Thien Pham, Outstanding Jazz Soloist
Sometimes the small decisions we make in our lives have very big effects. For the eight-year-old Thien Pham, it was dropping the flute and picking up the trumpet. The big effect of that arrived this year when the now 18-year-old St Kilda Road student won both the Outstanding Soloist Award and an Outstanding Improviser Award at this year’s All-State Jazz (ASJ) Championships in Term 2.
Thien was playing lead trumpet for the St Kilda Road Big Band, who were third place winners in their competition. His special win meant that he was the only one out of 26 soloist award winners who got to perform on stage with a list of Australian jazz luminaries at the subsequent Gala Invitational concert.
ASJ Creative Director Ross Irwin (formerly of The Cat Empire) was hugely impressed with his work. ‘Thien is an exceptional soloist and lead trumpet player. He’s one of the finest high school jazz musicians I’ve ever heard,’ he said. ‘We’re so excited to feature him amongst some of Australia’s best jazz musicians (at the Gala).’
As well as playing for the Big Band, Thien is also very active with St Kilda Road’s classical ensembles. ‘Classical music, ensemble playing, and solo repertoire appeals to me because of their precision and focus on style and technique,’ he says. ‘It has been beneficial in refining my technique and facility around the horn.’
But clearly the jazz scene is a huge pull for him, and when his school commitments (and pandemic restrictions) allow, he often plays multiple professional gigs a week.
Two primary features of jazz appeal to Thien. ‘The first of these is the freedom it brings to its individuals, specifically through improvisation. Secondly, the interaction between members of a band linked to this spontaneity, which is so integral to jazz,’ he says.