SINGAPORE - American orchestral musician Jon Paul Dante, whose Facebook post praising multiculturalism in Singapore went viral, intends to stay put here.
"I am just beginning my application for permanent residency. I would be honoured to be a permanent resident of Singapore," says the principal trumpet player with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO).
The 48-year-old joined the SSO in 2013 and is also a member of the Artist Faculty at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. He adds: "Once I achieve PR, I plan to try for citizenship."
The Boston native was at a Chinese New Year gathering at an Yishun HDB flat with his Chinese Singaporean partner's family on the first day of Chinese New Year last Friday. From the balcony, he took a photo of Muslims performing their Friday prayers near the block.
"Every day, Singapore is putting on a racial & religious integration masterclass for the whole world to see," he wrote in the post. He also lamented on what he perceives as the loss of values and how people of different races and cultures do not seem to live in harmony anymore in the United States.
Dante says he was moved by the sight of Singaporeans taking part in "two very different and completely unrelated things" within "an extremely close proximity".
"But it was more than that. It was the silent yet palpable support and respect for one another's traditions and lifestyle that prompted me to make the post because I just found it to be so beautiful and refreshing.
"There is so much needless and escalating racial and religious polarisation going on in my home country and I just found this scene to be very inspiring and pure."
He says he has received both praise and brickbats for his post.
"I have received literally hundreds of lovely private messages from Singaporeans living both here and abroad thanking me for my post and welcoming me to Singapore.
"I have also received messages from some who don't agree with my post at all and who have enlightened me with examples of how things here are not ideal in their view and could be dramatically improved on."
He adds that he "never meant to oversimplify or imply that I believe that Singapore is some sort of Utopia where nobody is struggling and nobody is ever hurt or discriminated against".
"I offer my most sincere apologies to anyone who may have taken it this way."
He says he is grateful for all the feedback, both positive and negative.
"I respect the fact that no society is perfect and can always be improved to better serve everyone."
He also clarified that he did not end up in Singapore "by accident", as written in the Facebook post.
He was the principal trumpet player for the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra until he moved to Kuala Lumpur to join the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra from 2006 to 2011.
"During my time in KL, I had come to Singapore to substitute with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra on several occasions and dreamt of being here full-time. Unfortunately, there were no positions available at the time."
He then joined the Hong Kong Philharmonic and later the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In 2013, there was an opening for the Principal Trumpet position in SSO, so he auditioned and got the job.
"When I relocated to Asia, I had planned to be with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra for the remainder of my career.
"However, when it started to look like there may be a future opportunity in Singapore, I altered my course.
"As an orchestral musician, you have to go to where the opportunities are. Lucky for me that, in this case, the opportunity was exactly where I wanted to be all along."