Kenneth Lun graduated from the prestigious Peabody Institute of the John Hopkins University, Baltimore MD, USA with a Bachelor of Music (Major in Trumpet Performance and Minor in Jazz Trumpet).
Taught under famous teachers like Wayne Cameron, David Bilger, Andrew Balio, Edward Hoffman and Chen Jia Min, Kenneth won highly coveted positions with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, Peabody Concert Orchestra (Principal Trumpet), Peabody Jazz Ensemble (Lead/Solo Trumpet) as well as the Peabody Wind Ensemble (Principal Trumpet). Besides performing extensively in the States, Kenneth has also performed in countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and Malaysia.
Since coming back from the USA, Kenneth has had a distinguished career in the music scene, freelancing with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Brass Quintet. He has also appeared as a soloist with the Philharmonic Winds. In addition to that, he has been playing with many high profile ensembles like the Singapore Armed Forces Central Band, the Singapore Lyric Theatre Orchestra, the Singapore Festival Orchestra, the Singapore Wind Symphony and the Summertimes Jazz Band.
Apart from the concert stage, Kenneth is also an experienced and one of the most sought after trumpeters in musicals. His list of performances at the Esplanade Theater include: Cabaret, West Side Story, The King and I, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Beauty World (solo trumpet), The Magic Box, Sing Dollar!, Victor/Victoria and Fried Rice Paradise.
He recently completed recordings for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore (solo trumpet) as well as the Love Your Ride LTA jingle. He has also collaborated with local stars such as Iskandar Ismail (music director for various National events), composer Dick Lee, the Dim Sum Dollies as well as theatre director Ivan Heng.
(This interview was conducted in January 2011)
Maybe we could start with your music background? How did you get in touch with music and how did it go on from there?
I started out playing trumpet in the Saint Joseph’s Institution Military Band under the guidance of Mr. Tan Beng Wee, who helped spark my passion for music and trumpet playing. I went on to join the National Junior College Symphonic Band and National Institute of Education Symphonic Band under Professor Ho Hwee Long. Prior to my studies in the United States, I served my National Service as a member of the Singapore Armed Forces Central Band.
Who were your teachers and inspirations?
As mentioned above, my earliest and most important influences in regards to music came from Mr. Tan Beng Wee, followed by Professor Ho Hwee Long. I was very honoured to have Mr Chen Jia Min, who was assistant principal trumpet in the Singapore Symphony Orchestra at that time, as my first trumpet teacher during my junior college/army years. I also had the privilege of studying with Mr. Wayne Cameron and Mr. Ed Hoffman at the Peabody Institute of Music, both of whom played a major role in my later development as a trumpet player.
What inspired you to minor in Jazz Trumpet in your Bachelor of Music studies at the Peabody Institute of the John Hopkins University?
I developed an acute interest in jazz during my junior college days after listening to CDs of Wynton Marsalis and Arturo Sandoval in action. When I discovered that the Peabody Conservatory had a jazz minor program, I jumped straight into the chance to learn more about jazz.
How different is jazz performance compared to wind band performance?
The common misconception is that jazz music is “easier” to play than wind band standards. To me, jazz is not “easier”. It’s just the mindset that you adopt during the performance of jazz music. Jazz music normally incorporates more groovy rhythms and syncopations, and therefore sounds less “rigid” to the listener. For example, you would more-often-than-not find yourself tapping your feet or bobbing your head to the groove of blues/rock/swing/fusion/mainstream pop etc. rather than a wind band overture. It’s just natural human instinct at work. Jazz music is easy to listen to, and is easy to perform as a result. This does not make the technical or musical requirements of jazz music easier in any way. On the contrary, some of the most challenging rhythms and lines I have played in any music to date have come from jazz works!
You have performed in many musical broadways. How does it feel like to be part of the productions?
Very tiring, but extremely rewarding. Rehearsals for musicals can sometimes be the epitome of exhaustion due to the long hours required. There are times when I have to rehearse at the Esplanade Theatre from 9 in the morning till 12 midnight of the next day. However, seeing the whole production come to the life – the song and dance choreographies, the completion of the sets and the synergy between the music and acting – always gives me a sense of satisfaction, knowing that I had the opportunity to be part of a production of such magnitude. The feeling is the same every time I work on a new production: when the show is into its 2nd or 3rd week of daily performances, I cannot wait for it to end; when the show has finally ended its run, I cannot help but miss it. Peculiar, but true.
Tell us about your practice routine.
I spend about an hour a day warming up, starting with long tones on middle G. Then I progress up and down the register on slurs, and wrap up with single and multiple tonguing. If time permits, I will also work on music that I am currently preparing for an upcoming performance.
What are you currently practicing right now? Any pieces / projects that you are working on?
I am currently working on the the music from the opera Carmen which will run at the Esplanade Theatre later this month. I also spend some time looking through pieces that my students are preparing, especially those who are about to take their trumpet exams. As for projects, I am very proud to be a member of the Summertimes Jazz Band, a band that I feel so much a part of because of the endearing bonds of friendship between everyone inside. We do perform quite regularly for events and performances, so that pretty much keeps me occupied project-wise. I am also privileged to be a member of the Brass Kinetics! brass quintet, made up of 5 great musicians and friends, and we practice regularly together.
What are some of the players you would recommend to listen, in order to hear the great sounds in action?
Definitely Wynton Marsalis! I grew up listening to him. For musicality and phrasing, I would recommend Timothy Morrison (formerly of the Boston Pops). Classical playing-wise, Hans Gansch is a must! He has a fabulous tone, and equally fabulous technique.
Apart from playing the trumpet, you also teach bands. How do you strike a balance between playing and teaching?
I don’t really need to strike a balance. I teach bands in the afternoon, and I perform mostly at night. There are sometimes a few occasions in which I have to postphone teaching to another day or cancel altogether because of a dress-rehearsal or soundcheck in the day, but such occurences are few and far between.
Being a player, what is the importance of warm-ups before performances?
The importance of warming-up on the trumpet before performances is equal to that of warming-up before a 25 km marathon. If you don’t warm-up properly, your stamina will run out really fast, and that’s it for the rest of the performance. On the other hand, warming-up too much or too aggressively (e.g. blowing tons of high notes) will also sap alot of strength from you even before the performance begins.
What are your future plans?
To continue learning the trumpet, and to improve more!