Jason Lai
Conductor / HKS Artist Associate 2009-2011

Jason Lai is no stranger to the audience of Hong Kong Sinfonietta as he was HKS Artist Associate from 2009 to 2011 and the orchestra’s Associate Conductor in 2013/2014. From 2013 to 2018, he served as the Associate Conductor of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, but he has been a prominent figure in Singapore’s musical life since 2010 when he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra.

Intent on broadening the appeal of classical music to audiences who would not normally think of going into a concert hall, Lai is also building a unique reputation as a communicator with mass appeal through his television appearances in both the UK and Asia.  He has frequently appeared on BBC television as a judge in both the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition and the classical talent show Classical Star. He reached his widest audience when, as a conducting mentor in the series Maestro, his celebrity student, the popular comedienne Sue Perkins, won with a nail-biting final in front of the BBC Concert Orchestra and a live studio audience. Other BBC television appearances included How a Choir Works and The Culture Show.  Lai also starred in Clash for the children’s television channel, CBBC.

Since settling in Singapore he has continued with his television work.  He was presenter and conductor for Project Symphony, an eight-part series for OKTO where he was filmed setting up a community orchestra.  This year, he has been heavily involved filming for a BBC series Heart of Asia which explores the contemporary arts and culture scene in Thailand, Indonesia, Korea and the Philippines, and a further series for BBC World called Tales from Modern China.

Lai’s roots lie in Hong Kong but he was born in the UK and was a pupil at the prestigious specialist music school in Manchester, Chetham’s, where he studied cello.  At Oxford University he studied both cello and composition, and went on to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London where he was awarded a Fellowship in Conducting.

Despite having toured as a cellist with the Allegri String Quartet and having been a finalist in the BBC Young Composers Award, Lai gravitated increasingly towards conducting after he won the BBC Young Conductors Workshop in 2002.  This led to his appointment as Assistant Conductor to the BBC Philharmonic with whom he made his BBC Proms début in 2003. This season, Lai will have debuts with the Adelaide Symphony and Macau Orchestra and will return to conduct the Hong Kong Sinfonietta and Orchestra of the Swan.

Education is an important part of Lai’s work in Singapore.  At the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory he trains the next generation of conductors, many of whom have had many successes both at home and abroad, and with the SSO he spearheads the education and outreach programme, helping the orchestra reach new audiences notably through his Discovering Music and Children’s concerts.

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©Alan Lim

©Alan Lim