From primary schools, to universities and recreational clubs, local amateur Chinese Music groups abound. These large and small Chinese orchestras are not only an important part of the Chinese community in our country, but also a big part of local Chinese culture. However, when Sunny Wong was hired as the Head of Studies, Chinese Instrumental at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in 2012, he was shocked to find out that the total number of students from all various Chinese Music instrumental specialisations across the academy only comprised a dozen individuals, and there was no orchestra. This made him feel immense pressure, but also defined his mission at the same time. Wong grew up in a musical family and received his music education at the Central Conservatory of Music in China. In 1997, he joined the Singapore Chinese Orchestra as Deputy Gao Hu Principal until 2011, during which he also instructed at the PA Youth Chinese Orchestra and taught part-time at NAFA. He was later hired by then-President of NAFA Choo Thiam Siew.
Although NAFA was the pioneer arts institution in Singapore, it never had a full-time Chinese Music faculty member at that time. Faced with challenges such as insufficient student resources and uneven technical levels among students, Wong often wondered about the social factors behind it. Although Chinese Music has a strong local community and culture, few parents were willing to take the initiative to choose music as a career for their children, mainly worrying about employment and income. This affected Wong’s consideration for future curriculum design. However, changing societal perspectives could not be done overnight. What was pressing was to expand the enrolment of students so that the academy could gradually develop a systematic and comprehensive curriculum. For this reason, Wong often travelled to China, Malaysia and other countries at his own expense in his early years, to inform his counterparts about NAFA through personal connections. At the same time, he stepped up to improve the performance of students. In 2015, he took his students to China for the first time and had them perform on the same stage with students from a local arts institution. In 2017, NAFA also held the Nanyang International Music Competition, with its Chinese Music categories attracting more than 600 participants locally and from abroad.
3rd Nanyang International Music Competition
Due to the pandemic, the 3rd Nanyang International Music Competition will be held in the form of video submissions. Chinese music categories include: Erhu, Banhu, Dizi, Guzheng, Pipa, Yangqin, Zhongruan, Liuqin, Guzheng; as well as ensembles. Each solo instrument category will be divided into advance, intermediate and beginner groups according to the age of the contestants. Each age group is further divided into professional and on-professional groups. Ensembles range from 2 to 30 people, and are also categorised into professional and non-professional groups. Award winners of each category will have the opportunity to perform in the winners’ concert held at NAFA. For the Guzheng competition, the winner will receive a cash prize, trophy and certificate, and will also be invited to hold a solo concert at NAFA’s Lee Foundation Theatre. For registration and further details, please visit: https://www.nimc.sg/chinese-division or call 67473721.
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Source: Lianhe Zaobao © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.