May marks my first full year out of the Education Service. I resigned from the Ministry of Education on 30 April 2017 after serving 14 fruitful years as a Teacher, a Ministry Officer, a Head of Department and finally as a School Leader. I took this bold step because I had a dream to pursue music, to be a composer, arranger and full time music educator, and did not want to look back at my life with regrets, thinking about the “what ifs.”
As I took the great leap into the unknown, there were many fears and doubts. Would I be able to earn enough to feed my family as the sole breadwinner? Do I actually have enough talent and drive to succeed?
Looking back at this last year, what a whirlwind journey it has been.
In this past year, my compositions and arrangements have been performed at 5 iconic Singapore performing arts venues- Victoria Concert Hall, Victoria Theatre, Kallang Theatre, the School of the Arts and CHIJmes. There were so many agonising late nights of writing, fighting composer’s block and procrastination. There were many happy sessions slogging it out with my two choirs from Hillgrove Secondary and Beatty Secondary. There were magical moments of music, moments to remember and cherish. These were some of the highlights:
- Balleilakka @ SYF2017 (Apr 17) ~ It was a proud moment for me to watch the NUS High School Choir sing their way to a Certificate of Distinction at SOTA with my arrangement of Balleilakka under the direction of Ms Lim Huimin. I really appreciate Huimin for being one of the key friends who have helped me through this difficult transition into freelance work. Without her guidance and support, I would not have made it this far!
- Vox Camerata @ Musica Intimae (Mar 18) ~ Long time friend Shahril Salleh commisions two works for the Vox Camerata public performance at VCH. It was such a proud moment for me to hear my two compositions “Dare to Dream” and “Find his Rainbow” so brilliantly delivered at VCH, the concert hall at which I fell in love with music as a young student.
- Hillgrove Chorale ~ It has been such a honour to be able to go back to Hillgrove in a new capacity as Choral Director. I spent 3 extremely fruitful years here as the school’s first Head of Aesthetics from 2010 to 2013, helping to build up the Aesthetics programme and culture. It is very satisfying to return and to enjoy the fruits of my labour, to be a part of the thriving arts culture in the school! I am extremely grateful for the schools belief in me as a rookie Choir Director. I was also proud to be commisioned twice to compose for collaborative performance items with the Choir, Concert Band and dancers. “I Thank You” (Nov 17) and “Soar with Me” (Apr 18) will forever be two of my favorite works! Was brilliant to be able to work with my childhood friend Sheryl Khor for these two pieces.
- Beatty Chorale ~ Beatty was the first school that hired me as Choral Director and I have had such a memorable year with them. In September we put up a full length performance at NUH at the atrium, and many of the students battled their nerves and rose to the occasion to deliver their commendable small group performances. In April 18, we celebrated the school’s 65th Anniversary with a combined performance at the Kallang Theatre where some of my arrangements were featured.
- National Schools Xinyao Competition (July 17) ~ I was asked to coach and prepare two young ladies who did not have much singing experience, and we made it all the way to the finals! It was a memorable journey and I did not expect to get so far because of the keen competition.
- Keppel Infrastructure Dinner and Dance (Oct 17) ~ Tasked with the challenge of working with 6 non-musicians and preparing them to perform an A Cappella medley of 4 songs on the Sentosa ballroom stage in front of all their colleagues. Only 6 sessions of rehearsals, I don’t how we did it, but we pulled off a commendable performance!
- Sacred Choral Compositions for the Amoris Singers ~ “Undivided” “Beautiful Saviour” and “My God Jehovah”. These last 4 years, I thank God for the opportunity to sing with the Amoris Singers under the direction of Mr Toh Ban Sheng. Without my experience with Amoris, I do not think I would have the courage to step out and be a Choral Director. There is still so much for me to learn and so many areas I need to improve, but with God’s grace, I will get better, step by step. It has been an honour for me to sing my scared choral works with my brothers and sisters in Amoris.
- A Celebration of Hymns (Apr 18) ~ about 17 years ago, a preacher prayed and prophesied over me that one day I would be conducting an orchestra on stage in a concert hall, leading the audience in worship. Perhaps this was a small fulfilment of that prophecy. As music director and arranger for this concert, a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Eagles Communications, I did up 10 arrangements of some of the best loved hymns through the ages. It was a truly blessed night, a wonderful collaborative effort between the Crosswinds vocal ensemble, a flute, string and piano sextet, a worship band and a Filipino Choir. It was an honour for me to be recommended by Singapore’s top composer Dr Kelly Tang for this project, and I would consider this night my highlight for the whole year, an amazing way to cap my first full year as a freelance composer/arranger.
Wow. Looking back, there were so many other great moments which I did not even cover in this reflective blog post. What will the future hold? Only God knows.
2017/18 has certainly been my best year in terms of creative output. I look forward to this next year ahead, with many more musical adventures to come!
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