Do more to support local Western classical musicians

There are a few Singapore-born Western classical musicians who are well known internationally, such as Melvyn Tan and Margaret Leng Tan. However, in Singapore, their names may not be recognised by the general public.

There are very few institutions here that specialise in music at the university level. One such example is the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.

Although the conservatory is located in Singapore, it is shocking to find that the majority of students there are not Singaporeans.

The proportion of international students to Singaporean students in the conservatory gives the impression that Western music is more for foreigners.

I believe that Singaporeans still feel that a career as a Western classical musician is akin to walking down the road of doom. They feel that musicians have an unstable career and income.

Singaporean violinist Siow Lee Chin once said: "The challenge for conservatories today, including the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, is to prepare graduates to be entrepreneurial and develop careers beyond just performing."

This statement is appalling.

Instead of encouraging Singaporean musicians to perform on an international level and make Singapore known in the international music world, she was encouraging musicians to think of other ways to survive and not depend solely on performing.

This is very much in line with what many Singaporeans think. They believe that local musicians take up music without having the intention to perform internationally in their career.

Much more can be done to strengthen Singapore's standing on the global music scene, but this can be accomplished only if Singapore shows stronger support for local musicians and gets rid of the stereotypes linked with choosing Western classical music as a career.

Tan Yulin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2018, with the headline 'Do more to support local Western classical musicians'. Print Edition | Subscribe