Solomon Ho started learning the trombone at the age of 13, from Bedok South Secondary School Symphonic Band under the baton of Music Freelancers Tay Kai Tze and Nigel Leong. Solomon was also under the tutelage of Singapore Symphony Orchestra Section Trombone, Sam Armstrong. Since his schooling days in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) pursuing a Diploma in Music (Performance), he has been under the tutelage of Damian Patti, Associate Principal Trombone of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
Solomon currently is a trombonist with the Singapore National Youth Orchestra (SNYO) and has participated in recording sessions held at the Victoria Concert Hall. Solomon is seen actively seeking for performing opportunities and has performed for multiple Music platforms, Masterclasses, Wind/Brass ensemble recordings, and Library Concerts during his time of study in NAFA.
He also participated in NAFA’s Concerto Competition in both his first and second year of study. Solomon is a recipient of the “Tan Chay Bing Entry Scholarship” in 2020-2021, a recipient of the “Choo-Lim Study Award (Diploma)” in 2021-2022, and a recipient of the “Tan Chin Tuan Merit Award (Diploma) in 2022-2023. Solomon has a Grade 5 ABRSM DISTINCTION for both Piano and Theory, and a Grade 5 TRINITY COLLEGE LONDON DISTINCTION for Drums.
Outside of school, Solomon actively serves in his church’s worship team on drums, vocals, keys, guitar and holds the position of Music Director and Worship Leader.
Why the trombone, out of the many instruments?
Interestingly, the Trombone was not my first choice of instrument upon joining my secondary school’s Symphonic Band! I clearly remembered wanting to play the clarinet or the oboe as I thought that was what the cool kids play as these instruments normally occupied the front row during performances.
When it came to the first band session, we were given opportunities to try out the instruments while our conductors would observe and see what would suit us best. When it came to testing the clarinet or the oboe, I was not able to produce a single sound on it. However when I tried a trombone mouthpiece, I was able to make a sound and got assigned to it on the spot.
Why did you decide to pursue music? Was there anyone in particular who motivated you?
I felt that music was what I am truly interested in. I have always been surrounded by music, and I enjoy music very much. After my secondary school education, I decided to pursue music as I’m not too interested in the academic subjects.
My mother is my greatest motivation. She saw that my heart and passion for music was far greater than anything else. Although I do not enjoy studying other subjects in school, when it comes to music, my mother observed that I would be completely immersed in listening to music, playing it and even reading about it.
When I told her that I wanted to pursue music, it didn’t take much effort to convince her as my actions have already spoken louder than words about my passion and commitment with music. She has been extremely supportive – she told me not to worry about the school fees and to focus on my music which is what truly matters.
Who are some of your music or non-music inspirations?
One of my music inspirations that actually allowed me to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Trombone was my very first Trombone teacher, Mr Sam Armstrong. I first heard him live in 2018 when he performed with the Orchestra of Music Makers (OMM) in Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony. I fell in love with his sound the moment I heard the trombone chorale during the fifth movement led by Mr Armstrong, and that motivated me to want to achieve a sound similar to his.
After the concert, I remember approaching him and asking if I could learn from him. The way he makes trombone playing look so easy and sounding so beautiful at the same time is something that truly inspires me!
How has your NAFA experience been so far? Any wonderful memories to share?
My time in NAFA has been nothing short of enjoyment. It is a place where I am surrounded by like-minded people and very supportive and understanding lecturers. NAFA also presents me with countless opportunities to be able to perform and make music with my friends.
One of the most memorable performances would be playing Igor Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale together with my friends from the School of Music while having lecturers from the School of Theatre joining us. This was the first time I played in such a setting and it was such an eye-opening and enjoyable experience leading up to the performance. Many of my friends and family showed up and they really enjoyed the performance!
Could you share your practice routine, on a typical day?
I normally start my day with stretching and breathing exercises to warm up my body. After doing those, I will proceed to buzz on my mouthpiece, which helps me to check that my lips are responding to the air at the correct point in order to have a focused air stream. I will then do my fundamentals which consists of long tones, scales, slurs, tonguing, and an etude. This would be my first practice session which normally takes about 2 hours.
In my second practice session, I will focus on the current repertoire that I have. This would include solo pieces, orchestral works or excerpts, and chamber music. I will focus on the areas that I am struggling with in each piece, instead of playing through the entire piece. After correcting and figuring out the details in the score, I will play through the pieces. This second practice session usually takes about 1.5 hours.
My last practice session of the day would consist of orchestra excerpts and warming down exercises. This would take about another hour or so towards the end of the day. I normally space out my practice sessions as the time in between them is mostly occupied by the different classes I have to attend in school.
What artists, albums or songs are you currently listening to? Do you have a set of music that you enjoy?
I am currently listening to Jörgen van Rijen’s recording of The Concerto for Trombone and Military Band by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Just not too long ago, I was also watching the trombone participants of ARD International Music Competition. It was splendid – there’s so much beautiful music played throughout the duration of the competition!
Another piece that I truly enjoy listening to would be Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Other than Classical music, I do enjoy listening to Chinese songs and Christian contemporary music as well.
What are some challenges that you have encountered over the years, and how do you overcome them?
I believe the biggest challenge that I have encountered so far was when I caught the COVID and got injured right after, causing me to be out of action for sometime before only getting back to playing not too long ago. Currently I am still in the midst of getting back into shape as per how I was before all these events happened.
As I always aim to achieve a good sound, I often try to ensure that I am consistent during my practices. I also work hard on every detail of my music, to play without any discomfort, and to be accurate about everything written in the score.
What are some of your thoughts about entering the music industry?
It certainly is very daunting and scary to be entering the music industry. However, I am reassured that as long as I do my very best in all that I have, I will not have to worry. I am also taking practical steps to reach out to others to build connections and relationships too.
What’s next for you? What are some of your dreams or future goals in 5 to 10 years?
First up would be my National Service (NS). After my 2 years of NS, I plan on going overseas to further my studies in music to get a Degree, followed by a Masters. I would then want to come back to Singapore to contribute and to make an impact in the music industry, and in other people’s lives through the gift of music.
A contributing editor at TBP.