At only five years old, Adam Salem is yet to decide what he wants to be when he grows up. But give him a pair of drumsticks, and the Year 1 student knows exactly what to do.
Adam's musical gift with drums has already taken him places. And next week, he will play at a gala concert by The National Youth Orchestra at the Dubai Opera, becoming one of the youngest musicians to take the stage at the UAE venue.
The event, which marks the fifth anniversary of The National Youth Orchestra, will highlight the orchestra's young musicians, aged between five and 18, from across the UAE. The programme will feature music from classical greats Handel, Bizet, Shostakovich, Monti and Barrett, as well as popular film soundtracks.
Adam, the youngest member of the orchestra, will play the drums for the show.
Speaking to The National, he says he never gets scared before a major performance.
Saying he likes playing the drums because he loves "the sound of the drums and playing along with music," Adam's go-to song to play is Sweet Child O' Mine, the 1988 hit by US rock band Guns N' Roses.
His favourite drummer, he says, is his drum teacher Ronald Vint.
Besides the NYO, Adam also performs with the Emirates Youth Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Centre for Musical Arts, and has played a number of performances across the UAE. As a member of CMA's Glee Club, he also played the part of the little drummer boy at one of Expo 2020 Dubai's Christmas performances.
Adam's mother, Yomna Sabry, says she and her husband, Youssef Salem, noticed his musical inclination when he was only a year old.
"He was always drumming around the house, using kitchen utensils and chopping boards to drum on," she tells The National. "So when he was in foundation stage 1, which is his first year in school at Kings' School Dubai, we submitted a video of him drumming to Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk for his school’s arts week performance using xylophone sticks on a chopping board.
"It was his music teacher at school, Karl Marsden, who encouraged us to start Adam on drumming lessons with Ronald Vint. And since then, Ron has gotten Adam to fall in love more and more with drums."
Sabry says Adam, whose younger sister Hannah, 2, is also showing a keen interest in music, spends an hour on average on weekdays to practice his drums, and about five hours a day on weekends.
Originally from Egypt, the family has called the UAE home for the past six years.
Sabry says she and her husband will continue to support Adam in his passion, even if he eventually chooses a completely different path, as long as he is "happy and successful".
For his part, Adam, who's also a keen dancer and won many awards for swimming and football, says he's yet to decide what he wants to be when he grows up.
"I’m still to decide between being a footballer and an orchestra conductor," he says.
According to Amira Fouad, the co-founder, curator and artistic director of The National Youth Orchestra, the gala performance next week, led by conductor Jonathan Barrett, will represent the organisation's "brightest emerging musical stars".
"Our main mission has always been to bring young people from our dynamic, inclusive and diverse communities in the UAE together. Connecting through their love of music at the highest level and experiencing the magic of performing together on the largest stages," she says.
The National Youth Orchestra Gala to celebrate the organisation's five year anniversary, will take place on takes place on Sunday at the Dubai Opera. Tickets, starting at Dh150, are available at dubaiopera.com