The anxiety pulled everybody together, recalls violin maestro

Violinist Vivien Goh was 17 and preparing to go to the Eastman School of Music in New York state, when Singapore became independent.

"I didn't know what I would come back to, if anything," she said, adding she probably found out watching the news on TV at her father Goh Soon Tioe's music studio.

She felt some anxiety about the future, but had more immediate concerns - her farewell concert at Victoria Theatre on Aug 21, previewed in The Straits Times on Aug 9.

"When I left, it must have been in early September - things were in a flux, but we made sure I could travel on a Malaysian passport," said Ms Goh, a top student in the Senior Cambridge School Certificate Examination who won a scholarship to study in the United States.

"I didn't come back for four years. When I did, Singapore was already a well-established country," she said, noting she had no trouble getting her Singapore passport in the US.

She recalled that many felt anxious, but "it was this anxiety that pulled everybody together".

The result was that Singapore not only survived, but survived well, both economically and on the cultural side, she said.

"Culturally, we have come a long way from that day in 1965," said Ms Goh, a former conductor of the Singapore Youth Orchestra and a Cultural Medallion recipient.

She noted that there are now more concert halls, more Singapore classical musicians who have been trained overseas, better access to musical instruments and a vibrant amateur music scene as well.

She did not imagine back in 1965 that Singapore would develop so well. "I'm proud of the way all Singaporeans came together to make sure the country survived," she said.

Ho Aili

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 09, 2015, with the headline 'The anxiety pulled everybody together, recalls violin maestro'. Subscribe