Moving the Needle in Miri

From 24-30 September 2018, eight YST students embarked on a journey of musical sharing across Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei and Miri, Malaysia. Initiated by Year 3 Trumpet student Lau Hui Ping, the project sought to engage students with professional music instruction, contribute to teaching practices in the community, and hone pedagogical skills for YST students. The team comprised BMus students Alice Cahya Putri (Year 3, Voice), Chen I-Hsuan (Year 3, Horn), Chiang Yung-Yuan (Year 3, Clarinet), Hoong Miane Sng (Year 4, Tuba), Ilysia Tan Jiayng (Year 2, Composition), Natalie Koh (Year 3, Violin), and Teo Shao Ming (Year 4, Flute), in addition to Hui Ping. 

Over the course of the seven days, the team organised a suite of activities across both locations. For the first three days in Brunei, they held masterclasses and chamber coaching sessions, as well as performing a small recital at the Expression Music Academy.

The subsequent four days took place in Miri, where the focal point was the band programme which saw three different secondary school bands come together for sectionals and individual lessons, aural and theory training, as well as combined band practice. Separately, the team also provided individual strings and composition lessons to help local music teachers improve their own pedagogical and music-making abilities, held coachings for three local choirs, and delivered an interactive presentation on their musical instruments at SJK Chung San Riam Miri primary school (Hui Ping’s alma mater).

The project was meaningful in more ways than one for Hui Ping, who is from Miri herself. She shared, “When I was learning the trumpet growing up, I often wished for greater opportunities to learn from more experienced musicians. Though arranging all the individual coachings alongside aural and theory training was not easy, I really wanted the students to gain a new learning experience, and to see how rich and enjoyable pursuing music can be. I initially wanted to do the project after completing my junior recital, but the people I spoke to were so excited and supportive that I decided to do it there and then – not for the modular credits or my coursework, but for the community.”

Regional collaboration formed another special aspect of the project. While the team initially planned to visit only Miri, their supervisor Assoc Prof Ty Constante floated the possibility of expanding to Brunei through connection with founder of Expression Music Ms Lily Chiam – a colleague that he met during YST’s participation at the SEADOM Congress. The students were thus able to expand their reach, working also with Jerudong International School and the International School of Brunei. Natalie shared, “I initially envisioned my sole task on the trip to be teaching students, but the process of collaborating with overseas partners showed me the extent of behind-the-scenes planning that was required. The exposure I gained in planning and administration was beneficial and will certainly help me in future events.”

The entire trip culminated in a final performance at the Gymkhana Club Miri, where the team presented an hour’s worth of chamber music for an audience of over 200 people, ending off with an arrangement of a Malaysian song Sejahtera Malaysia jointly performed with a choir comprising members from the participating Miri secondary schools. It was a warm celebration of the relationships forged on the journey.

The YST team and choir members from Miri at the final recital.

The YST team and choir members from Miri at the final recital.

Perhaps, though, the journey is not quite over. Hui Ping notes that one of the school band teachers shared his plans to organise a concert this year, bringing together all school bands in Miri and possibly from other regions in Malaysia and beyond. Continuing in the vein of this trip, he has expressed his wish to invite the YST team to hold workshops ahead of the concert. We certainly hope the inspiration and learning that the team has sparked continues!