Jeffrey Cheah. Photo: WinkiPoP Media
Classical Guitarist Jeffrey Cheah, finalist in the 2018 Sydney Eisteddfod NSW Drs Orchestra Instrumental Scholarship, talks about his personal journey of turning a hobby into a career as well as revealing some of the mentors that have helped him along the way so far.
What’s your favourite piece to play?
I don’t really have a favourite piece to play at the moment, if I’m honest. I love all the repertoire that I’m playing at the moment and find something uniquely beautiful in every piece that I cherish for different reasons.
Has your outlook as a guitarist changed over time? In what ways?
Absolutely! I picked the guitar up as a hobby and never really thought about making a serious career out of it until I started classical guitar lessons with my now colleague and friend, Giuseppe Zangari. My senior school years were a time where I considered making a career as a classroom teacher thanks to having some amazingly inspirational people in my life at the time and just when year 12 began, I had the chance to work with the late Phillip Houghton, who really helped spark the flame that made me want to pursue a career in music as a performer and instrumental tutor. Fast forward a few years and I’m now doing a postgraduate course at the Sydney Conservatorium, which has only strengthened my resolve to chase my dreams.
Have you always liked the same music & musicians, or has this changed over the years?
I used to listen to almost exclusively contemporary music with a few classical pieces here and there (one of my favourites back then was the Adagio from Bach’s G Minor violin sonata, but I used to pronounce it as ‘a-da-jee-oh’). When I first started playing classical guitar, I had my favourite performers, John Williams, Julian Bream, and Aleksandr Tsiboulski among a few others. Nowadays, I still listen to them, but I tend to listen to other instrumentalists more often than not. Right now, I’m obsessed with flautist Robert Winn (you have to listen to him play the flute solo in Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe). I’m always looking to listen to instrumentalists, who perform in a way that transcends the notes on the page and play in a way that is 100% in service to the music.