On the morning of Sept. 1, Tasman Tantasawat, a second-year master’s student at the Don Wright Faculty of Music, reached First-St Andrew’s United Church on Queens Avenue. The 22-year-old was carrying his viola, and was about to begin his audition for the first-ever London Symphonia Fellowships.
Tantasawat does not come from a musical family. His mother teaches biology at a university in Thailand, while his father is a pilot. Born in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima in northeastern Thailand, Tantasawat moved to Canada as a 13 year old. By then, he had been playing the violin for seven years, and his family had supported him at every step.
Growing up in Nova Scotia, Tantasawat played in the school orchestra and was determined to be a professional musician. At 17, after joining undergraduate studies in Halifax, he switched to the viola. Five years later, the Western student had become an accomplished player on the instrument. He came to know of the fellowship this summer, and sent in excerpts of his performances and repertoire.
Then came the audition at St. Andrew’s. By the evening, he had been informed by Symphonia representatives that he had been selected along with four other applicants from Western.
How did it feel, playing at the audition?
The audition process was very professional. In the real world, we have what is known as a blind audition. The panel of judges sits behind a curtain and listens to the performance. Such auditions can get a bit stressful sometimes.
What was the process like?
The process on that day was very fast. There were two rounds of performances for all of us. The panel asked us to play six excerpts of classical compositions. I had played two of these before. We were also asked to play one movement of a major concerto, and one work of our choice by J. S. Bach.
What is the best part of the one-year fellowship?
To be able to perform in public with the London Symphonia is a great honour. We will also be playing with two professors from the faculty who are members of the Symphonia. To experience professional performances and practices at first hand is incredible for me.
What is next for you?
I am thinking of applying for a doctorate of musical arts, or an artist’s diploma at Western.
This story is part of our Endnotes 2022 series which showcases the people behind some of the year’s most compelling Western stories.