Ballet to bicycle: Singapore conductor rides out pandemic with delivery job

March 11, 2021 - 10:58 AM
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Classical orchestra conductor-turned food delivery driver, Chiya Amos, makes a food delivery, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Singapore March 9, 2021. Picture taken March 9, 2021. (Reuters/Joseph Campbel)l

SINGAPORE — A year ago, Singaporean Chiya Amos was living his dream of leading orchestras around Russia as an aspiring classical conductor working with ballets and operas.

Since January, he has been working 12-hour days pedaling around Singapore on a bicycle, braving its heat and humidity to deliver meals, drinks and snacks.

The coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on Amos’ career, with his regular gigs halted as infections soared in Russia. After 10 months without work, he returned to Singapore to ride out the pandemic in a comparative safe haven.

But there was no music work for him here either. “Many of us musicians are still out of a job, we are sort of displaced,” said Chiya, as he prefers to be known. “I’ve applied for more than 40 jobs since last January, but I haven’t heard from most of them.”

Although restrictions are gradually easing in Russia, there is less work for foreign conductors, the 30-year-old said.

In the meantime, he listens to symphonic orchestra pieces on his headset while cycling between destinations, making an average 30 deliveries a day.

Although Chiya earns a similar income as before, he works for much longer, with a greater physical toll.

Between shifts, he studies music, such as Verdi operas and speaks daily by video call to his Russian wife, who was unable to stay with him in Singapore.

“I miss being on stage. Of course, I miss collaborating with people, I miss waving my hands and making magic music,” he said.

He says the jobs have some similarities.

“We bring food to people, we bring sustenance to people. And as a conductor, we work with orchestras to bring sustenance to the soul and the mind.”

Chiya hopes more venues will reopen as more people are given coronavirus vaccinations globally. He has one booking already for Tokyo’s Spring Festival in April.

He feels his experience has helped him mature.

“I conduct a lot of Verdi,” he said. “There’s a lot of tragedy in it, and I think this experience sort of hardens me and I’m able to express my emotions better. I feel like I’ve matured a few years, even though it’s only been a year.” —Reporting Joseph Campbell; Editing by Martin Petty, Karishma Singh and Angus MacSwan