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Acclaimed Pianist with an MBA

Education Post | 6 March 2013
By Linda Yueng, Editor of Education Post
South China Mrning Post

Labelled a child prodigy when still young and admitted to London’s Royal Academy of Music at the age of 16, Warren Lee was clearly a born musician. The acclaimed pianist is now well known on the local music scene, but few fans are aware that he has also studied business management.

In 2006, after six years as music director at an international school, he took a full-time, one-year MBA course at HKUST, having realised that it would take more than musical talent to build a successful professional career. While studying, he was running his own music studio and teaching part time, and he recalls that the management training helped with the diverse aspects of planning and organising a business.

The course brought him into contact with a wide network of professionals from different fields. It also marked the marked the first time he had enrolled in a postgraduate programme in a subject other than music.

“I wanted to try new things,” Lee says. “Other people had studied law or other areas, but it always seemed that music had chosen me.”

His obvious exceptional talent shaped the early part of his life, but after starting to work, Lee felt the need to branch out and is pleased to have done so. Now music director at St Paul’s Co-educational College, he believes doing the MBA is one of the best decisions he has made.

“I made so many friends and the networks established then are still very useful,” he says.

His example also reflects the growing need for versatile skills in today’s world of work. Even in a specialised field like music, it helps to step out of one’s comfort zone to gain broader experience. Doing so creates career openings and gives valuable new perspectives. Lee finds the skills he learned in people management and leading change are particularly useful when spearheading projects in the workplace.

“Musicians tend to focus on emotions,” he says. “I have benefited most from the rational way of thinking [this kind of training gives you].”

With so many forms of entertainment competing for attention today, professional musicians must know how to reach a wider audience and understand how the business works. It has become almost essential to have websites and other means of publicity to promote oneself and move with the times.

“It is like running your own company,” says Lee, who is also a part-time lecturer for a final-year undergraduate course in music business and entrepreneurship at Baptist University. “Many famous music schools worldwide are offering similar business-related courses. They help students predict future trends and ‘survive’ in the music market after graduation.”

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