Classical Music for a Cause
The link between classical music and well-being has been well-established. But music also holds the key to enhancing life on a more holistic level. Cue the Bangkok Charity Orchestra, or BCO for short, a fundraising effort created by Conductor Chulayuth Lochotinan, who “moonlights” as the Managing Director and Country Manager at MoneyGuru.co.th.
Holding a Masters in Engineering Science from Oxford University, Chulayuth has already worked with numerous orchestras and concert-fundraisers across the UK in his career. Six years ago, he brought the concept home, launching the Bangkok Charity Orchestra, the first orchestra committed to raising funds for charities in Thailand. The BCO also promotes classical music in the country, creating a platform and network for aspiring musicians. Since the first concert in March 2010, the orchestra has raised around B16 million for charity. It also won the Thomas Reuters Community Award in 2011.
The BCO mostly supports charities that help underprivileged children, people with disabilities, and victims of natural disasters in Thailand. The orchestra has raised money to help construct an activity centre for the Foundation for Children, to provide wheelchairs for people through WAFCAT, and to offer eye operations through the People Eye Care Foundation. Additionally, the BCO has collaborated with the Rotary Club of Bangkok in its annual fundraising events. The BCO has also got involved with international causes, such as relief efforts following the earthquake in Nepal or the victims of the 2011 tsunami in Japan.
The orchestra usually performs three to four concerts per year, depending on the charity project, as well as sponsors and their availabilities. The next show will be held later this year, featuring the winner of the Thailand Steinway Competition, a young musicians’ contest Chulayuth has organised since 2012.
The orchestra is open to all musicians, regardless of age, nationality, or background. “We try to be as inclusive as we can,” explains Chulayuth. “[And so] we neither audition nor have a fixed number of places for membership.” As a guideline, members are expected to have achieved ABRSM Grade 8 or equivalent. Since the beginning, over 650 musicians have performed with the charity orchestra, typically 80-100 participating per concert. As 100 per cent of the proceeds from ticket sales go to charity, all musicians are performing on a volunteer basis. “Not everyone is willing to do this and no one is forced to join, but many who perform with us find it a worthwhile and rewarding experience,” says Chulayuth.
The music performed by the BCO is quite diverse, ranging from classical to pop. “We don’t have a fixed repertoire, as different musicians take part in each concert, so we usually start rehearsals from scratch,” explains Chulayuth. “I try to select an enjoyable and approachable programme that would be fun for musicians to perform and the audience to watch.”
While the orchestra usually starts rehearsing one month before the concert (mainly on weekends), the process of organising a concert takes around three months. After deciding what charity project to support, the BCO must find sponsors to help defray operating costs before it can set a date, start recruiting musicians, and rehearse. The BCO relies mostly on corporate sponsorships. The public can support the cause by attending concerts, making donations at event, or volunteering at the concert to minimise expenses. Musicians who are interested in joining the BCO can leave their details on charitiyorchestra.org or chulayuth.com.