In this coming April, performing arts Co-curricular activities (CCA) will be gearing up for the various Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) Arts Presentations organized by the Ministry of Education (MOE)’s Arts Education Branch (AEB).

One may be familiar with the hype and ongoing practices to perfect their craft, as well as additional individual efforts during the process. An example of such groups will be the students who are participating in the concert band presentation, playing a total of TWO pieces of music (1 set piece and 1 group’s choice).

On top of the usual 2 rehearsals (many schools now practice 6 hours a week), students are asked to have a self-practice day on a non-rehearsal day, with band directors / band teacher-in-charge encouraging them to bring home their instruments to practice about 20 minutes per day (The students’ usual opinion to bringing home the instrument to self-practice is not as imminent until the presentation which is just weeks after the Lunar New Year holidays). Apart from practices, there will also be many Saturdays where students attend exchange programmes, so that they can have healthy peer pressure to see how well they have fared in their progress, as well as a good opportunity to make new friends.

While it seems like there are a good dose of activities in the development programme of the students, there are generally two groups of people that are dismayed. The first group will be the subject teachers who have no inclination to time intensive activities, and the second, the parents who suddenly realized that their children are having a more “hectic” schedule than themselves.

The concerns of the mentioned adults are always related to the student’s academic results as our society at large deeply believes in achieving good grades so as to be able to use that to an advantage in their adult working life. The belief is that with the time intensive band programme, it takes away the time for the students to do more revisions and improve their academics. So in short, band makes you lose out academically (this also applies to other time intensive performing arts too).

With a quick look into the ‘O’ level results in the past 10 years, it shows little or even negligible fluctuations of the results. The ministry was also optimistic about the report.

While the report did not suggest that band or music students do better in their academics during the SYF or national exam period like some scholarly studies suggest, there were also no marked improvement in the students academics during non-SYF periods.

I hope that this article can help us reflect on how we educate and develop our future children and students. Many times, we as adults impose limitations on our children and sometimes, we stopped believing in them. While trying so hard to meet our own KPIs, we coerce our students to make decisions to give up instead of offering solutions or see eye to eye with another adult.

As the question on the MOE’s recruitment webpage suggests… What do you make?

Louis Yeo

Written By Louis Yeo

Louis Yeo is currently Associate Conductor of Nanyang Polytechnic Symphony Wind Orchestra. He has conducted the Manhattan Municipal Band (USA) and the Singapore Police Force Band, and had collaborations with the Soka Gloria Wind Orchestra (Japan) and multi-Grammy Award winner Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra (USA). He has also worked with composers Eric Whitacre, Philip Sparke, Frank Ticheli and Grammy award winner Nestor Torres. Yeo earned his Masters of Music (Education) from the Kansas State University where he underwent music education tutelage with Dr. Philip Payne and Dr. Ruth Gurgel. He studied conducting with Frank Tracz, Jacomo Bairos, Donald Linn, Volker Hartung and had masterclasses with Virginia Allen, Allan McMurray, Christopher Hughes, Hardy Martens and Yasuhide Ito.
Beyond his conducting and band directing commitments, Yeo is also an active adjudicator, and guest lecturer at SIM University (UniSim).