Doing community work with music

Trumpet player Bethany Nette founded a music-and- wellness programme which brought music to Alexandra Hospital to benefit patients and staff.
Trumpet player Bethany Nette founded a music-and- wellness programme which brought music to Alexandra Hospital to benefit patients and staff.PHOTO: LEE JINJUN

In her third year as a Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music student, Ms Bethany Nette lost and found her dream as a musician.

The 22-year-old Australian, who recently graduated, had originally hoped to be a professional trumpet player in an orchestra.

She comes from a music-loving family, although no one else in her family is a professional musician.

Her father is a volunteer coordinator for people with disabilities and her mother is a horticulturalist. She has two younger brothers aged 21 and 16.

She had a change of heart and mind while on an exchange programme with the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

Her stint as a volunteer teaching music to children from lessprivileged neighbourhoods in West Baltimore opened her eyes to how music, beyond a concert hall setting, could be relevant to people and impact their lives.

She says: "I saw and heard how the kids were transformed through playing music. Their sense of self- worth increased and they found a creative outlet in an environment that wasn't so positive."

When she shared her newfound purpose in music-making with her teachers at the Yong Siew Toh conservatory, she was met with support.

"They made it a point to tell me that I didn't have to put aside the trumpet to do community work," she says. "I could still be a performer, arranger and composer."

That was what she did for her final-year project. She founded and coordinated a music-and-wellness programme in collaboration with Sengkang Health, which brought music to Alexandra Hospital, which it manages, to enhance the well- being of both patients and staff.

This involved leading a week- long creative music workshop earlier this year that brought a group of hospital staff and conservatory students together to make original music.

A recording of the compositions was made so that the music can be played in the wards.

Ms Nette also organised four lunchtime concerts at the hospital and two performances in the wards, which featured her conservatory schoolmates.

While she has graduated, the project carries on. The conservatory is working with Sengkang Health on a performance schedule at the hospital.

She says: "The opportunity and support I received for this project allowed me to connect with the community and give back to it.

"I am looking for opportunities, either in Singapore or Australia, to continue this kind of work."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2016, with the headline 'Doing community work with music'. Print Edition | Subscribe