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Plucky performer

Early failure bred a burning desire in budding classical guitarist Ekachai Jearakul to reach the top of the profession

Plucky performer

After failing at his first try in a classical guitar competition, Ekachai Jearakul vowed he would become a world-class instrumentalist.

That was back in 2000.

"When I came off stage I couldn't look at anybody. Everything went wrong. I wanted to go home and hide," Ekachai, 20, recalls.

"I was in Mathayom 1 then and had never experienced anything like it."

He was only 13 at the time.

But three years later Ekachai won the junior category of the Thailand International guitar competition.

"With that award, I was confident classical guitar could earn me a living for the rest of my life."

He moved from Benchama Maharat School in Ubon Ratchathani to Bangkok to prepare for life as a professional guitarist. He entered Mahidol University and its music programme.

Ekachai is now in his second year of study at the College of Music. Of course, he is majoring in guitar performance.

Currently, Ekachai earns Bt13,000 a month as a special guitar teacher at Siam Yamaha Music School and Aumaree Music Institute. He works on Saturdays and Sundays from about 10am to 6pm.

"I quit asking my parents for money in Mathayom 4 because I could earn Bt8,000 a month a the time as a guitar teacher. That's a lot of money for a kid my age."

Ekachai's dream is far beyond being a musical teacher. It is to be a world-class guitarist.

After winning several awards - including the SETTrade Thai Youth Music Competition in 2005 and first at the Assumption University Music Competition - Ekachai began to search for a bigger challenge overseas.

Earlier this year, Ekachai, who plays a Rungsan guitar handmade in Thailand, flew to Russia and won the Youth International Guitar Competition, claiming the Bt20,000 prize.

He has the opportunity to perform a guitar recital in Russia next year.

"As a musician what you need is the stage to show off your skill. You must let people see what you've got before it opens opportunities for your own concert. This is a really good chance for me to further my career internationally.

"The money prize from the competition may not be a lot, since I competed at youth level. But, I'm more concerned about the chance to perform a concert there," he says.

At the professional classical guitar level, however, Ekachai says prize money can reach Bt1 million.

"Imagine, if you get lucky and win just one competition, you could live comfortably for a long time," he says.

"International classical guitar competitions are similar to professional tennis tournaments - they have them all year long. So, if you are confident all you have to do is practise for competitions."

Ekachai says anyone can play the guitar. But it's impossible to get anything easily in life. You have to be dedicated.

"You need to practise, practise ... and practise," he says.

Ekachai practises five to six hours a day on top of study. "I cannot afford not to practise."

So, there are several opportunities to make a living with a guitar - teaching in a government or private institute, establishing your own, independent classes or even becoming a professional and competing for money.

"There are fewer than 10 classical guitarists in this country who play seriously. So, it is wide open," Ekachai says.


Ekachai's string of achievements

2003 First, Thailand International Guitar Competition (junior category)

2004 Second, Yamaha Music Festival (senior category)

2005 Silver medal, Youth Music Competition

2005 First, Yamaha (senior category)

2005 First, AU music competition

2005 Finalist, Singapore International Guitar Festival 2005

2005 Finalist, Osaka International Music Competition

2005 Third, Thailand International Classical Guitar Competition

2006 Gold medal, National Youth Music Competition Thailand

2006 Third, International Guitar Competition, France

2006 Guitar recital, South Korea

2006 Concert performance with International Orchestra of Italy, conducted by Bundit Ungrangsee

2006 Final eight, Singapore International Guitar Competition

2007 First, International Classical Guitar Competition Russia (youth category)


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