M a k i n g   i t   b e t t e r

MUSIC : Aisoon Thivavarnvong of The Better band opens a music school and performance
             centre for young musicians

by : BRIAN KENT  (Bangkok Post)

The hills are alive with the sounds of late '50s, early '60s and '70s.   It's a perfect event; the last rays of the sun throw long shadows across the grass even as the first stars begin to appear, and a gentle breeze wafts the sound of music across the open countryside.   Here and there on the long and winding road stands a palatial residence, for this is Lakewood, a vast residential development off Bangna-Trat Road, and the music is in honour of its most recently completed building; The Better Music Academy & Music Theatre.

It is the creation of Aisoon Thivavarnvong, leading guitarist and singer with The Better, The Beatles tribute band he formed with Sitthiporn Amornpant in 1999.   Some time ago we called in at one of their gigs that packs O'Reilly's Pub on Silom Road every week and were astounded by how faithfully the band had captured not only the sound but the spirit of the Fab Four.

During the interval, Aisoon told us of his plan to build a music centre and school near his home, and in the cheerful, garrulous surroundings of the pub, it seemed a laudable idea but a rather remote possibility.   Little did we know!   Six months later saw us driving through Lakewood to the grand opening.

The architectural style of the building stands in austere contrast to the grand houses we glimpsed on the drive.   It actually looks like a music academy, a red big building of elegant proportions with long windows, a triangular pediment above the door and white stone balustrade surrounding roof.   It is a compact version of the classical country houses favoured in England in the 18th century.

In the garden a few early guests were sipping coolers while TV cameramen surged purposefully.   We walked round to the back of the house and climbed the staircase to the roof terrace where white-toqued caterers were at work, to admire the view and enjoy the breath of fresh air.   We caught up with Aisoon who had just finished a TV interview.

"The Better Music Academy is registered as a music school", he told us.   "My wife is a trained music teacher and she'll be in charge of the school, and we'll have the auditorium for student performances and concerts.   But I've always thought of this as a place where bands, especially new bands, can have a chance to perform.   If your band can work in pubs and bars, you'll find an audience.   But if you're just starting, you'll need a place where people can come and see you.   Then, suppose you want to give a concert.   Most auditoriums in the city are too big and too expensive unless you're well known and have sponsors.   So we have a space here to help bands get exposure, as well as to teach young musicians.   And we give shows for the public with name bands and all kinds of music.

It is not easy to be a professional musician, or indeed a performer of any kind in Thailand unless you're taken up by a big, commercial corporation.   With little government support for the arts (a familiar cry everywhere), it is down to private initiatives like this to encourage young musicians and create opportunities for them to develop.