Before he landed the scholarship which would smooth his way to pursue his passion, Lu Jietao did as much as he could to play the erhu without spending money.
The Victoria School student, 16, said it was his school's Chinese Orchestra CCA group that allowed him to learn how to play.
"They hired erhu instructors and gave me weekly lessons," said Jietao.
On top of the financial constraints, he had another hurdle as he had picked up the instrument only in Secondary 1, while his peers had begun learning earlier.
"I had to put in more effort to learn and catch up with my seniors and peers, but the hard work paid off," he said.
Indeed it did, as Jietao is one of the four Mapletree-TENG Academy scholarship holders who begin a two-year scholarship programme, valued at $10,000, this month.
The four were handpicked last month from 13 qualifying applicants for the scholarship, which is supported by Mapletree Investments in partnership with The TENG Academy, to fund their musical education in Chinese music.
I had to put in more effort to learn and catch up with my seniors and peers, but the hard work paid off.
LU JIETAO, a Mapletree-TENG Academy scholarship holder, who picked up the erhu only in Secondary 1, while his peers had begun learning earlier.
Applicants must have a per capita income of $1,500 or lower, and those who are shortlisted go through an interview and audition.
Though Jietao did not feel confident enough at first to apply for the scholarship, he decided, after prompting from his erhu instructor and a week before the deadline, there was "nothing to lose" and to go for it. Under the scholarship, he and three others, Kee Teng Hwee, 17, who goes to ITE West, Chan Keng Sing, 20, who is at Temasek Polytechnic, and Chua Yee Ting, 11, from Qifa Primary School, will have one-on-one lessons with a designated instructor at TENG Academy, which focuses on the advancement of Chinese music education. They will learn music theory in addition and will also take grading examinations.
Character and skills development will be introduced in the second year, when they will volunteer their time to perform alongside The TENG Company's musicians to communities at hospices, hospitals and dialysis centres.
The recipients will also be encouraged to take part in music competitions such as the National Chinese Music Competition and may be sent overseas on music exchanges.
Mr Hiew Yoon Khong, group chief executive officer of Mapletree, said supporting the arts and education was a key pillar of Mapletree's corporate social responsibility framework.
Mr Yang Ji Wei, executive director of The TENG Company, said the Mapletree-TENG Scholarship hopes to "bring our scholars closer to their dreams of becoming professional musicians who can make a career from playing or teaching music, while contributing to the growth of the Singapore arts scene".
He said the scholarship is open to Singaporean applicants of all races.
Correction note: An earlier version of this article misnamed the Mapletree-TENG Scholarship, and also gave the wrong credit for the photo. We are sorry for the errors.