As the seventh child in her family, Nur Asyikin lived in a one-room rental flat with nine other siblings. Her parents worked hard to make ends meet, but it was tough. At a tender age of nine, Asyikin learned to take care of her younger siblings and helped with the housework.
Amidst these demanding circumstances of life, Asyikin did not entertain any thoughts of learning a musical instrument. But now, she takes on a leadership role in the school’s Junior Orchestra, conducts the singing of national anthem during flag raising each morning and hopes to become a professional musician one day.
It all started during music lessons at Dazhong Primary School (DZPS). Asyikin would pay rapt attention and it wasn’t long before her keen sense of interest caught the attention of her music teacher. In Primary Three, she was given the chance to join the school’s Junior Orchestra (JO) Co-curricular Activity (CCA), Inspiratum@DZPS. Asyikin was dedicated. Her teachers quickly observed improvements in her musicianship and gave her opportunities to fulfil her leadership potential.
“Now I’m more confident about leading younger members and my parents have also asked me to mentor my brother,” shared Asyikin.
Providing Opportunities through the Arts
The Learning for Life programme (LLP) at Dazhong Primary focuses on Arts Education by providing students with exposure to music, the visual arts, drama, and dance. For example, in exposure to music, all students would have learnt basic violin skills by Primary Three. Those who show aptitude and interest can then further choose to hone their skills by choosing to join a variety of arts-related CCAs like the Junior Orchestra, which is an extension of the programme.
Taking an inclusive approach, the Junior Orchestra provides the group of 85 students with access to learning an individual instrument and music education in a deeper way.
Physical challenges caused Jovi Siow, 12, to be self-conscious and shy. He struggled to look people in the eye. But as he pursued his passion in music through the orchestra, he found himself able to achieve and grew more confident. It was inspiring for his parents and teachers to see him take on the role of a sectional leader, proudly guiding his juniors and passing on his tuba playing skills.
Such personal qualities of independence and teamwork are what Mrs Dawn Kuah, Subject Head of Aesthetics and special advisor to the CCA, looks out for. When students learn these values, they are able to work effectively as an orchestra, producing music that people want to hear, and doing justice to the notes a composer has written.
To play their part, each student musician has to work hard and persevere at his or her musical instrument. Not all musical practice is fun and it is at times challenging and repetitive. They need to practise continuously, and continue to do so to maintain that high standard once they have attained it. Through the experience, they develop rigour and discipline – values that are essential for anyone who hopes to accomplish and achieve.
Hard work certainly paid off for 9-year-old Ganesh Anuratha Kaosalya. With her natural inclination towards music, sense of discipline and the provision of learning opportunities in the orchestra, she is now able to play the violin, trumpet and other percussion instruments such as the drums.
Instilled at a young age, these values and qualities will shape their approach towards life as they grow up, and prepare them to achieve in other areas as well, shared Mrs Kuah.
Garnering Parental Support
As early as seven on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, students stream through the school gate with musical cases and schoolbags, and head up to the music rooms for a quick practice before school starts.
These optional Morning Buzz sessions complement the usual CCA sessions on Tuesdays and Fridays, and are supported by parents. They volunteer to set up the music rooms, and interact with the students. Seeing parents interested and involved in their school activities motivate and encourage the students.
“Parents have seen improvements in their children and discovered how much value music has for our youths,” shared Mrs Kuah, who noted the feedback received during Parent-Teacher meetings and through surveys with parents.
The Dazhong Primary School Junior Orchestra will be performing at the National Gallery, with the String Ensemble from Methodist Girls’ School, as part of the Singapore Youth Festival Celebrations. Catch their performance on 30 June 2018, 3.30pm or 4.30pm.