Violinist Lee-Chin Siow might not be a celebrity here, but the College of Charleston professor has her own postage stamp in Singapore. The president there personally arranged for the government to sponsor her 1750 Guadagnini instrument. Despite being renowned in her native country, Siow has spent most of her time since she was 10 traveling internationally to perform. She's lost count of just how many nations she's played in.
"I've always been a soloist," she says. "The unglamorous word is 'gypsy.'"
After a trip to Spoleto, Italy, she stopped off in Charleston before jetting off to Chile to perform and teach master classes. She sees her travels as a chance to recruit for the college.
"I'm like a roving ambassador for my country, my school, everything," Siow says. "I'm so privileged to be in this field, doing something that I love, and contributing in a very tangible way, to leave a legacy by touching someone else's growth path."
Siow, along with cellist and fellow CofC professor Natalia Khoma, recently cofounded the Charleston Music Fest, a year-long series of chamber music events, which kicks off with two very intimate concerts at Ashley Hall on Oct. 20 and 22. The series will focus on bringing in other 'gypsies' world-renowned soloists like violinist Keng-Yuen Tseng and pianist Boris Slutsky to perform for small audiences of chamber music aficionados, of which Charleston has many.
The local audiences are among the warmest, most receptive classical music fans in the world, Siow says, and she hopes the concerts will be a chance for "like-minded people, people who love education, people who love the arts, to come together."
"You know how Starbucks started with an idea that it's more than just drinking coffee?" she says. "We want this to be more than just chamber music." Jonathan Sanchez