Ekachai Jearakul

On April 2nd, 2016, Ekachai Jearakul, GFA Winner 2014, will perform a recital in Vancouver. As always, a short interview for VCGS to acquaint our readers with the visiting artist. NP: Ekachai, you started guitar studies as a teenager, so it must have been a conscious choice. What drew you to guitar?

EJ: I was first inspired by the music of the King of Thailand. I originally started my musical training on the trumpet but then I heard a friend play an arrangement of Hungry Man Blues on classical guitar, written by the King, and that’s how I knew I wanted to play guitar. NP: We are very curious about the Thai culture and the Thai musical culture in particular. What can you tell us about it? EJ: It is quite an eclectic culture. We have our own pop, jazz, and rock n’ roll, and our traditional music as well. NP: What kind of music did you grow up with? EJ: I listened quite a lot to the national pop, rock and jazz music, but also to the Beatles and the film composer John Williams, for example. NP: What national instruments and music style are common for Thailand? EJ: We have traditional stringed instruments. For example, the grajabpi, which looks like a two-string mandolin or a lute with double strings. We also have the saw duang which is like the Chinese erhu. There are also the native percussion instruments, such as the ranat which reminds a xylophone, and the thon rammana which is a kind of a hand drum. NP: What is the culture of learning guitar like in Thailand? Is it different from the Western style, and how? EJ: Guitar education in Thailand is very similar to the West, but there is a lack of activity in terms of classical guitar concerts. I would like to see more festivals and concerts in Thailand. NP: What was it like competing at the GFA International Concert Artist Competition? How would you describe this experience? What skills and qualities do you think make a winner? What kind of mental training is required for a competition of this calibre? EJ: The GFA, in my opinion, is the biggest guitar competition with the highest calibre of players internationally. It takes tremendous experience and preparation. I did many competitions before GFA and I knew I had to feel ready before I would even try to compete in it. There is a proper mental discipline that needs to take place, aside from perfecting your repertoire. I did lots of visual practice and tried to experience what I would feel under pressure. NP: As part of your tour program, you perform a suite written by King of Thailand, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej. Could you tell us more about it? What about the other pieces in your program? How did you pick them, and how do they work together? EJ: Not only was I looking to represent my country with my program, but to provide a variety of styles as well: the modern style of Brouwer and Goss, the romanticism of Barrios, the drama of Legnani, and the popular/jazz style of the King’s music. The King’s music was arranged by William Kanengeiser and Frederic Hand who treated the style of the music with great care. NP: What kind of music is written for guitar in Thailand? Is there a lot of interest for classical guitar? EJ: The guitar is a very popular instrument in Thailand and is taught in many schools. Students learn the classical style from the beginning of their education. However, there aren’t many Thai composers writing for the guitar. NP: Who was your very first teacher? How was studying at Mahidol University College of Music with Paul Cesarczyk different from studying at the Mozarteum with Marco Tamayo? EJ: My first teacher was from Thailand. He did not perform much, but was a great teacher and gave me a strong sense of fundamentals. Paul Cesarczyk is an excellent teacher and performer, and from him I learned a lot about technique. Marco Tamayo is a full blown performer , and thanks to him I gained a different perspective on guitar playing. NP: Now you are your own teacher. How do you work on your repertoire, what is your personal method? EJ: I try to look for new dimensions in my playing all the time, new possibilities to approach the music in a different way. I record myself a lot. NP: What is the first thing you would tell a new student about the guitar? EJ: This is hard to say. I think a student should realize how beautiful the guitar is. Hit a key on the piano and the sound is already there; the guitar is a difficult instrument, but the sound is fascinating somehow. I think I would want to inspire an interest first. NP: What people or events were your biggest influences and inspiration to bring you where you are now? EJ: I am inspired by the pianist, Lang Lang. He is a superstar! More so, he represents his country well and has been a huge inspiration for young people approaching classical music. NP: Being a touring musician means meeting new people non-stop, day after day. How do you handle this constant flow of communication? Do you enjoy being alone and having a quiet time? EJ: It’s fun for me! I enjoy meeting new people. I think I feel best when interacting with others, and I can get lonely easily. NP: How do you juggle career and spending time with your family and friends? Do you manage to maintain a balance? EJ: I keep consistent contact with family; I’m frequently talking and video messaging over the computer! My career is very important to me and I am very grateful that my family and girlfriend understand that. NP: Do you have a favourite classical composer? EJ: I love to play the music of Agustin Barrios. His compositions are so beautiful, and he really understood the instrument like Chopin understood the piano.

NP: You perform the world famous Aranjuez Concerto by Joaquin Rodrigo. Why do you think guitarists and audiences love it so much? What makes it a treat for the senses? EJ: It has so much to offer! The piece has a full range of emotions, everything is there. The melody is very enjoyable, and you see the depth of virtuosity on the guitar - it’s a real spectacle for the audience, and the orchestration is fantastic! NP: What feelings and emotions do you experience when you play? What does playing the guitar give you? EJ: I am humbled by the opportunities the guitar has given me: it has taken me around the world, it has taught me discipline, it has made dreams come true for me. It brings me responsibility, it gives me happiness. NP: Do you enjoy ensemble playing? EJ: Truthfully, I have not played in many guitar ensembles. I used to play trumpet in a marching band and orchestra, and even played electric bass in some pop ensembles. NP: What other arts, besides music, do you enjoy? EJ: I like to cook! I enjoy working with new ingredients. I see a parallel to my guitar playing there: I’m always looking to put interesting elements into my playing and cooking. NP: What is your message to the audience when you perform? EJ: My message is to make classical music approachable, to provide variety, something for everyone.