Meet Shaun Lee-Chen, Concertmaster

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Paul's brunch with Shaun Lee-Chen

Paul interviewed Shaun Lee-Chen, the Brandenburg's 2016 Concertmaster and gained an insight into the man behind the violin and the pushbike. Welcome to Paul's Baroque Brunch!

What would you like for brunch, Shaun?
I'd like pancakes with bacon (extra crispy), loads of maple syrup and a large black coffee.

Wow, I think I'll join you! Can you tell us about your very first instrument? 
I can remember it vividly! It was a 1/8 size violin, my Mum gave it to me when I was three. She was my first teacher, she still teaches, she is fantastic.

I was a terrible student though, I dramatically quit when I was five and swore off music forever! My poor Mum. I think being such a 'bad' student has made me a better teacher, I can really see where my students are coming from.

Did you always want to be a professional musician?
No. I had no idea until I was about 19 that I wanted to play professionally. When I was 10 years old I fantasised about being a basketball player! In Perth in the 90s basketball was a really big thing. I played all the time and loved it. This is probably why I have a sneaker problem. I’ve got a big collection, I’m sure it's because I'm making up for all the sneakers my parents wouldn’t let me have when I was a 10 year old dreaming of being a basketball player!

When you're home, what's your favourite place to be?
Definitely the Perth Hills. I love cycling, after playing the violin it would be my favourite thing to do. It's so quiet, beautiful and very peaceful, far enough away from the city to get a bit of solitude but close enough to get there regularly. I haven't been for a while actually, I'll have to do something about that.

Who is the best travel buddy in the orchestra?
Jamie Hey (baroque cello) and I hang out together a lot when we're on tour with the Brandies. We love heading back to the hotel with Macca's in hand, kicking our shoes off and debriefing after the performance. We always end up solving the world's problems over lots of cups of tea!

Do you have superstitions?
Yes, and this is an important one. Don’t wear Adidas and Nike together or you’ll end up with a sporting injury. You can learn from my experience here – once I was wearing Nike socks and Adidas sneakers and I sprained my ankle. I’ve learnt my lesson. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Although I do think that the real superstition is don’t wear Adidas and Puma, as the companies were set up by brothers which triggered a long time family feud. I sound like I’m sponsored by one of these companies, but I’m not! 

Is there a random fact people don't know about you?
I'm afraid of frogs. And I'm mildy addicted to watermelon...

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
‘Don’t let success give you a big head.’ Although, sadly I can’t actually take this advice as my head is 59cm. You might not have noticed it before, but now every time you see me you’ll think to yourself “he really does have a big head”. Perhaps then the best piece of advice I’ve been given is ‘Don’t spend it all at once.’

How do you conquer pre-concert nerves? Do you have a ritual?
I go to the gym or go for a ride in the morning, and I check out the local bike shop. I’ve learnt to accept that pre-concert nerves will always be there, so I eat a banana for energy (if there’s conveniently one backstage), and head on stage.

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