Who are the MVPs of Jurong Secondary School’s Chinese Orchestra? The alumni of course, say the players, who get the additional training they need from their seniors. Their coaching and moral support came in handy at the recent Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) Arts Presentation.
By Owen Tan
Jurong Secondary School alumni (front row, from left) Sherylyn, Shee Qii, Wen Wee and Jia Ying and the juniors whom they coach.
In Jurong Secondary School’s Chinese Orchestra, alumni who have graduated continue to play key roles in the CCA.
When students were preparing for the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) Arts Presentation (AP) this year, past students like Sherylyn Lim, Pua Shee Qii, Oh Wen Wee and Ng Jia Ying would return frequently to support their juniors on their journey.
“Our alumni have a strong bond with their juniors,” says Mr Koo Chee Kiong, teacher-in-charge of the orchestra.
There are 72 students practising twice a week in the full Chinese orchestra. As it’s difficult for the orchestra conductor to work with each student performer all the time, the alumni step in. Many of them are as young as 17 years old and recently graduated, while others have left years ago but continue to return to help.
“They coach their juniors, and offer individualised support for the instruments they specialise in,” says Mr Koo. “As they spend more time together and the bonds grow, the younger students also turn to the older ones on how to manage friendships and challenges in school”.
The juniors were elated to learn that those same seniors were rooting for them in person and online during the recent AP.
The orchestra rehearses together as the alumni listen in so that they can give constructive feedback.
“Most of us alumni tuned in to their AP livestream to watch them perform. Some of us also went down to the live venues to catch them in action,” says Shee Qii.
“We were bursting with pride at how far they have come,” adds Sherylyn. “From barely being able to hold their instruments correctly at the start of Sec 1 to playing their pieces as an orchestra so masterfully, it gave us a warm fuzzy feeling.”
Jia Ying in white, coaching her dizi juniors.
For Jia Ying, returning to school to help at her ex-CCA is like a family reunion.
“I see myself as the big sister or even mother to my juniors,” says Ng Jia Ying, who helps to coach the dizi (Chinese flute) players. “I often share my personal experiences about JC life or even how I manage relationships, so they can make better decisions,” she says.
Sec 4 student and cello player Jerell Neo (left) with his senior and mentor Wen Wee.
For Sec 4 student Jerell Neo (left), his senior Wen Wee’s advice to stop over-thinking, and to prioritise rest, made an impact on him.
“I was fixated on getting every note right until I was over-practising,” says Jerell, who plays the cello (and yes, there are cellos in a Chinese orchestra). “Wen Wee suggested that I schedule more breaks to rest and take my mind off the instrument. I was able to avoid burnout because of this.”
Sec 4 student and student conductor Kai Ning (centre), with her orchestra mates who play the erhu.
“We had been practising for our SYF AP performance for a few months and were starting to lose steam,” says student conductor Ng Kai Ning. “When our seniors came back for our rehearsals, they provided fresh pairs of ears for our music and motivated us to focus not just on the notes but to enjoy the musicality of the pieces.”
Sec 4 student & section leader, Foo Siew Hoon, demonstrating to her peers and juniors how to play a portion of the music piece.
The value of giving back to their juniors has also caught on with the current batch of Sec 4 students. When Foo Siew Hoon first joined the orchestra in Sec 1, her seniors were very supportive and welcoming.
“It is this bond that I experienced before that inspired me to be thoughtful and understanding when I am coaching my peers and juniors,” she says. “Being an encouraging senior really goes a long way.”
More stories on the benefits of pursuing the arts.
Dancing their way to greater patience – and other benefits of an arts CCA
”I dabbled in many roles”: A playwright’s lifelong pursuit of theatre
Art That’s Close to the Heart
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