Known for his exceptional ability to impart and communicate musical ideas to his students, Associate Professor Dr. Tony Makarome has been a faculty member of the YST Conservatory since day one. Ahead of his performance at the Asian Civilisations Museum with students of his YST Jazz class (MUA3206 Jazz Study and Performance), we caught up with Dr. Tony to learn more about his humble beginnings, his interest in Asian musical traditions, as well as other interesting tidbits about the stalwart of Singapore's music scene.
The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Tell us about your beginning in music:
DR. T: I started playing the double bass at the age of 25, and was purely motivated by a crazy passion for music. At that time, people around me were not very optimistic about my career choice. I am grateful for wonderful teachers who guided me along the way; it is a joy being able to teach and perform music as a profession. I am sure luck had a say in all this.
What are you working on at the moment?
DR. T: I am working on a new composition for a singer, to be premiered in the States which is based on the Indian Konnakol (rhythms). I am also working on arrangements as well as original compositions for chinese orchestra (with Jeremy Monteiro) and bands.
How did Asian influences work into your music making?
DR. T: Growing up in Singapore meant that influences from different cultures were inevitable. Embracing different musical languages became a natural progression of my creativity.
Tell us something about the Singapore Jazz scene.
DR. T: Jazz being our interest, we try not to focus only on the commercial aspect of the work. I don't think there is a conscious attempt to grow the Jazz scene, but I can observe a keen interest to improve ourselves. It's a small scene, so people often share ideas, much like our classes at YST. At YST I am grateful for students who constantly aspire for higher standards; I am regularly challenged to inspire them, and it is a very rewarding endeavour.
When not working, what do you do?
DR. T: I am completely immersed in a "musical life". I have recently gotten married and so family time is important, but out of the classroom and beyond Jazz, I am also caught spending time with little side projects and musical hobbies (if you consider playing an instrument for 10 years a "hobby") such as practicing and performing on Indian instruments such as the Mridangam.
What's your favourite movie?
DR. T: Fight Club.
What's your favourite local dish?
DR. T: Bak Chor Mee! No need to think!
ABOUT TONY MAKAROME
Conductor, composer, bassist Tony Makarome is Associate Professor at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory. He has a DMA (Orchestral Conducting) from University of South Carolina and a degree in Composition from Berklee. His teachers are George Monseur, Attilio Poto, Robert Spano, Miroslav Vitous, Herb Pomeroy, T.R. Sundaresan, Chettiharaveetil Haridas Sreekanth and K.R. Shyama. Conducting highlights include premiering Procaccini’s opera, La Prima Notte (USA), successful seasons as prompter at Columbia Lyric Opera, and conductor of NUS Wind Symphony and YST New Music Ensemble. Dr. Makarome’s woodwind quintet Scifi Lounge (2006) premiered in Bangkok and his Name with No Street (Quartet) was performed in Shanghai and Hunan. Other works include East Wind (solo percussion) in “Four Dimensional Music” (Esplanade) and his opera, Faybulous premiered at Pawley’s Island Music Festival (USA). His arrangements of Seven Steps to Heaven and Asiana were performed by Singapore Chinese Orchestra and China Broadcasting Folk Orchestra (Beijing). His composition “What Pattern?” premiered at Carnegie Hall on June 14, 2016.
As bassist, Tony has performed with Louis Bellson, Tony Bennett, Toshiki Nunokawa, Michael Veerapan, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra and Quartet West. He has performed as a Mridangam artist in past Chennai Music Seasons (2011-15). His group Noir appeared in Esplanade’s “Late Nite”. Dr. Makarome is a leading pedagogue of solfége, theory and jazz. In summers, he served as an award-winning teacher at Walden School (USA). He co-wrote, produced and performed in “Jazz 1-2-3” in collaboration with Esplanade and NAC.
Students of MUA3206:
CHRISTOPHER JOHANN CLARKE SHIRUI
TENG SI HENG
HOE KEEN LOON GABRIEL
YEO KAI JIE MARK
LEE ANN GIE
VIVIENNE TEOH YAN HONG
ANDREW NG WEN HAO
TENG WYE SHIN