The NUSChoir added another feather to its cap recently when it won the Outstanding Community Service Award at the annual Tan Ean Kiam Arts Awards, inaugurated in 2009 to recognise artistic excellence and significant contributions to the arts and arts management within the NUS Centre For the Arts, the University and the community.
Founded in 1980, the award-winning choir is a member of NUS Centre For the Arts, and comprises students and alumni who share a common passion for choral singing. Committed to promoting choral music excellence on and off the NUS campus, the NUSChoir has been performing in various events, and participating in different international competitions and choral festivals, winning accolades in countries such as Slovakia and Russia.
We caught up with Ivy Cheng (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Psychology major), student leader of the outreach project lauded for its creativity in making an impact with choral music.
Please describe the outreach project and its objectives.
Since 2015, the NUSChoir has been holding music appreciation classes for children with cancer at the Place for Academic Learning and Support (PALS) under the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF). Through the collaboration, the children were exposed to basic music theories and vocal techniques. Workshops were carried out bi-weekly throughout the semester, spanning seven sessions. At the end of the semester, alongside the facilitators, the children performed a short song which allowed them to apply lessons learnt in the workshops and showcase to their parents the effort they put in.
Other than imparting musical knowledge and building a basic foundation in music, the other objective was to ensure that the children had fun. To achieve that, various activities and games were incorporated to encourage interactions between the facilitators and the children, bringing them closer to one another in the process.
What were some of the challenges faced and lessons learnt?
As the children come from all sorts of backgrounds and have varying levels of experiences with music, it was important to break down the music theories into “bite-sizes” so that they could understand the information with ease. At the end-of-year performance, it was gratifying to see that the children were able to recall and understand the content taught and apply the skills accordingly.
Nevertheless, there was still some material which was harder to teach, especially to children who did not have a musical background or have shorter attention spans. Through feedback from CCF and the facilitators, lessons were tweaked accordingly, such as including regular recaps and more frequent breaks, helping the children to absorb the information better and hold their attention longer.
What are the group’s views of the Tan Ean Kiam Arts Awards?
The Tan Ean Kiam Arts Awards is a wonderful platform through which excellence in arts is recognised and promoted. It also provides an avenue for the different arts groups to better know one another and the projects they are working on, allowing all to celebrate one another in a formal and diverse setting.
How did the members feel about winning this award?
The team members were ecstatic about the achievement, especially those directly involved in the project, be it in planning or facilitating the sessions. A tremendous amount of effort was put into the project to ensure that it was run smoothly and the children had fun while learning useful musical knowledge that could be built upon in the future, so it was heartening to have our efforts recognised.
Has the victory changed the team’s goals in any way?
The team’s goals have remained the same throughout the years, that is, to impart useful musical knowledge that the children can further build on in the future. Even if they choose not to be singers, it is hoped that the knowledge they gain from the sessions can help them to better appreciate music and the efforts musicians put into perfecting their craft.