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Academy of Taiwan Strings

  • Publish Date:2023-02-20
Academy of Taiwan Strings

Chinese Name: 台灣絃樂團
Established: 1990
Founder: Cheng Sy-joun

Did You Know?
Academy of Taiwan Strings (ATS) was founded in 1990 by Cheng Sy-joun (鄭斯鈞), a famous Taiwanese violinist who studied at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels in Belgium. Listening to Italian soloists and ensembles of professors from the Conservatorio di Musica Santa Cecilia, Cheng was inspired to assemble young Taiwanese string musicians who had studied in the West and form a chamber orchestra without a conductor. Several of the members have since become well-known performers and educators, including Lin Hui-chun (林暉鈞), Chi Cheng-an (紀珍安), Chiang Ching-po (江靖波), Wu Meng-ping (吳孟平), Lin Tien-chi (林天吉), and Yang Chih-chin (林天吉).

ATS, as it is known for short, is one of the few orchestras without a conductor in Taiwan. For audiences who are so accustomed to seeing a conductor, it may be hard to imagine how an orchestra can perform coherently without one. Talking about their accumulated years of rehearsal experience, orchestra principal Tan Cheng (譚正) says, "At the beginning of rehearsal, it is natural for the principal to take the lead. They must know the score like the back of their hand before they can communicate with everyone. The principals of each section naturally have to bear a lot of responsibilities, but in fact, in an orchestra without a conductor like this, every member has to be engaged."

In addition, Tan also points out the advantages and disadvantages of having and not having a conductor: "With a conductor, the whole orchestra naturally has someone to follow. Everyone can simply be responsible for their own performance, but the disadvantage of this is that the members are more likely to be passive participants. In an orchestra without a conductor, however, everyone must be proactive. And so after a long period of friction, an orchestra without a conductor will develop a much closer intuitive understanding."

In addition, Tan Cheng believes that classic chamber music works are often created by composers after careful consideration, and they are all works with very high artistic value. However, chamber music is also a kind of music that people seldom come into contact with. As such, Tan believes that if he can introduce these tracks to the audience through the ATS, he considers it a valuable opportunity.

ATS has also been selected for the Performing Arts Troupe Award Project of the Ministry of Culture every year since 2001. In 2003, they were invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to perform at the National Day Reception, and in 2004, they toured Europe at the invitation of Paris Cultural Center. In 2010, ATS was invited by the Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Center, Taiwan’s representative office in Hong Kong, to perform in the territory.

In 2013, at the invitation of Ostfriesische Landschaft, a German foundation, they went to Germany to participate in Gezeitenkonzert. In 2015, the group went to Germany to hold a concert for overseas Chinese and participated in Festival de Musique de Wissembourg in France and Klassikfestival AMMERSEErenade in Germany. In 2016, ATS held a concert in the Gasteig Culture Centre in Munich, Germany, and went to Austria to participate in the Montafoner Sommer Music Festival.

Throughout its more than 30 years, the Academy of Taiwan Strings has remained committed to its original vision of creating an outstanding music culture environment for Taiwan and promoting classical music. Along the way, they have cooperated with many famous European and American musicians and won high praise from the music industry at home and abroad.

To train professional Taiwanese music performance talents, Academy of Taiwan Strings has held a large-scale music festival, which has become a benchmark for such activities in Taiwan, four times, along with 13 biennial violin competitions. The rigorous competition and judging process have yielded rich results, and these hallmark music competitions have become a touchstone for up and coming musicians aiming to participate in international competitions.

With regard to promoting of music education, Academy of Taiwan Strings strives to be both entertaining and educational, producing a series of family-friendly concerts, successfully subverting the stereotype of classical music as serious music only for adults and winning praise from all walks of life in Taiwan. In addition, to enable children in remote areas to have access to rich art education resources, ATS has performed in rural elementary schools over the years, relying on the help of the public to raise funds.

Every overseas tour, ATS not only performs pieces from its high-quality classical music repertoire, but also has a few must-perform works sharing Taiwanese stories and culture, such as Lee Che-yi (李哲藝)'s "The Temple Square (廟埕)," Peng Jing (彭靖)'s "Moon of Guantien (官田之月)," and Tyzen Hsiao (蕭泰然)'s "Hometown in the Twilight (黃昏的故鄉)." Through these, the orchestra aims to give its foreign audiences a chance to hear the true voice of Taiwan. Classical music is truly classic, lasting across the ages. The Academy of Taiwan Strings has always been of the belief that music comes from within and has the power to soothe the soul and lead people to a higher spiritual level.

(Photo courtesy of Academy of Taiwan Strings)