September, 2010
Wonder Kid
Lee Pan Hon (1949- )
In 1955, a newspaper reporter was walking through Singapore's Chinatown when he was amazed to see a five year-old boy in a singlet, masterfully playing the violin.

This child was Lee Pan Hon, soon nicknamed "Wonder Boy" by the press. He lived in Sago Lane with his parents, who barely made enough money to buy him clothes. His father, however, realised his son had a natural musical talent, so he presented him with a homemade violin.

Goh Soon Tioe, an Indonesian-born violinist in Singapore, offered to train the boy. He was incredibly impressed by the fact that Pan Hon was able to play songs by ear, even though he'd never had any musical training.

Soon, he was giving solo concerts at Victoria Concert Hall, earning money for his family. His first concert had to be performed in a badminton hall, because the crowds wouldn't have fit into a theatre! Later, he won a scholarship to study music in the UK, where he became the lead violinist of a famous orchestra.

Pan Hon's rags-to-riches story was an inspiration to Singapore in a time when it was still struggling for independence. Chief Minister David Marshall was so moved by the child that he volunteered to pay for a flat for the Lee family, just so they could live more comfortably.

Today, Lee's tale continues to be an inspiration. It tells us that with enough talent, determination and luck, a child who starts out with nothing can teach the stars.