"I had no idea what an orchestra was when my mother brought me to a concert when I was four,” says Lio Kuokman, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’s resident conductor. “I was intrigued by this man who came out looking like a penguin with a white stick in his hand. As he flicked his stick, I felt that the musicians were following his command, and sounds were coming out from different parts of the stage. I turned to my mother and said, ‘I want to be the guy with the chopstick’.”
Little did he know how far that dream of picking up the “chopstick” would take him. Proving to be a natural musician, Lio graduated from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in 2004 with first class honours, majoring in piano performance, then went on to study in the US at Juilliard, the New England Conservatory, and the Curtis Institute of Music, a private conservatory which accepts only about 30 of the 600 students that apply each year. He has conducted both the Philadelphia Orchestra, to which he was appointed assistant conductor at the age of 33, and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. He also knows how to play the harpsichord, trombone and violin.
Now he’s back on home turf, the Macau-born, Hong Kong raised conductor’s ambitions are far greater than simply delivering great classical concerts: he wants to enlighten audiences as to music’s cross-cultural possibilities. His early February concert with the Hong Kong Philharmonic in 2022, cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, was to have been an orchestral celebration of Canto-pop. (The fate of his programme of Strauss and Beethoven with live projection of art and photography by Tobias Melle is still pending.)