Enjoying a multi-faceted career, Chulayuth Lochotinan is an example of how one balances an office job and music. He is not only an orchestral conductor but also managing director and country director of financial technology company MoneyGuru. With a master’s degree in engineering from Oxford University and extensive experience working in the finance sector, the prominent position he holds at MoneyGuru comes as no surprise. But what of music? How does one come to thrive in two such distinct worlds?
“I started playing the piano at the age of four,” says Chulayuth. Although initially encouraged to play by his parents (everyone in the family plays an instrument), Chulayuth explains that what started off as an enjoyable hobby grew on him over time. “In addition to the piano, I also wanted to learn to play the violin,” he says. “I had the chance to do so when I moved to the UK to attend boarding school at the age of 12.” This eventually led to a series of performances as a soloist, which contributed to his fondness for performing. His talent as a musician earned him numerous prizes in piano competitions as well as the Leadership Award granted to him by HM King Hussein of Jordan in 1999.
“At the time, I encountered many conductors and had the chance to learn their styles and techniques,” he says. With the desire to one day conduct, Chulayuth began to teach himself. “The opportunity came when I was at university,” he says. “There was a vacancy for the role of conductor with the Trinity College Orchestra and without any prior experience, something I did not tell anyone at the time, I applied and got the job,” he reminisces with a laugh. Chulayuth was an active performer and conductor but also a philanthropist maestro, helping to organise charity performances such as the Oxford Charity Concert to raise funds for Oxfam’s campaign to fight starvation in Sudan. Later, while working for Accenture in London, he also had the chance to work with the UBS orchestra—a collaboration between the Swiss bank and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Returning to Thailand in 2010 and keen on giving back to society, Chulayuth founded the Bangkok Charity Orchestra, which enabled him to continue combining music with altruism. So far over 700 musicians have participated. Since its inception the orchestra has performed 26 concerts and raised more than 17 million baht for worthy causes. The conductor for each concert is the founder himself. “I don’t charge so it’s cheaper this way,” Chulayuth smiles. He’s a fan of the romantic period and composers such as Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovksy, which gives a hint of the repertoire he favours. “That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy other genres of music,” he says. “I don’t judge music by genre but by how it communicates to people. I enjoy jazz too. If you listen to metal and it communicates to you then you are lucky because it doesn’t work for me,” he laughs.
It is one thing to play an instrument well but entirely another to conduct a whole orchestra. Most conductors are highly trained individuals with a deep understanding of classical music. “Technique aside, it’s about finding the right balance between being the tyrant and Santa Claus,” he muses. “I do miss performing though,” he adds. “As a conductor, you’re the only one on stage who doesn’t make any sound.”
To excel in different fields takes a lot of focus and while Chulayuth underlines that although he loves music, it is a hobby. Nevertheless, he remains committed to making the Bangkok Charity Orchestra work and will continue to play and conduct music. A businessman with great time management skills, he seems to be juggling the two just fine. “Music is a way for me to express myself and it will always be a part of my life,” he says. “Frankly it should be a part of everyone’s life.”
Watch Chulayuth's TED talk at Chulalongkorn University in 2015: