By Heather Cameron
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Malcolm Lim, the Acting Principal Percussion for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and CEO of Rhythm Mastery, shared the stage with Canadian music star Corb Lund when the two performed together at the Bella Concert Hall and the Jack Singer Concert Hall on April 27 and April 29.
“It was a lot of fun for me,” Lim said. “I just thought it was really cool that we’re two guys who grew up in Taber and graduated pretty close to each other in the eighties. He went to Myers when I was in St. Mary’s. We didn’t know each other back then, but I thought it was pretty cool that 30 years later, we end up on the Jack Singer stage and we’re doing music. After COVID and all, it was really nice to be able to do that. I think the odds were against us doing music all this time getting together on a stage. So I thought it was really interesting and rewarding.”
Lim admits that initially, he was concerned going into the performance because of how big of a country musician Lund was and also because of the fact that his job was to play a drum set and he doesn’t usually do that as a classical musician. However, Lim says he enjoyed both experiences and also felt that Lund enjoyed it too.
“I was like, ‘Well, I’m just gonna listen to all these tunes and just make sure like I can do a good job on this,’” Lim said. “So I decided, ‘Yeah, okay, I’m gonna take on this challenge,’ and I’m glad I did and got to meet Corb and play with him. I want to thank Corb for being such a great guy to work with musically and also as a person. And I want to thank the conductor, Karl Hirzer, as they’re friends too. And Corb welcomed me backstage after the show and asked to meet some of his friends and family and his dog. It was really, really cool to finally meet him and work with him. I hope we can continue to stay in touch and become friends.”
His family, Lim says, was why he went into music, and he wouldn’t have gone into it if his family wasn’t already involved in it. Lim says that his father, Christopher, was a church organist and met his mother, who a was a violin player, in a choir. Born in Singapore, Lim immigrated to Calgary in 1979 when he was eight years old and lived there for about a year before moving to Taber with his mother, his father, and his younger brother because his father found work in Taber.
“I think I had always loved music, even when I was in high school,” Lim said. “I had a great band program under Arland Mangold, actually. He started us kids playing band instruments in Grade Four at St. Patrick’s in Taber. I think that’s unheard of these days to start kids that young, but he had us going then. Then, in university, I didn’t go into music right away. I thought maybe I’d be a doctor first, cause that’s what I heard about growing up as a kid. I’m the eldest son of a Chinese immigrant family. So it’s like my career options. I would say I was encouraged to try to get into a solid profession. So doctor, lawyer, um, engineer, but I kind of went into music after seeing that I don’t think I was cut out for those other professions, so I thought I’d give music a try and luckily, I’m still doing it after all this time.”
Lim says he has personally been involved with music for 30 years but went a different route than Corb in that he went to classical school and then did world music projects for a time as well as teaching before refocusing his energies on the orchestra within the last 10 years. Currently, Lim says he works as the Acting Principal Percussion for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and his job is to organize all the percussion and figure out who to hire and make sure all the instruments are there. Lim says that he is currently in an acting role because there’s going to be an audition for the principal percussion job possibly next year.
“Right now, I’m doing mostly the orchestra and doing some teaching on the side, and I conduct and direct a steel pan band called Calisto, but that mix is probably gonna change down the road,” Lim said. “And I’m okay with having those changes and being open to learning new things. The world seems to be changing so fast now with all kinds of things. A big concern these days is what artificial intelligence can do and I’m not sure how that’s gonna affect how musicians work, but writers in Hollywood are already going on strike asking for assurances about that. So for kids growing up these days, it’s pretty hard; it’s pretty unstable. I guess we have to kind of live in these times and just be open to change and willing to try new things.”
Being open to things, Lim says, includes knowing and understanding that the arts is hard and having a backup plan in case diving into it doesn’t work.
“We all know being in the arts is hard, especially in Alberta, it’s pretty hard,” Lim said. “There were other students from St. Mary’s that I knew who went into music as well, like Nikki Herbst-Walker and Corbie Dorner. Nikki’s teaching piano after she went and got her master’s degree while Corby’s a music teacher out in Strathmore. I still keep in touch with them. Going into music or any of the arts, there are so many different things you could do with it. I think seeing the different things you can do within music, I would say if kids want to go into it, they should just dive into it, but also have sort of a backup plan in case it doesn’t work. So many music friends that went to school with me out in Montreal have since left the business because it either didn’t work out or it was too precarious. So I would say go for it, but go for it knowing that many people eventually find other careers too.”