My love affair with classical vocal music began through an inspired discourse with a first-class soprano during my time in Junior College. Her passionate description and demonstration of the beauty, depth and purity of vocal music was both addictive and mesmerizing. I formally began vocal lessons under her tutelage and consequently pursued a Bachelor of Music degree at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore. In my time there, I was given numerous performance opportunities and soon developed my love for performing on stage. Despite the many experiences that I had, there was one particular performance that will remain etched in my memory, as it changed the way I viewed my role as an artist.
It was my Junior Year at the Conservatory and I was invited to be part of a community outreach performance at a high school. The programme, entitled ‘Who’s afraid of Opera?’, was a short original comic script interspersed with a variety of classical art songs and arias that represented the emotions of the characters. The purpose of the performance was to provide the students with an introduction to classical vocal music, a genre that they would not otherwise have been exposed to. It was an extremely unique and fresh experience for me to have been able to act and sing a rather humorous script and see the reactions of the students as they giggled and cheered during the performance. However, the highlight was at the end when many students approached us telling us how intrigued they were with the music and that they had never experienced it before. Their words were very encouraging and made me realize how important it was to start seeking avenues to reach out to new audiences beyond traditional performance settings.
I decided that this would be a turning point for me as an artist and it started a new trajectory for my work - initiating projects to reach out to a wider audience. I organized a lecture-recital of French music in the Bel Époque era, explaining the historical contexts of the works and our interpretations of the music. The audience present was a wide range of people from different backgrounds and many left gaining a deeper understanding of classical music. I subsequently started a series entitled “Unheard”, featuring works by women composers past and present, to promote the performance and exposure of lesser heard works. I also co-founded ‘Project Transitions’, a series of music workshops for children recovering from cancer. During the sessions, we exposed the children to classical music through short performances and activities making use of the building blocks of music to create collaborative-compositions.
As I reflect upon the significance of the performance in my Junior Year, I am grateful that I rediscovered my role as an artist - that I could connect with people through various ways to share the gift of music, more than just performing on stage.