WA Youth Orchestra percussionist Joey Eng might be young, but his accomplishments in the classical music world speak for themselves.

As a WAAPA undergraduate student, Joey has already performed in several Australian orchestras, including the WA Youth Orchestra, Perth Symphony Orchestra, Australian Youth Orchestra NMC, WAAPA Symphony Orchestra, and the West Coast Philharmonic Orchestra. As a soloist, he was a finalist in the 2019 and 2021 Marimbafest Australia Solo Marimba Competitions. He also regularly performs as a chamber musician in the award-winning Defying Gravity Percussion Ensemble and is a founding member of the Subito Percussion ensemble.

Not only is Joey a brilliant percussionist but also a promising composer. He was a finalist in the 2020 and 2021 WAAPA Symphony Orchestra Composition Competitions and has had several of his original works premiered by the Defying Gravity Percussion Ensemble. Joey also regularly premieres new percussion works and arrangements on his YouTube channel.

For a young musician, you’ve performed in an impressive number of Australian orchestras and ensembles. When did you first get involved with the WA Youth Orchestra and what has the experience of performing in WAYO been like for you?

I first got involved in WAYO in 2019, which was my first year of tertiary study. I had never played in an orchestra before so it was quite a daunting experience, but I learned so much and I can honestly say I am a better musician because of it. WAYO has allowed me to perform some awesome orchestral repertoires and pushed me outside my comfort zone!

What inspired you to learn percussion? Did you ever consider playing another kind of instrument or have you always known percussion was for you?

When I was a kid, I had a short-lived career as a violinist. I really did not gel well with it, and when I turned 13 my mum asked if I wanted to pick up another instrument. I chose percussion and have not turned back since (to the disappointment of my violin teacher). I love how many different instruments there are in the percussion family: the possibilities in sound are endless!

Boléro famously opens with an instantly recognisable snare drum part, which continues throughout the full fifteen minutes of the work. Can you describe what the experience of drumming in this particular work is like?

Playing the snare drum part for Boléro is an intimidating yet exciting experience. It requires a lot of focus to not waver throughout the entire fifteen minutes of the work’s duration, however, it also requires a sense of relaxation to just enjoy the ride! It’s almost as if I am in a trance in the middle of the orchestra, revelling in the amazing music being made by my peers around me.

We’re so excited to be hosting the world premiere of Georgia Scott’s Into the Deep. Can you tell us a bit about this work and what makes it so special?

The work is an awesome exploration into the variety of different textures and colours that an orchestra can make. There are some unique percussion instruments, so have your ears open for some crazy sounds!

You’re not only a percussionist but a composer as well! What do you enjoy about composing music and how does it compare to performing as a soloist?

I love writing and performing my own music! It gives me a sense of freedom in my playing and allows me to express myself in a way that is true to myself. Sometimes as a classical musician, there’s a pressure to conform to all the different ‘rules’ and play everything 100% mechanically perfect; that is perfectionism. When I perform my own pieces, this pressure is fully alleviated and I am reminded of why I fell in love with performing in the first place.

Check out the concert on Saturday 25 September at Perth Concert Hall – tickets on sale now!