SINGAPORE: Singapore conductor Wong Kah Chun was on Tuesday (Dec 10) conferred Germany’s Order of Merit, the highest tribute for services to the country.
Wong, 33, is the youngest Singaporean and also the first artist from Singapore to have received this honour, the German embassy in Singapore said.
The chief conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, Wong received the award for his service and achievements in Singaporean-German cultural relations and the advancement of German music culture abroad, the embassy said.
German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: "There is hardly a more beautiful story from the treasure trove of the multi-faceted connections between Singapore and Germany than that of yours, Mr Wong.”
Following the awards ceremony, which took place in conjunction with the state visit by Singapore President Halimah Yacob, Wong said he is proud to be deeply connected with Germany and Singapore, the two countries that he can “proudly call home”.
“My love and admiration for classical music brought me to Germany. Here, my generous colleagues have taught me that the arts embody inclusiveness and diversity - qualities which resonate with me as a Singaporean,” he said.
Singapore Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu extended her congratulations to Wong and said that the award would also serve as an “inspiration to all pursuing their dreams”.
“My congratulations to Kah Chun on this award. Through his love for music, he has made significant contributions to deepening cross-cultural ties between Germany and Singapore. He has also given back to society through his work to bring music to the less privileged,” she added.
Wong is an alumnus of both the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore and the Hochschule fur Musik "Hanns Eisler" in Berlin.
In Singapore, Wong has received the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship (Public Service Commission), Young Artist Award and the Singapore Youth Award.
His international career took off after he won The Mahler Competition, also known as the “Olympic Games of Conducting”.
Since then, he has been sought-after by renowned orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, China Philharmonic and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Throughout his career, Wong has remained committed to giving back to society, the German embassy said.
He co-founded Project Infinitude together with Marina Mahler, the granddaughter of famed Austrian composer Gustav Mahler. The project aims to introduce children to the joys of music, regardless of their background.
Wong is also currently into his third year of collaboration with Child at Street 11, a non-profit childcare centre at Ang Mo Kio which helps children from low-income and dysfunctional families.