Formed in 2016, the NUS Alumni Orchestra (NAO) is a platform for NUS Symphony Orchestra (NUSSO) alumni to come together and make music, and to engage the community to better appreciate classical music.

Under the baton of Lim Soon Lee and Francis Tan, the orchestra will make its performing debut at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre on 24 and 25 June, 7pm & 8.15pm.

The Band Post speaks to Michelle Tan and Koh Swee Jin to find out more.

TBP: Why was NAO formed? Who are the key people and conductors?

NAO was ideated in 2016, when a group of recent NUS Symphony Orchestra (NUSSO) alumni got together and decided we wanted to continue making music together even though we’ve graduated.

Overly-attached, if you will :P; We saw that there was an interest in having a group that furthered the musical journey of NUSSO members. This can be seen from continued strong participation of alumni members in concerts and tours over the years.

After graduation, the NUSSO alumni missed the opportunity to perform and engage large audiences with their music – specifically NUSSO’s ability to reach out to audiences who typically would not attend classical music concerts with their flagship annual outdoor outreach concerts.

NAO in rehearsal with Mr Francis Tan

Hence, the vision for NAO is to be a platform for members to continue striving for musical excellence and to further NUSSO’s raison d’etre to engage the community in musical appreciation and education.

We’re thankful for help from a bunch of people who made this possible. Firstly will be Mr Lim Soon Lee who is also the Music Director of NUSSO for agreeing to continue supporting our cause, Mr Francis Tan who is new to the team but not any less enthusiastic, and the staff from the NUS Centre for the Arts (CFA) and Office of Alumni Relations (OAR) who have been helping us every step along the way and showering us with loads of alumni love! And of course, to the alumni for jumping into this crazy idea together with us!

TBP: With a growing number of orchestras in Singapore, what does NAO want to do to be different?

NAO is created with the vision of doing public outreach and to help the public understand classical music better. The idea for NAO is to be an orchestra which does themed music; that is taking the theme into consideration when deciding on repertoire, rather than choosing the repertoire before putting a title to the concert. By doing so, we hope to paint a more visual picture of the music we play and to help audiences make links and understand our music better.

We also hope to work with art groups who engage in different art forms to paint a more holistic picture for our audiences and present a full sensory experience for our audiences!

TBP: What are some issues so far as to the making of the orchestra?

Alumni members can be a bit busy (with work, family and other commitments) and likely don’t have as much time to practice as they used to while still in NUS. We try to work around that by allocating time for sectional rehearsals.

Logistically, there’s also a lot more coordination work for me and my exco as we don’t hang around the NUS Centre for the Arts (CFA) (where our rehearsal venues are) anymore as we used to when we were still students and we don’t hold the keys to the venues anymore, but we are very thankful to the staff who have been very supportive and flexible with helping us with venue and logistics 🙂

TBP: Could you talk about your upcoming performance at Esplanade? What music will NAO be playing?

NAO in rehearsal with Mr Lim Soon Lee

The Esplanade performance came about when one of the staff members heard about the inauguration of NAO and approached us (which is because of the good reputation NUSSO has had previously, thankfully!). We had previous ideas for our debut concert but we loved the theme and opportunity from Esplanade so much that we just couldn’t turn this performance down!

We’ll be presenting music from the big screen in line with Esplanade’s June theme: Soundtracks. Some of the pieces we’ll be presenting include Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Carmen Suite and other popular favourites!

TBP: What are your other upcoming planned performances or projects?

That’s a secret for now!

We’re in talks with different parties for performance on and off campus and we hope to reach out to as much of the community as possible (both within and out of NUS!). We do hope to reach out in the future, not only with large scale performances, but also with chamber sized groups and workshops.

Do keep a look out on our Facebook page for the latest news and we’ll share our upcoming projects the moment we can!


Written By Editor

A contributing editor at TBP.