Advocating Social & Artistic Responsibility for Singaporean musicians

Third year Recording Arts and Science student Sulwyn Lok is the proud conductor and president of the Victoria Chinese Orchestra (VACO), a non-profit organization he co-founded with friends in 2014.

Sulwyn believes that “musicians have the power to trigger change in the world and enliven people with every show we stage”. Although most community orchestras exist as platforms for musicians to enjoy the thrill of performance, Sulwyn says the VACO have established their key direction by “assuming the social and artistic responsibility” of its members to make contributions to the community.

 Sulwyn Lok (left) leads his orchestra through a rehearsal.

Sulwyn Lok (left) leads his orchestra through a rehearsal.

Nothing brings us greater joy than to be able to bring the community together in an emotionally engaging way through our music.
— Sulwyn Lok, third year Recording Arts and Science student

“Nothing brings us greater joy than to be able to bring the community together in an emotionally engaging way through our music," he says. "As well as being mentors and providing a positive environment for young musicians in an orchestra.”

In 2017, the VACO had an eventful season, including a project with Very Special Arts’ (VSA) annual concert, Welcome to My World, in August. VSA is an organisation dedicated to providing opportunities for people with disabilities to be involved in the arts, and their annual concert showcases a variety of artists with disabilities.

Sulwyn recently composed a new work titled Hidden Heroes written for local erhu talent Stephanie Ow, who is visually-impaired. They first met as members of the Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra, and have become close friends, “I was inspired by Stephanie’s life journey and determination, and dedicated it to her,” Sulwyn said.

 Erhu player Stephanie Ow (centre) with the Victoria Chinese Orchestra.

Erhu player Stephanie Ow (centre) with the Victoria Chinese Orchestra.

“Rehearsing the work for solo erhu with Chinese orchestra gave me a precious learning experience as a conductor while working with a soloist who is differently abled. Stephanie shares things with us like how she learns music using braille scores. Practicing music with VACO is now a big part of her life. Her experiences moved the orchestra and made us realize how we take many things for granted as musicians.”

“It is projects like these that continue to breathe new meaning into what I consider my role to be as a musician in this world and helps me to find my musical pathway in the community for the future, whether as a conductor, composer, or audio engineer.”

To find out more about the Victoria Chinese Orchestra, you can follow them on Facebook or Instagram

Please click here to watch a video of VACO with Stephanie Ow performing Hidden Heroes at Very Special Arts’ 2017 concert, shot none other than by then-Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, currently Speaker of the Parliament.

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