Well-renowned Thai saxophonist ‘Koh Mr.Saxman’ or Sakpol Aunsumran was a former vocational student who shifted his career path from accounting to music. His long journey of pursuing his passion eventually led to international success.
What motivated you to follow your dream?
I have been playing the saxophone since the age of 15. I wanted to work. I wanted to save money to be able to go to school because my family did not have the means to pay for my education. It was not easy to be at school every day, but I was determined to be present at all my classes. One day, one of my teachers encouraged me to play the saxophone so that he could offer me a part-time evening job.
Did your teacher introduce you to the saxophone?
Yes. At first, I didn’t like it because it of its strange sound. My teacher pushed me to practice hard so that I wouldn’t lose my job.
You were juggling school work and a part-time job. How did you manage your time?
You have to be a disciplined person. If you have class, you must wake up on time, even if you finished work late at night before and got home at 3 or 4 AM. As a student, your top priority must be your studies. It is not right to skip class just because you lack sleep.
Given that it is perceived as a less stable profession compared to accounting, what made you decide to pursue music?
During my studies at Pranakorn Commercial Technological College, I couldn’t bear my accounting classes anymore. I thought it would be great if I could switch to a career in music – it would make me very happy to do something I truly love.
After I finished Grade 6 from my vocational school, I completed a degree in Music Education at the Faculty of Education of Chulalongkorn University. When I graduated, I was very proud to show my Bachelor Degree diploma to my father. At the time, I was already aware that a career in music is not considered financially stable. Our society also tends to look down on music majors. However, I was truly passionate about music, so I decided to steer myself towards that field.
Can you give some advice to young people on how to choose a major and a career path?
We must pursue whatever it is that makes us happy. However, before pursuing your passion, it would be best to complete your basic education first. After that you can get into any professional field that you like. In my case, I made sure that I finished my undergraduate degree before I started my career in music.
Your degree is quite specialized. Did you still have a solid foundation of general education?
I consider myself lucky because I was able to major in an area that I truly enjoyed. Music is my life – I can immerse myself in music all day. My Bachelor’s Degree was also quite broad in a sense since I had the opportunity to study various subjects such as Psychology, Educational Methodology, Statistics, English, History, and even Civilization.
Did you face any significant challenges?
I do not consider myself a clever student. For example, in my Music Theory class, my classmates can quickly grasp the key points of a book just by reading it once. On the other hand, I had to read the same book three or four times to fully understand it. This is a personal weakness of mine. However, I address this challenge by reading something several times. You need to make a conscious effort to overcome these types of challenges.
Were you discouraged by family and friends who were not supportive of your decision to pursue music?
Yes, I was. But I did not pay attention to the criticism at all because I was committed to take the risk. Playing music does not require a huge investment except buying an instrument. It is our talent that we use to make a living. I think this is something worth doing for the rest of your life.
You have been featured in many successful Thai albums with various famous artists (Dee Nitiphong Honark, Chai Somchai Khamlertsakul and Seefa) as well as international albums and concerts with popular foreign musicians such as Darren Rahn, Mel Brown, Frank Selman, to name a few. How did you achieve the success you enjoy today?
I believe I wholeheartedly fell in love with saxophone. When my family asked me how long I intended to be a saxophonist, I told them that a foreign artist I admired since I was young continues to produce albums until now. There are also a few senior Thai artists who are still making music. I look up to those artists and they inspire me. Making an effort is very important. You should never stop learning and never give up on what you love.
What advice can you give young people or non-formal education students who have to work and study at the same time?
I think when you study and work at the same time, you are lucky to have the opportunity to see the world in a broader perspective compared to students who are studying full-time. Although it is doubly hard and a huge responsibility to balance school and work, you should welcome the challenge. You must realize how lucky you are to have such opportunities available to you. Also, as a student, remember to always focus on your studies.
By Panisara Paireepinath and, Sowirin Chuanprapun, UNESCO Bangkok
UNESCO’s Youth Empowerment through Mobile Learning Project in collaboration with the Ministry of Education aims at supporting youth especially non-formal education students to obtain life skills, find their own potentials and continuously develop their capacities for lifelong learning.
The project as a learning programme consists of three approaches: (1) daily mobile learning via SMS with empowerment and necessary life skills contents, (2) meet and greet with coaches, mentors and successful people for empowerment, and (3) monthly meetings in community learning centres to discuss topics based on the given information on SMS messages and in seminars.
After UNESCO organized the Youth Empowerment Workshop in Chiang Rai in May 2011, in September 2012, UNESCO in collaboration with ONIE and TK Park successfully organized the first Youth Empowerment event in Bangkok where more than 75 non formal education students participated in the meet and greet with Actress ‘Min’ Pichaya Wattanamontri and Doctor and Actor ‘Kong’ Soravich Suboon.
UNESCO also interviewed famous Thai actors and actresses such as ‘Yaya’ Urassaya Sperbund, ‘Pe’ Arak Amornsupasiri and ‘Opal’ Panisara Phimpru for UNESCO Bangkok website and Youth Empowerment Facebook to share their experiences, to encourage and empower youths to believe in themselves, and to give tips for life and the importance of education.
For further information on the project, contact Sowirin Chuanprapun (