Yong How Keen
Yong How Keen holds a full time position as an oboist at the Radio and Television Orchestra Malaysia, which often performed during the visit of the country leaders included the President of China Xi JinPing, the President of USA Barack Obama and the Emperor of Japan. He also plays with the National Symphony Orchestra, Malaysia Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and UCSI Orchestra. Other than playing oboe, he is highly in demand as a reed maker who supplies his reeds to Norway, England, France, Australia, Poland, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Many local oboist as well as the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra rely on him to supply them reeds on a regular basis. Recently he was invited to give oboe reed making talk during Singapore Double Reed Day in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
When did you start playing the oboe? Who or what were your early influences?
l started out playing flute in 1991. Then in 1997, since there were too many flautists but no oboe player in the orchestra, I decided to learn oboe from my first oboe teacher, Mr. Joost Flach. He was my very first and the best reed making teacher also!
What's the most challenging part about being an oboist and what's the most enjoyable?
Reeds of course! Especially in Malaysia -- hot weather outdoor but cold air-conditioned environment in most of the concert places. Plus, heavy rain is a nightmare for reeds. Changing a reed each time is like changing an oboe.
The most enjoyable part is reed making also. I like to make reeds. Especially when other good oboe players perform with my reeds. That is the biggest satisfaction!
How would you describe your relationship with your reeds?
Reed making is an art. We are playing music with our masterpiece(reed) every time.
When you are not playing the oboe, what do you enjoy doing?
l spend most of my time making reeds for other oboists when I am not playing. Other than that, I exercise, watch movies and do some crafts.
What advice would you give to someone starting to learn the oboe?
It varies for different countries. In Malaysia, you need to have decent financial capability to buy an oboe and many reeds. Very patient and positive attitude are important also.