Weekly Local Biography

  Pitijet Vichitporn

“The spell this magic flute can cast
More than gold is worth.
It calms the soul and brings at last
Happiness on earth.”

May I introduce you to Pitijet Vichitporn, who also uses the western name of Xavier? You may have heard his recent performance with Nakornping Productions’ “Hats Off!” Who will ever forget his rendition of the “Colonel Bogey March” or the hauntingly beautiful “Now Is the Hour”? But his repertoire is not limited to popular music, no matter how lovely it may be. Listen and you can hear him play Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. Now listen again. Do you hear singing? At first the singers were hesitant but now they are singing four part harmonies. In English as well as Thai. These are some of his students, and what is remarkable about their performance is that they are blind. Equally remarkable is that Ajahn Xavier donates his time and teaching skills to them.

Pitijet Vichitporn is the youngest of three children. He was born in Chiang Mai, and both he and his large extended family live in the neighborhood where he grew up and went to school. From the small classroom where we are talking, he can nod and say “My aunt lives there, my cousin teaches there, my mother works over there.”

He has an amazing family. Both of his parents came from poverty, but both are educated and accomplished. His mother’s family once survived by camping on the riverbanks, but she eventually was placed in a convent and received an education. She’s a graceful lady, a teacher for forty years, an expert in Thai classical dance. His father was the oldest of 14 children. He left school early to earn money and help the family, and followed his own musical talent into local entertainment venues. Eventually that musical talent landed him a job with the Thai Government Bank’s own band, and then a career with that same bank followed.

Xavier can’t remember when music wasn’t a big part of his life. He started out as a child singer, winning contests and trophies. Then he studied classical dance – more contests and trophies. Then he took a little sidestep as a young adolescent and entered the world of rock music and break dancing. His parents and teachers weren’t exactly happy with that, but he eventually came back to his roots and studied the piccolo and then the flute at his school. Then his school band at Montfort competed in the national band contest in Bangkok – and won. As a young teenager, he had no idea that the world was getting ready to open up before his eyes.

The band went to the Netherlands for international competitions, then toured Japan, Canada, Switzerland. “Everything,” he says, “changed completely.” The young musicians returned to Chiang Mai as local celebrities. They were called “world champions” and it was heady stuff. He entered Payap University to study flute with Annette George. He also studied choral conducting, taking his early church experience in the area with him. He went to as many concerts as possible, but never limited himself. He still enjoyed popular music as well as classical, vocal as well as instrumental. With a little encouragement, he could probably break dance again. Music simply flows in his bloodstream.

After university graduation, he went to London to study. He soon found that he had badly underestimated the cost of living and was working to support himself more than he was studying. It took two years before he was brave enough to speak English but he listened to the radio and television and any conversation that he could eavesdrop on without being rude. He got a job at the Thai Embassy as a porter, but then was discovered to be a musician. After that he played the piano at official state functions.

He went to Holland and stayed with the family of an old friend. Room and board secured, he was free to study music again. He landed an audition with the Antwerp Conservatory. Pieter den Otter was his teacher. Then he went to the Ghent Conservatory in Belgium, and it was another turning point. He studied privately under the supervision of musician Jan van Reeth. He thrived.

In 2000 an old friend asked him to come home to teach at a new music school. Xavier was delighted to be back in Chiang Mai. He had learned a lot abroad, but this was home. The school didn’t make it financially, but he had an offer to be Music Director at an international school in Kao Yai. He spent a year there before Chiang Mai called again.

He and Noi have been friends since childhood. A musician herself, she was working in a job that paid well but wasn’t the career she wanted. Her family’s large property offered many opportunities for development, and they talked about opening a small music school. They would simply see what opened up to them. So Noi’s family home became Baan Chulasai, and Xavier opened Xavier Flute Studio there. They also offer piano lessons, and this is where the students from the School for the Blind study.

We listened to the students one Sunday afternoon. It’s difficult for them to go anywhere. A driver must take them and a teacher must go with them. But they love the music. “You are not blind to me,” Xavier told them. He teaches them just as he teaches other students, and demands the same investment of time and energy. He uses a few special techniques. He touches each student lightly to get his or her attention before he speaks.

Xavier does not know what the future will bring, but he is open to growth and change. His goal is to keep alive musically, to keep moving, not to stagnate. He practices every day. He likes to perform several times a year. And he loves to teach. Music brings out the best in him; and he brings out the best in his students.