It’s a long way from sailing for your life on a boat from Vietnam to being a renowned concert pianist.
Add being a graduate of London’s prestigious Royal College of Music and a past student at the Manhattan School of Music in America, and you have Hoang Pham.
The 32-year-old was the only child of piano teacher father Hung and tailor mother Tham when they risked their lives to give their baby son and themselves a chance at a better life in Australia.
“I don’t think I would have had the same opportunities to pursue a life playing the piano back in Vietnam,” he tells Warcry.
“My parents were definitely brave and I can never understand where they got the courage from but I’m glad they made the journey!”
This modest virtuoso says it was during his later secondary school years at Melbourne’s Wesley College when he won a few local and national awards that he realised music was going to be his life.
“This gave me the confidence and the knowledge that my talent was being recognised—sometimes it’s these little things which push you to work harder and achieve greater things,” he explains.
After early lessons with his father, Hoang studied privately with Rita Reichman at the famous Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne, and now holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the Manhattan School of Music.
In 2013, Hoang won the Symphony Australia Young Performer’s Award, which followed many earlier awards, including being awarded Best Australian Pianist in the 2008 Sydney International Piano Competition, and winning the 2010 Great Romantics Competition at Melbourne Recital Centre.
These awards opened many doors to Hoang, and he has performed as a soloist with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and played concertos with the New London Orchestra, as well as major orchestras around Australia.
As he grew up, little Hoang had some big dreams.
“The only thing that I’ve ever wanted in my life, as a musician, is to play the concerts that I grew up dreaming to play,” he tells Warcry.
“I had my idols—I remember listening to Horowitz’s live Carnegie Hall concerts and I was in love with the feeling of live performances. I love my audience and I simply wish to connect directly with them,” Hoang says.
As a refugee child who relished the opportunities this new country provided, Hoang also grew up with a determination to make his mark.
“I want to make it a priority to play the piano, and that’s why I present my own concerts,’ he says.
“I don’t want to beg for concerts, I want to do them myself!” he laughs.
Hoang also loves sharing his passion for music as a teacher with a small private studio and with piano students at Melbourne’s Loreto Mandeville Hall.
He is passionate about what teaching brings to his own life as a concert pianist.
“I have grown to love teaching more and more each year. I find that teaching helps you appreciate the qualities of others and helps you to understand people in ways you never imagined,” he explains.
But life isn’t just about music for Hoang—he is an animal lover who is besotted by his family’s cute French bulldog, and Hoang is also known for his great love of food.
“I love Vietnamese food the most, and Italian food a close second. I guess food and music are similar in that the beauty is in both the small and overall details,” he says.
In Refugee Week, it’s worth pondering the huge benefits that musicians like Hoang Pham bring to our community.
“Take care of God’s needy people and welcome strangers into your home” (Romans chapter 12, verse 13).
Australia did that for Hoang Pham’s family in 1985, and it’s proved a blessing for the musical world in Australia and beyond.