values. Heavenly music will one day cease to emanate from the Hongthaew Conservatory. You will then regret it.

Chetana Nagavajara

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