Weihang brings his silky sounds to Tasmania
Weihang (Jason) Li finds his voice and musical home as a conductor in Tasmania
At four years old, Weihang (Jason) Li took up the violin. It would be an instrument that would lead to becoming a Tasmanian-based Music Director and Conductor of his own international music association, C-Silk.
Music has always been a big part of Jason’s life. Growing up in Taiyuan, about 600 kilometres from Beijing, his father introduced him to the violin at four years old. He practiced a minimum of four hours daily throughout his childhood until he reached high school. At this time, Jason realised his passion for classical music.
“My father came with me to lessons and took notes. He would not sleep until 1am, the time I often practiced until. If I had a Chinese music exam, I would practice up to seven hours a day. He wanted me to achieve and have skills that I could make a career from,” explains Jason who also trained with a professional table tennis coach in his early years.
The dedication paid off and Jason took to the podium as a conductor at just 18 years old for his high school symphony orchestra. Later, he was accepted into the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and completed a Master Degree of Music Studies in Conducting. During this time, he was assistant conductor to Maestro Eduardo Diazmunoz. Among other notable events, he performed in the Australian premiere of Leonard Bernstein Mass at the Sydney Opera House and conducted the Sydney Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven Symphony No. 6.
“As a teenager, I began to imitate conductor’s movements on television,” smiles Jason. “Holding the baton for the first time as a conductor – when I figured the temp and they reacted to me was a magical moment. I think it was in me all along from when my mother listened to Mozart when I was still in her tummy.”
Following graduation, he moved to Tasmania in July 2018, drawn in part by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and musical opportunities available in Australia’s island state. He had never visited before settling into southern Tasmania.
“I love travelling and I found Tasmania to be a really mysterious place to me,” describes Jason. “I knew of it’s beautiful orchestra and since arriving I have found the cultural opportunities fantastic. In many ways, being smaller means that as artists we have many more options not available in a big city like Sydney – opportunities that are diverse like performing regularly at St Mary’s Cathedral and the upcoming Festival of Voices. It’s one of the reasons I love living here.”
Jason has been a classical ensemble conductor for more than a decade and a private violin tutor for over 15 years in China and Australia. He founded C-Silk International Music Association in September 2018. It’s a classical music performing group consisting of a chamber orchestra as well as a choir. It has become a ‘multicultural family’ for many who have joined C-Silk, trained by professional musicians and hailing from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Following C-Silks first performance at Salamanca in Hobart, the association have been invited to perform at the 2019 Chinese New Year Fair on Parliament Lawns among other notable events and live streamed performances to an international audience during the Covid-19 lock down. Later in 2020, C-Silk began regular concerts in St Mary’s Cathedral, open to the public, including the Vocal Feast Concert and New Year’s Concert in 2021.
“We are really excited to be part of the Festival of Voices program this year after it was cancelled due to COVID-19 last year. Our choir and chamber orchestra will be performing, including pop-up events in Hobart,” says Jason.
Jason has also directed the Southern Tasmanian Community Orchestra since 2019 and the Derwent Symphony Orchestra including their Young Musician’s concert, performing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone symphonic suite. Close to his heart though, is sharing 7,000 years of civilisation through his C-Silk Chinese ensemble and the coming together of nationalities in a ‘universal language.’
Life in Tasmania is rich and full for Jason. A standard week involves tutoring violin students most days, orchestra rehearsals, and working front of house at Mona’s Faro Bar + Restaurant where he serves up the likes of Eat The Problem, a dish consisting of South Australian deer, local wallaby and rabbit. He happens to also be conducting the Mona Choir to attend the Corporate Choir Challenge.
“My parents instilled a very good work ethic and even today, it is not late to work beyond midnight. But I do take time out and I really love bush walking – heading up Hartz mountain peak in the thick snow was amazing and I love the waterfalls at Mount Field National Park,” he adds.
When asked what he misses most about his homeland, the answer is simple. The food. His city has 2,500 years of history and is famous for its noodles, “we have 2,000 different types of noodles and broke the Guinness World Record for the longest ramen noodle at about 2,000 metres,” he proudly adds.
With a show coming up at Hobart’s Theatre Royal for his newly founded string quartet, there is lots in store for Jason’s musical future in Tasmania. “We are risk taking for this upcoming non-musical where string instruments will imitate Peking (Beijing) Opera singer’s voices. Australian audiences tend to accept a wider musical repertoire so we are excited as to how this will be received.
Are you interested in making a move? Make it Tasmania.
Aside from the C-Silk Festival of Voices Pop Up events, keep an eye out for upcoming concerts including:
Theatre Royal, July 15, 7:30pm. Ticketing: https://www.theatreroyal.com.au/shows/mozart-tan-dun
St Mary’s Cathedral, June 26, 2pm, French music under the title of “Voix De La France”, the ticketing website is: www.trybooking.com/BPFWM
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