When push comes to shove, it is not uncommon for artists in Singapore to take a step back and analyse “the big picture”. Many of us in Singapore grew up with the mindset of letting our artistic careers take a backseat while our “more marketable skills” take the wheel.
In this episode of #LaichatwithDF, Glen from the core Drum Feng team spoke to two established musicians - Benjamin Boo and Lu Jietao.
Screencap of the Instagarm livestream
At first glance, Benjamin is a percussionist with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. Beyond that, he also happens to be the co-founder and ensemble principal of Reverberance in Singapore. Reverberance is a Singapore Chinese Wind Percussion Ensemble. Similar to Drum Feng, both organisations are arts groups which hope to engage and entertain Singaporeans on what Chinese culture and Chinese music is about.
For Benjamin, music was a huge passion. According to SCO's website, Benjamin graduated from the Royal College of Music (London) with a Distinction in his Masters of Performance. Surreal, isn’t it? Thankfully, for Benjamin, he was raised by a family who genuinely appreciated music as an art form.
Jietao is a conductor and core member of a youth arts community known as The CO Peeps. The CO Peeps is a youth-led group who aims to provide a supportive environment which offers a wide range of opportunities for youths of various backgrounds to get involved in music, especially Chinese Orchestra.
For Jietao, communication with youths and empathising with the issues they encounter regularly is a big step in ensuring that they gel with whichever arts community they choose to join. When asked about how youths can be further engaged in artistic developments, Jietao said, “they do not feel as engaged (or) they do not feel as if they are a part of (a rehearsal or performance)” when they feel “pressured”. Pressure looks like forcing them to engage in performance rehearsals which do not bring out or empower them to feel like their best selves musically.
For some musicians, time management is the biggest discouragement factor when it comes to establishing a career in music. With regards to inspiring youths to join Chinese Orchestra music groups, or any other arts groups for that matter, arts groups like The CO Peeps have employed digital mediums to reach out to a wider youth network.
During the livestream, Jietao explained that Discord seems to have come in handy. To access the public server, users may click on the link made by The CO Peeps. This link will transport users to the site where all updates and posts by The CO Peeps are published. Under the guise of an online community, users are free to share the link with their own social circles, and make new friends on the Discord server.
However, despite the arts community entering a new era of digitalising almost everything, mastering a musical instrument takes more than just clicking on links and watching YouTube videos. Benjamin is a core believer in “always being ready” when it comes to learning music.
He explained that some conductors or arts groups often expect musicians to be ready - mentally, physically and emotionally - to pick up a new music score, and learn the details before a big show.
The expectation is one that has been borne out of the tenacity and grit emulated by pioneering artists, who survived the brutal judgement of those who shunned music when it was still a rather new career industry in Singapore.
But the arts industry in Singapore has expanded greatly in its capacity to incorporate individuals from all walks of life to pursue a career in music. It is no longer just a one track road as many artists have adopted the mindset of being a “Jack of all trades and master of none”. Wherever the road leads us at Drum Feng, we are excited to be a part of the journey in moulding the versatility of Singapore’s arts scene.