When Loh Jun Hong did not make the cut for the finals of the inaugural Singapore International Violin Competition in January this year, he was stunned.
Never mind that he was going bow- to-bow against the best in the world or that he was already the only Singaporean among the dozen semi-finalists.
For Loh, it was just not good enough. "I wouldn't say that it was disappointment, as much as shock. I just didn't think that it was possible," says the 24-year-old.
Coming from anyone else, such a strong statement might reek of hubris. But when Loh says it, he sounds simply bewildered.
Perched on the edge of a cream sofa in his parents' semi-detached house just off Bukit Timah Road, he furrows his brow.
"I was confident I was going to get in. I was practising for the next round already. I was getting a quartet together to read the concerto with me," he says.
In Loh's case, such conviction is well warranted. As one of Singapore's top violinists, his glowing reviews and lengthy list of achievements are unparalleled by anyone in his generation.
The "About" section of his website is packed with accolades:Multiple top finishes in the National Arts Council's biennial National Piano & Violin Competition. A master's of music from Juilliard.
Concertmaster at the renowned Verbier Festival in Switzerland. Multiple guest appearances with various orchestras and top finishes in international competitions.
At an age when most of his peers are fresh out of university or learning the ropes at work, the fleet-fingered violinist is already over a decade into his professional career as a performer.
He has certainly come a long way from the kid for whom music was just another avenue to excel.
The Nanyang Primary School alumni, who was accepted into Raffles Institution with a Primary School Leaving Examination score of 275, confesses that he was never one of those children who "just knew that they had to do music" at a young age.
Rather, he was simply a very competitive child all-round.
He began learning the violin relatively late - at the age of seven - because his only sibling, sister Ling Min, 30, had started on the piano and his parents thought that it would be nice for them to duet.