Paul Abisheganaden, the founding director of the Centre of Musical Activities at the National University of Singapore (NUS), was a pioneer of Singapore’s music scene.
Mr Abisheganaden, who passed away in 2011, was the first Singaporean conductor of a large-scale music group and he set up the Singapore Chamber Ensemble (a precursor to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra). To encourage emerging artists to follow in his footsteps, his daughters have established the Paul Abisheganaden Grant for Artistic Excellence at the NUS Centre For the Arts (CFA), as the Centre of Musical Activities is known today.
Mr Abisheganaden graduated from Raffles College (a predecessor of NUS) in 1934. It is fitting that the first recipients of the Grant in honour of an eminent NUS alumnus are two NUS alumni musicians – Wong Kah Chun (’11), a prize-winning conductor, and Emily Koh (’09), an award-winning contemporary-classical music composer.
The Paul Abisheganaden Grant for Artistic Excellence will enable them to pursue short courses such as summer workshops and conferences locally and internationally, to further refine their artistic skills.
Kah Chun says, “The Paul Abisheganaden Grant for Artistic Excellence sets dreams into motion by supporting unconventional but equally compelling artistic studies overseas. As an emerging orchestral conductor, what I need now is a platform on the world stage, and the grant supports my private studies on the music of Jean Sibelius in Finland, where the composer lived.”
Emily says, “The Grant has given me the chance to attend festivals and interact with composers and musicians from all over the world, and learn different conditions and ideas that influence their music. This is important because my long-term goal is to create a unique artistic voice as well as instil a deeper appreciation and understanding of the arts in the community.”
Paul Abisheganaden was a strong advocate of promoting the arts through festivals and concerts. For this, he received the Member of the Order of the British Empire (1956), the Cultural Medallion (1986) and the COMPASS Meritorious Award (2006).