In the early 2000s, So Srornos was a student of pianist and composer Him Sophy at the Royal University of Fine Arts.
“I worked very hard with him” teaching him piano and also giving a hand to apply for a scholarship, Mr Sophy said.
Mr Srornos obtained a scholarship in 2004 to complete his piano master’s degree in Japan. After getting his diploma, he returned to Cambodia and has been teaching at RUFA since 2008.
“Not only did he come back,” said Suon Bun Rith of Amrita Performing Arts, “but he is teaching and doing things for his old school.”
Saturday night, Mr Srornos will give a piano concert of Western classical music with three of his students as a fundraising event for RUFA. Organized with the support of Amrita, it will take place at the Cambodia Japan Cooperation Center on the campus of the Institute of Foreign Languages.
“I’ve seen that my school lacks equipment, from music scores and music stands, to instruments and cabinets to properly store them,” he said.
“Although we have music rooms and equipment, we face a shortage of new instruments because whatever we have at the present time is getting old,” said Yos Chandara, dean of RUFA’s Faculty of Music.
“As a result, the quality of the sound cannot be as beautiful as with new and modern instruments,” which puts the faculty and students at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in developed countries, he said.
In addition to benefiting RUFA, Mr Chandara said, “The concert gives musicians the opportunity to show their knowledge and ability.” Too often, they don’t have the chance to demonstrate in front of an audience what they spend so much time learning, he said.
The three pianists playing with Mr Srornos are Khim Daravathanak, a piano student at RUFA, and Kuroki Agnes and Jee Youn-oh, to whom Mr Srornos gives private lessons.
Mr Srornos said he hopes that the concert will help introduce more Cambodians to Western classical music, since only about one Cambodian out of 10 is familiar with the genre, he said. “Frankly, even my parents don’t really know what [Western] classical music is,” the 29-year-old pianist said.
“But I have high hopes that this concert will accomplish a great deal because I’ve noticed that, during our rehearsal, there were a lot of people who came to see and gave us a big hand of applause even though we were not fully ready and dressed up,” he said.
Mr Srornos, who plans to have his own music school one day, said that he would also like to perform new compositions that combine Western and Cambodian classical instruments and are meant for an audience of both Cambodians and foreigners.
One of the major pieces written for an orchestra of Western and Cambodian traditional musicians was the score for the 2008 rock opera “Where Elephants Weep,” composed by Mr Srornos’ former teacher. Mr Sophy is now developing new works calling for a similar orchestra.
This is the third benefit concert that Mr Srornos has organized. The first was a charity event for orphanages in Kampot province, and the second was also for RUFA, he said.
The concert starts at 6:30 pm. Admission is free; donations are welcome.