Creating Musical Connections and Community

This is the fourth instalment of the Charting Pathways series, where YST graduates look back on their experience at the Conservatory, and give us a peek at their plans for the future.

In this article, Charmaine Teo (BMus '18, Harp) shares about how taking charge of her learning as well as receiving guidance and support from those around her helped make her undergraduate experience a rich and meaningful journey.

 

In my third year as a student at YST, I remember attending a masterclass held by Australian clarinetist Paul Dean. His very first question took all of us by surprise, for he asked something that we were not expecting in a clarinet masterclass: "Who are some well-known opera singers that you know of?".

This seemingly-unrelated question set the context for the rest of his masterclass, as I became more aware of the connections between different musical roles and how they are unified in the act of music-making. It also encapsulated for me the importance of taking my learning into my own hands, as well as the power of looking beyond silos and stepping up to connect with the wider music community around me.

I became more aware of the connections between different musical roles and how they are unified in the act of music-making.
— Charmaine Teo, BMus '18, Harp, on her learning experience in clarinetist Paul Dean's masterclass at YST
Charmaine Teo, Harp, YST Conservatory

 

As a student, I have been able to collaborate with a network of respected colleagues and mentors, performing for audiences ranging from my own schoolmates at YST noon recitals, to overseas masterclasses and guest artists. Through the Conservatory's collaboration with the Suntory Hall Chamber Music Academy, I had the privilege of working with Prof Wakako Hanada. In the process, I gained from her a new perspective on music - that slower tempos are no less impressive than faster ones, and that they can exude a certain gracefulness about them.

 

 

This is but one example of the generous teaching that I have benefited from. During the various chamber competitions that I participated in, I received a great deal of guidance from faculty who were not my official chamber music coaches, but nonetheless generously took time from their own schedules to teach me and gave me many valuable pieces of advice.

During my final year, I had the opportunity to organise a chamber music concert titled Memories of Distant Shores with two of my classmates, Kyuri Kim (BMus '18, Violin) and Andrew Ng (BMus '18, Violin). We wanted to explore whether creating a different concert atmosphere would attract audiences with a new experience. With this in mind, we turned the orchestra hall into a cosy and homely setting with lamps, coffee tables and armchairs, and added an electronic display onstage to show programme information to the audience.

We turned the orchestra hall into a cosy and homely setting with lamps, coffee tables and armchairs.
— Charmaine on creating an alternative concert experience in Memories of Distant Shores

As it was the first time organising a concert for all of us, event logistics and details posed a challenge. For example, we bought many table lamps to create a warm atmosphere, but did not take into account that there were fewer power sockets than needed in the Orchestra Hall. Thankfully, Mr Mike Tan from the YST Programming & Productions team was able to connect the wires together such that one switch would turn on a few lamps at once. Though this was a small detail, such experiences exposed me to the process and varied challenges involved in planning a concert, and I am grateful for the support we had from Programming and Productions in making our vision possible. The concert was also presented as a music appreciation event with the National University of Singapore Society.

 Charmaine with her fellow co-organisers of  Memories of Distant Shores

Charmaine with her fellow co-organisers of Memories of Distant Shores

Through it all, I would like to give special mention to my harp teacher, Gulnara Mashurova, for nurturing and guiding me over these past years. She gave me freedom to choose and direct my own learning, and always encouraged me to watch masterclasses and concerts as she knew how important it was for a musician to be inspired. I have had the opportunity of playing alongside her in Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and the biggest takeaway for me was seeing how she dealt with stress, with mistakes, with people, and with the stage at large. She has truly exemplified the fact that music is a lifelong learning journey.

The biggest takeaway for me was seeing how she dealt with stress, with mistakes, with people, and with the stage at large.
— Charmaine expressing gratitude for her harp major teacher, Gulnara Mashurova
 Charmaine, second from left, playing alongside her harp major teacher Gulnara Mashurova in the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.  Photo credit: Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Charmaine, second from left, playing alongside her harp major teacher Gulnara Mashurova in the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Photo credit: Singapore Symphony Orchestra


These experiences have reminded me never to be complacent, and to always seek growth from the things I do and the people I work with. My four years in YST have prepared me well to face the upcoming phase of my postgraduate studies; I am thankful to have gained a clearer vision of the kind of musician I would like to be, and how I will work towards it.

 

Read the third Charting Pathways article, where composition graduate Mick Lim reflects on the bold steps he has taken as a musician through his overseas stints in Baltimore and Frankfurt, as well as his collaborative site-specific work Pieces which was presented at the Sounding Now Festival 2018.