Engaging Pakistani Communities with Music and Hope

This article is part of YST's Artistic Citizens series.


From 6 - 13 October this year, alumnus Lee Wai Teng (BMus '16, Clarinet) embarked on a series of community projects with impoverished Pakistani children. Her projects were in collaboration with Starfish Pakistan, a nonprofit that partners with Pakistani nationals who feel driven to help poor and marginalised children, especially amongst the minorities, to get an education. They support over 7000 children to date.

Q. What inspired you to decide you wanted to work with impoverished children in Pakistan?

WT: The belief that quality music education should be accessible to all. Being just a performer and teacher has never been enough for me.

Q. Could you describe the scope of the community work you were doing with the Pakistani kids and their teachers?

WT: I conducted music workshops for the students, along with workshops for teachers on how to incorporate music into their academic syllabus. At the end of the project, I also performed in a clarinet recital for the children. When I returned to Singapore, I focused on launching an online music course for the teachers I’ve met, so that they can continue their learning. The teachers will receive a certificate when they complete the course.

Above: Wai Teng (back row) with her Pakistani students

Above: Wai Teng (back row) with her Pakistani students

Q. What did you learn from your experiences in Pakistan?

WT: The children gained so much confidence from developing their musical abilities. I also learned that everyone has a 'musical ear'; it simply takes a while to get it attuned. It also goes without saying that Pakistan and Singapore are different. I was so used to having access to potable water, electricity, classroom furniture, electricity and sanitary facilities...now I know they're luxuries!

Most importantly, I learned to think on my feet. When you have only 30 minutes with a group of 70 students in a space meant for 30, with little ventilation and light, it is important to be flexible and adaptable.

Interestingly, I also picked up this cultural titbit: it is a huge fashion no-no if the colour of your dupatta (scarf) does not match your leggings and top!

Q. Has your Pakistani experience inspired you to do more community projects in the future?

Yes, the looks of joy on the children's faces really inspired me.  I have plans to visit rural areas of China and Nepal or India in 2018. My aim is to bring music and music education to developing countries, rural areas, and marginalized communities. I plan to visit at least 2 places each year. Hopefully, I will be able to form a team of like-minded musicians and educators to join me in my future trips!

To learn more about Starfish Pakistan/Starfish Asia and the work they do, click here.

Back to main article: 'Artistic Citizens: A Year In Review'