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Don Richmond: Tips for Aspiring Musicians

13 Feb 2017

Don Richmond

“It didn't matter who you were or which standard you were from, if you could play and sing, then let's jam,” said Don Richmond as he reminisced about his school years, which was the starting point of his creative success. Photo credit: Darryl Chan

Behind Don Richmond’s melodious tunes, like “Tomorrow’s Here Today”, the theme song for the National Day Parade 2016, is almost 20 years of hard work and dedication. Don, one of best local music talent, credits his former school, St Joseph’s Institution (SJI) for providing an environment that sparked his creativity and encouraged him to pursue his dreams.

“We were allowed to bring guitars to school and play it during break time. That helped in solidifying the social aspect of music making and possibilities of forging relationships that will carry on into adult life. I have some musician friends who still remember jamming in school. It didn't matter who you were or which standard you were from, if you could play and sing... let's jam,” said Don.

Don was actively involved in sports. He was part of SJI’s Rugby and Track and Field team. However, music was and has always been his number one love. He also joined the Interact Club, this was where he developed his stage skills and mastered the ability to entertain audiences. 

After being heavily involved in Interact Club, Don discovered that he was able to not just perform a song but also engaging his audiences to sing along. The experience sparked his interest to become an entertainer on top of just being another musician.

“The Interact Club proved quite useful because we would visit sister schools and perform in the events that their Interact Club held. Of course it was really an excuse to meet up with girls,” said Don as he laughs cheekily. 

Don is grateful to his parents for their support and encouragement throughout his music career. When he was younger, his dad would bring him to meet some of his peers who were musicians where he learnt a lot by listening to the stories they gathered throughout their careers. On the other hand, his mum is the emotional support system that he goes to whenever he hits a bumpy road and feels like giving up.

When Don first dabbled into the music scene, he had to dig deep and knock on many doors. Often times, experiencing unproductive situations where musicians do not share their methods and ideas freely as they do now.

Today, Don feels that aspiring musicians have many more opportunities. There are a lot of resources available online for them to tap on as compared to his early days of making music. He hopes to see fresh talents rise up to the scene. Here is his advice!

Get Inspired

We tend to write what we know. The more you live, the easier the writing becomes. So get out of your comfort zone. Talk to your friends. Listen to people around you.  Experience life as it happens and put that into your creative work.

Start making music with your friends. Creativity can be a positive result of working closely with a small group of friends and music is a good social activity. Instead of just sitting in front of your laptop, share your ideas, let loose and just have fun with your friends.

Stay relevant and build your brand image

Gone are the days when a musician should only be proficient in your chosen instrument. Everything is easy with technology! Music production now involves digital recording devices such as electronic midi gadgets, audio editing software and even your mobile phones! So explore these possibilities when making music. Sharing your music on social media platforms is a great way for musicians to promote and get feedback on your music. You can also film music videos and upload them on video-sharing websites such as YouTube.

Online mobile photo-sharing site like Instagram is a great way to market your work and reach out to potential new fans. This works well, especially for your followers who are interested in a short video or picture updates of your latest work.

Choose a music programme that suits you

Students who are musically-inclined and serious about music analysis, aural perception, composition and performances can explore programmes like the Music Elective Programme (MEP). The programme channels a focus into a young musician's journey, and allows students to pursue a more comprehensive study in music.

As one of the features of the programme, MEP students who pass Higher Music at the GCE 'O' Level Examination will be allowed to use their music grade in lieu of a Humanities subject for admission to Junior Colleges and Centralised Institutions.

“The MEP immerses a young musician in music and inevitably, a deeper understanding of who they are and what they want to do. I feel that immersion is the quintessential key to improving a craft by leaps and bounds. MEP is special as it focuses on the vital aspects in music,” said Don.

But there are different strokes for different folks. Some may be passionate about making music but do not read or write musical notes. These budding musicians can explore other music programmes offered by the schools. For example, those who are inclined towards electronic music production can check out CCAs like Republic Polytechnic’s Electronic Music Production (EMP).

Persistence is key

Having a good attitude is crucial. Mastering a musical instrument does not happen overnight. Aspiring musicians need to constantly practice and persevere in order to succeed in the ever competitive music industry. There may be times when you can’t seem to get it right, or when you seem to hit a creative wall, but spending time honing your craft will definitely lead to something great. It takes time, so keep calm and carry on.