ESTA Ambassador China & South East Asia
Bill Thomson MA LRAM DipRSAMD studied piano, clarinet and organ at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music from the age of 14 as a Junior scholar. He graduated with teaching and performance diplomas. Playing Chamber music was a passion from an early age, as well as conducting and directing large choral works with school choirs, examples being Verdi’s Requiem, Bach’s St John Passion, Tippet’s ‘A Child of our Time’ and Handel’s Messiah.
Bill has led Music Departments in High schools, International schools and British boarding schools where he has taught, performed, conducted and lectured on music, music education in his native Scotland, Hong Kong, England and in Thailand. Managing an ever-changing innovative curriculum landscape in challenging times in various cultural settings, whilst supporting young teachers as they enter the profession, has characterised Bill’s music education background.
With a career in music education spanning 4 decades Bill has some special memories. Performing for the Royal family at St James’ palace in London was indeed amazing. Examining for the ABRSM in Namibia in Africa and having to drive for 4 hours alone across the arid Namib desert to reach one former German colonial town with the unlikely name of Swakopmund was certainly memorable…as well as examining in the city of Kandy in central Sri Lanka and nearly being stood upon by an elephant! And, in both occasions hearing some extremely good piano playing where teachers are doing sterling work.
Until April 2018 Bill was fully engaged with the task of overseeing all development matters for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in Hong Kong and Singapore and this has encompassed teacher education; writing courses and delivering seminar events to many hundreds of teachers of music. This completes a period of almost 20 years resident in South and East Asia in which Bill has provided a wide range of support and consultancy to colleagues, both music-business personnel and education professionals.
Bill has been an examiner for the ABRSM for 22 years and has met thousands of graded, jazz and diploma examination candidates across four continents…from mining towns in South Africa, such as Klerksdorp and Pochefstroom University where he met an amazing young oboist… to small towns south of Melbourne in Australia, with koala bears living in trees in his host’s garden – a mere 30 minute ride from downtown Melbourne; from a catholic convent in the tiny, but historically important Mediterranean island of Gozo neighbouring Malta where he was given the honour of drinking the Archbishop’s best port wine… to the frozen northern town of Shenyang in mainland China, Lang Lang’s home town!
In 2013 Bill established the ABRSM Celebration Symphony orchestra in Hong Kong, an ensemble of 100+ young performers drawn mainly from HK Primary and Secondary schools who excelled in the ABRSM Practical Grade 8 and Diploma examinations. The mission in setting up the orchestra is to allow the gifted and talented players to learn about orchestral playing by placing them side by side with up to 15 professional players from Hong Kong’s professional orchestras. The ensemble tackles repertoire which is challenging but satisfying for the players, This has included Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture, Holst Planets suite, Beethoven symphony no 5, as well as overtures by Wagner and Verdi and piano concertos by Grieg, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov.
Bill has routinely travelled around the Asia region for ABRSM and has conducted teacher support events in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Sri Lanka, Macao, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan.
Events are varied and are customised according to the needs of teachers. In late May of this year Bill will travel to mainland China to deliver a series of music teacher support seminars in 8 cities on the topic of ‘holistic teaching’ on behalf of the publisher Faber Music. Later in the summer, in July 2018, Bill will return to Hong Kong to Chair the panel of adjudicators at the Hong Kong Music For Youth Summer Festival and in February-March 2019 Bill will once again visit Hong Kong to adjudicate at the Hong Kong Schools Music and Speech festival, a 4 week event.
In April 2018 Bill was appointed Ambassador to South and East Asia by the European String Teachers’ Association (ESTA), an established organisation whose CEO is currently working closely with Bill to develop short courses, as well as collaborative courses for string players in Asia. Additionally, the formation of a regular summer orchestra course is planned to commence in Hong Kong in 2019, with Bill as the Artistic Director and Conductor.
When not busy with professional work, Bill is to be found in his native Scotland in the countryside where he lives with his wife and where together they enjoy the tranquillity of the seasons and the wonders of nature. Visits from family members, including grandchildren are always a special joy!