Inspired by his mum – a self taught pianist, and an elder brother who plays the trumpet in the school band, Clive Choo became interested in the field of music in his early years.
Upon leaving the Singapore Armed Forces Band after 7.5 years, Clive took the plunge into teaching fully which was an area he was very keen to explore.
He is presently the conductor of bands in Bedok South Secondary School, CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent and Damai Secondary School.
“Truth to be told, I did not envision myself to be a conductor. While I consider myself fortunate for the opportunities to conduct as the student conductor in Secondary School and Junior College, being a conductor wasn’t something I saw myself doing as a career.”
“Fast forward a few years, here I am.”
Throughout his journey, Clive was immensely privileged to have learned from his teachers and prominent musical figures, namely Mrs Chua Yue Ai Chuan, Mr Anthony Chew, Ms Chan Peck Suan, Ms Dixie De Souza and Mr Adrian Chiang.
“They all play an instrumental role in my development both as a musician and a conductor. I am extremely grateful to them for their generosity in sharing their knowledge and for providing me with the much needed support riding through the ups and downs of a musician’s career.”
At school, Clive has one fundamental expectation for his students – being present.
“Learning needs to be a collaborative effort such that everyone willingly adds value in his or her ways. In order for that to happen, one needs to first be present.”
“Company is what makes any activity more enjoyable and meaningful, but however, building rapport and instilling a sense of belonging with any group fundamentally requires the physical presence of the person. One of the most common reason for someone to give up on band in school is often due to the disconnect between the individual from the rest of the group.”
Believing that times have changed, and teaching needs to keep evolving, Clive holds the opinion that the ‘one size fits all’ way of teaching is no longer applicable these days.
“As the saying goes, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking that it is a fool.”
“While students of different profiles require various approaches to get to them, it is safe to say that all of them can appreciate a learning environment which is stable and free of emotional drama. Oprah once said, what everyone is really looking for is to be validated, appreciated and heard – to be raised by their interactions and not put down. I take it upon myself to create such a safe environment for learning.”
“I came from a time when conductors rule with an iron fist but it is probably less effective than it used to be. Students are maturing faster than they ever have and their world is a microcosm of the adult, peppered with the ailments of adulthood. We as educators need to try to address some of these issues before any actual learning can take place. It is easy to lose sight getting caught in the daily grind of things such as preparing for the next performance, supporting the various school events or even wrestling with the school administration but a lack in a student’s emotional clarity is what often hampers his/her learning progress.”
In the current education landscape, Clive believes that vying for the time and attention of his students have proven to be the biggest challenge at work.
“While students these days are fortunate to be exposed to a myriad of experiences and activities, this also presents itself as a double edged sword. Students in general are hard pressed for time and stretched thinly in all directions. The effect it has on us educators though is it forces us to be more flexible and efficient in the way we teach. At the end of the day, it is about the delicate balancing act of managing everyone’s expectations. Both students and adults alike.”
Clive hopes that young musicians who wish to become conductors know that it is not just all about the interest and passion in music.
“At a school level, it also encompasses a whole lot of different responsibilities and hoops to jump through. Relationship building becomes an important skill to have which also explains why I always make it a point to have my students talk to me (be it voluntarily or involuntarily). As familiarity breeds content, it is also easy to slip into complacency especially being the “revered” one on the podium.”
“Stay thirsty and relentless in your pursuit for more knowledge. We have to be mindful that we are in a position to be agents of change and should not settle for merely coasting through our days. In the wise words of Winston Churchill – We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
To Clive, his success as an educator is reflected by the success of his students.
“It is important to me that students acquire transferable skills from their time in band and be able to apply it into their daily lives. The greatest sense of satisfaction is seeing my students continue their musical pursuits knowing that they enjoy the process and that they are adding value wherever they go.”
“To all my students, I hope you will continue to outdo yourself and aim to be a better version of yourself every single day be it towards music or in whatever you do.”