Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Singapore, Music, ABRSM and my awesome teacher
music, anime, peace
This was originally written in a comment as reply to Sophia's comment on my previous post, but it was too long. So here it is.


Do you know how frustrated my piano/voice teacher is? She's Indian, from Singapore. But she lived in London for a good 20 years so she's as good as one of them now. So she thinks like them. And this is what she thinks of Singaporeans and music.

It's ridiculous that we send children for every single grade exam. It's hundreds of dollars for ONE exam, and at the end of it all, what are you going to do? Frame your grade 1 cert? People will LAUGH. Only your grade 8 counts. In London, kids go for grade 5 and grade 8. That's it. ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) gets its profit all from Singapore and China and Malaysia and these kiasu people. Not much from the UK itself, where the Board originates. Huh. Ironic.
Also, prices here are double that in London. Haha. Wonder why.

In Singapore, teachers teach 3 pieces a year. They teach the exam pieces. There are 3 of them. And one exam a year. So you learn 3 pieces in one year. Does no one else see how ridiculous this soungs? You could be learning 25 pieces a year, building a huge repertoire, between 5 years, then concentrate on 3 pieces for about 2 months or so for a grade 5 exam. Then go back to 25 pieces a year for a couple more years, then go for grade 8. You'd be able to call yourself a "musician". People who learn 3 exam pieces solely for exams are not "musicians". They are "people-who-get-pieces-of-paper-saying-they-passed-a-test-where-they-sat-down-and-played-3-songs-on-a-musical-instrument". I don't think these kids get more than a pass, often. Get the cert, can liao.

A lot of kids get passes. Bare passes.
a) they learn their scales last minute. Scales are something that take a long long time to learn. And they are supposed to help you in your playing. That is their purpose. Their purpose is not to be something to be tested in exams.
b) Kids last minute learn Aural as well. They know nothing about the history of music til just before. They don't practice pitching, rhythm clapping, etc, til immediately before. Everything is centered around the exam. Everything is learnt solely for the purpose of the exam.
c) Teachers don't really teach how to feel the music. I have friends whom I've heard play, and there's no feeeeeeel to it. They just play the notes mechanically. A bit louder here, a bit faster here. Do they understand that louder and faster connotes that they should put a sense of urgency into it? Do they feeeeeeeel the "dolce" or the "andante" in the music? I'm really not sure. Where's the feel? The heart?
****dejavu: SHPS vs Radin Mas HCI Invites Semis 08: THBT the heart is more important than the brain****

I ask of you, do you think this is the right approach to be taking to music? Music is an art. Not something to be tested. My teacher and I were choosing songs for me to do for my grade 5 singing exam, and she likes to say that the composers must be "turning in their graves" for being graded! Which is true! These are works of art these amazing people write, and they're being put as a "grade 4 piece" or a "grade 7 piece". All for practicality, of course, but still! Wouldn't it be frustrating if you wrote this awesome piece of music and some people say it's "grade 1" level?


This part below is supposed to be my link between the above section and what I was talking about in my reply to Sophia's comment on my previous post. Sophia, please read :)


So anyway. Music is a "soft skill" right? Well, it's being tested, for those who want it. And Singaporeans approach this soft skill in this way.

I guess if they made music an examinable subject in school, the essence of it would just be lost. The way many Singaporeans have lost it when they sit for all those ABRSM exams.

I remember by teacher wanted to play this Bach piece on the organ for St. Andrew's Cathedral service. And the guy in charge who's the Reverend (or equivalent of Pastor; I forgot) said "Oh, no. That's a mass. Catholics have Mass. We're Anglican." And my teacher tells me that Mass used to be both by Anglicans and Catholics, then it became less common for Anglicans, and common people think it's Catholic. (By the way, when I was in London, we visited Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral. St. Paul's is also Anglican.) And then she goes, "By the way, Bach was Protestant. Must be turning in his grave."

I really laughed when she told me Bach was Protestant.
(The Protestants are called that because they were "protesting" against the Catholics.)


BY THE WAY! My teacher is awesomely pro and fantastic (not being ego. She really is good.) She's played in St. Paul's Cathedral (if you don't know what that is, i am disappointed :O) and she's just really good okay? She's nice, friendly, talks a lot, plays organ, piano, sings. Teaches piano and singing. If you do singing, she will insist on teaching basic piano. Because you cannot fully understand music (i.e. voice) unless you learn basic theory etc. If you are interested, please let me know ;)
Ooh and she's my late godmother's sister, and family friend.

  • 1
I love this post. Haha. Everything in Singapore is done for the name. For the title. So people will be like "Oh hey that's the super genius! Oh hey that's the 8 year old kid who already got a diploma in music!"

Even our school. Like, they don't really care whether the teachers are good. It's the "top school", right? And then in the school you hear everyone saying that the teachers all suck. Or at least, a lot of teachers suck. Many people probably come to this school just to be recognized as "RGS girl! Super smart!"

A lot of kids who learn music end up hating music. Because they're freaked about the exam, their parents force them to play, and reasons like that. Like, 3 pieces per year is really pathetic, just saying. Oh and, everything's classical music. Not that I have anything against classical, but I think there should be a balance between classical and non-classical. Try different genres! Too much of anything is never good in the end. Kids just start hating music because they stereotype music.

This is so cool. I want voice lessons :D But rgs is like so busy :/ I don't even have time to practice guitar or piano on a normal basis.

Haha I keep replying super long comments to your posts >

thanks Joycie! <3 haha.

AGREED!!! Our teachers need to be better ><

My dad's old friend has a son who did his grade 8 violin. He's really young. And after the exam, his teacher spoke to the mother and said that he has a real talent and should pursue a diploma. But the boy said that, okay, he'll do it, but after that, he never ever wants to touch the violin again. And it turns out that the teacher never once told him that he was good. That was the first time she ever mentioned it, and that was when she was talking to the MOTHER.

It's just sad, really.

Oh yeah! About that, my teacher also teaches how to play using chords, because then we can go learn on our own how to play pop music :D And I know some people who are really motivated to go and learn up pop music, and I'm really happy that there are still children out there who love music for what it is :)

Haha my teacher combines piano and singing so that it's a weekly 1.5hour lesson. 45min on piano and singing each :P And I don't care man, I love my music too much. I sometimes practice first before studying xD

Oh hey, my comments are longer ;)

But it shouldn't be the compliments or credit that you get that makes you want to do something. It's like more of like the getting there instead of the being there. Haha this is so ripping off Glee, but it's true. Then again, if someone's good, you should tell them too.

I think it's really a waste that he doesn't wanna play anymore ): And it's kinda sad because he has the talent but he like hates the violin ): What about other instruments? Maybe he'll like piano or guitar or something :D

I wanna steal your teacher hahaha. She seems really awesome. I mean, normal music teachers just teach the "3 exam pieces" haha xD Oh sometimes I take out my guitar, and then realize I have nothing to play. >

haha i play a lot of worship songs on guitar :) :) that's the whole reason i picked it up. cos i wanna lead in worship someday :)

haha actually i'm publicising for my teacher. cos she's currently teaching school choirs but she says in the long term, she wants to stick to one on one lessons and not teach choirs. so i can give you her contact if you want? :D i THINK she mentioned something about publicising. shall check xD

Highfive about the leading worship part! Haha but I think mine was more of like me loving guitar <3

Yay I want her contact :D Haha not very sure about my mother though but... still :D Oh and you have successfully publicized her! xD

  • 1

Log in