SINGAPORE – “My music goal is to achieve distinction at every exam and achieve the Certificate In Professional Performance for the Erhu within the next three years as well as perform in community concerts”, says Brian Chow Joon Hong from Radin Mas Primary School. Though only 12, Brian is filled with the ambition of wanting to preserve the Chinese music culture that is gradually being eroded. As a holder of The Mapletree-TENG Academy scholarship 2019, he and three other scholars; Fong Yu Jie (10, Maha Bodhi School), Leow Hua Xi (8, Punggol Primary School) and Ryan Lim Ming Zheng (17, Temasek Polytechnic), form a new generation of young Singaporeans committed to bring their passion for Chinese music to the next level.
The Mapletree-TENG Academy Scholarship
The Mapletree-TENG Academy Scholarship is an ongoing partnership between Mapletree Investments and The TENG Company’s educational division, The TENG Academy. In its second year, the programme aims to provide financial support for the musical education of individuals aged 21 and below, who are passionate about Chinese music. Each scholarship has a tenure of two years and is valued at $10,000.
Mr Edmund Cheng, Mapletree Chairman says, “We are heartened to see the inaugural batch of four Mapletree-TENG Academy scholars progressing well as they shared the stage at The TENG Ensemble’s public performance in February this year. With arts and education as two of the four pillars of Mapletree’s Corporate Social Responsibility Programme, we are happy to continue our support for the Mapletree-TENG Academy Scholarships. We look forward to see the new batch of scholars develop their skills and passion for Chinese music under the tutelage of established music educators and practitioners, to benefit the community.”
Bridging Inequality through Music
Making music more accessible to the masses can also be a catalyst for social change. The Mapletree-TENG Academy scholarship is uniquely one of the few in Singapore that provides support in learning Chinese traditional music.
“The TENG Academy hopes to bridge a gap in our society. We have come across many individuals who are extremely talented, but were unable to pursue their passion due to financial difficulties”, states Mr Yang Ji Wei, Executive Director of TENG. “We hope that by offering this scholarship programme, it will open up possibilities and provide for, what could be a life-changing opportunity to them. We hope that our scholars will be inspired to give back to our society with the musical skills they have attained through the programme.”
The curriculum will help Brian to improve on his Erhu playing. Under the scholarship, all scholarship recipients will take music theory lessons with professional renowned instructors under The TENG Academy. They will go through music examinations. They will also be encouraged to participate in competitions and involved in the community outreach programme, TENG Gives Back, where musicians from The TENG Ensemble perform at homes, dialysis centres, hospitals and hospices. With guidance and more performance opportunities, Brian aspires to hone his skills and eventually pay-it-forward by teaching youths with strong interests in the instrument.
Besides technical skills and music competency, scholars have to demonstrate that they are committed to the journey of practice and training. “The most important attribute we look for in a scholar is passion, followed by music potential, as that is really the key to drive them along the long journey of becoming excellent musicians”, says Dr Samuel Wong, Creative Director of TENG.
The inaugural batch of Mapletree-TENG Academy scholars were selected in May 2018 and they were Lu Jietao (17, Victoria Junior College), Chan Keng Sing (21, currently serving National Service), Chua Yee Ting, (12, Qifa Primary School), and Kee Teng Hwee (19, ITE College West).
For more information on the scholarship programme, visit: www.thetengcompany.com/academy/other-programmes/mapletreeteng-scholarship.
Photos of the scholars are available for download here:https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pik6fzq3tggm36a/AABHV-trcTJokR3cgjhZ53Vga?dl=0
Brian Chow Joon Hong, 12, Radin Mas Primary School
Brian is a 12-year-old student from Radin Mas Primary School. With an initial background of music theory and piano, Brian was first exposed to the Erhu in his school’s Chinese orchestra and developed a strong passion for it. He was also very inspired by the Erhu accompaniments found in Jay Chou’s music tracks. Motivated to improve his technique, Brian strove to practise hard for his upcoming Chinese Music Instrumental Grading Erhu examinations, attaining a distinction in Grade 4 and Grade 6 in subsequent years.
Currently aiming to complete his diploma in the next few years, Brian also aspires to join the Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra and take part in individual competitions. He believes that his greatest strength lies in being diligent, which enabled him to make progress so quickly in a short amount of time. His perseverance is also seen through his dedication to perfecting his craft in an increasingly stressful year. Taking his PSLE this year, Brian still allocates an hour each day to practise his Erhu despite facing more workload at school.
As a scholarship recipient, Brian hopes to have more opportunities to perform in public to build his self-confidence. In time to come, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his Erhu instructor and teach youths interested in picking up the instrument.
Fong Yu Jie, 10, Maha Bodhi School
Yu Jie is a 10-year-old student from Maha Bodhi School. A passionate Guzheng player, she joined her school’s Guzheng ensemble at the age of seven. Her interest in Chinese music grew when she was selected to join her school team in giving a public performance, where she felt pride in representing her school. Yu Jie has since been performing frequently, showcasing her skills at events such as MUIS 50th Anniversary Performance at Our Tampines Hub and Clean & Green Singapore Carnival 2018 at Wisma Geylang Serai. Holding a Grade 3 certificate in the NAFA Guzheng examinations, Yu Jie hopes that the scholarship will provide her with more opportunities to hone her craft.
With the scholarship, Yu Jie is looking forward to continuing lessons with her instructor and taking her NAFA examinations. She hopes to aid her family in lessening their financial burdens by funding for her own Guzheng lessons, as they have given immense support to her. This support has also motivated Yu Jie to work even harder in improving her Guzheng skills. Together with peers in her Guzheng ensemble, Yu Jie practises the Guzheng frequently during recess breaks and after school in the Guzheng room. On top of such practices, she also manages to juggle them with her school work, allocating specific time periods for practice during the weekends, such that her skills do not regress.
In future, Yu Jie aspires to hold a performance with her school instructor and record it on YouTube for her friends and family to see, in a bid to expose more people to traditional Chinese music.
Leow Hua Xi, 8, Punggol Primary School
Hua Xi is an 8-year-old student from Punggol Primary School. She is also enrolled in the NAFA Gifted Young Chinese Instrumentalists Course (NAFA-GYCIC), where she learns the Pipa. Having been exposed to Chinese music by her family members that were musically inclined, Hua Xi grew up listening to Chinese music and developed a strong interest in it. She was particularly happy when she received her first Pipa from her mother. Seeing how passionate Hua Xi was in learning the Pipa, her parents sent her to take further lessons to develop her playing skills. Hua Xi holds a Grade 1 distinction in the Chinese Music Instrumental Grading Examinations, organised by The TENG Academy in partnership with Nanyang Technological University’s Confucius Institute (NTU-CI). This is an exemplification of her hard work and music potential.
As a scholar, Hua Xi believes that her most striking trait is her confidence and enthusiasm in performing. She is most apprehensive of the performance opportunities offered by the scholarship programme as she can gain valuable experience from them, while contributing to the performance by showing passionate energy onstage. Under the scholarship’s rigorous training scheme, Hua Xi hopes to hone her skills and develop them to her full capabilities. In future, she aspires to become a music ambassador that promotes Chinese music through her playing and bring happiness to her listeners.
Being the youngest scholar out of the four, Hua Xi enjoys playing with toys, watching her favourite television shows, listening to stories, and dancing. As much as she loves these, Hua Xi devotes herself to practising her Pipa at least 90 minutes a day, sacrificing her playtime in the process. Despite having to give up her favourite activities, Hua Xi seeks joy in improving her Pipa skills, her passion for it growing by the day. She also sees learning the Pipa as a way to value and manage her time better, while developing self-discipline.
Ryan Lim Ming Zheng, 17, Temasek Polytechnic
Ryan is a 17-year-old student from Temasek Polytechnic. He was first introduced to the Erhu at the age of seven and soon after joined his first Chinese orchestra in primary school, under his parents’ persuasion. Enjoying the challenge of playing increasingly complex Chinese music pieces, Ryan developed an interest in playing the Erhu and decided to pursue it.
Currently the concert master of the Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra, Ryan has come in first in the Erhu Ensemble Category in 2016 with Toa Payoh West Community Club Chinese Orchestra under the National Chinese Music Competition, organised by the National Arts Council. He also holds an Erhu Diploma in NAFA Chinese Instrumental Examinations and has attained a distinction in Professional Performance under the NTU-CI TENG Academy Chinese Music Instrumental Grading Examinations. As talented as Ryan is, his music journey is not void of difficulties. An aspiring musician and a medical biotechnology student, Ryan has to balance between schoolwork, teaching and learning the Erhu. Adapting to a busy schedule and becoming more disciplined over the last few years has contributed to Ryan’s individual development.
Ryan attributes his success in being selected for the scholarship to his strong passion in playing the Erhu. A music enthusiast, he teaches the Erhu to his students, using the earnings from teaching to pay for his own Erhu lessons. He also enjoys experimenting with Chinese music, occasionally creating innovative tunes such that it becomes more palatable to a wider audience. In future, Ryan hopes to become a music advocate that inspires others by spreading the joy of playing Chinese music through his performances.
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