The research is now clear: music and the performing arts deliver myriad intellectual, social and emotional benefits to students. No longer viewed as supplementary subjects, they are a core part of the academic curriculums at international schools globally. We caught up with five students to find out what ignites their musical passion and how they benefit from it.
#1 Musical Passion: Singing
Student: Ledy Manurung, 18 years, Indonesian (Grade 12)
School: St Joseph’s Institution International (SJI International)
Years at the school: 4
Years of music tuition: 9
Ledy loves singing – watch her perform just one song and her delight shines through. “This has been my passion since I started singing in church when I was young,” she says. “When I sing I feel overjoyed and extraordinary, and it makes me forget about my worries for a while.” She is immersed in talent-nurturing opportunities at SJI International, the International Baccalaureate Music programme being just the beginning.
She has performed in school musicals (lead roles in Bugsy Malone in 2014 and in Hairspray this year), won first place in the “SJI International’s Got Talent” competition in 2015, and in March was a special guest at the performance of the Yale Alley Cats, a touring a capella group from the US. Outside of school, her list of achievements is impressive. Last year she played a lead role in Gelar Budaya, one of SMU’s largest annual musical productions; she has sung at the Indonesian Embassy for the Ambassador and his guests; and in 2014 she made the semi-finals of Crescendo, an inter-school music competition. “The best part of singing is that I get to entertain other people,” says Ledy. “I love the feeling when I make them feel happy – seeing the smiles on their faces shows me that they are enjoying my singing.”
On the Stage at SJI International
The performing arts are an intrinsic part of SJI International’s school culture, and students are provided with many opportunities to express themselves creatively both inside and outside the classroom. A foundation IGCSE course is offered in Grades 7 and 8 in Music and Drama, while IGCSE Music and Drama is taught in Grades 9 and 10. Students in Grades 11 and 12 undertake the IB Diploma Programme in the Visual Arts, Music and Theatre. All students are encouraged to participate in at least one extracurricular creative activity, selected from a range of music, drama and dance opportunities. Group activities include orchestra, choir, Brazilian samba drumming, ukulele, jazz band, brass ensemble and the musical theatre company. There’s also an instrumental tuition programme that offers private lessons for woodwind, brass, string and percussion instruments. Students also have the opportunity to get involved in major school events, such as the bi-annual school production, Arts Week, Drama Night, Battle of the Bands, talent shows, the Singapore Chingay Parade and musical performances at various locations, including the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
The value of music exams
“Children gain many important life skills from music exams, including time management and discipline – and it’s a great chance to test performance skills. Those who find exams too intimidating may find holiday music camps a meaningful alternative; not only will they provide a memorable learning experience, they’re a fun way to spend a holiday!”
– Bina Jung from Aureus Academy
#2 Musical Passion: Singing
Student: Nadia Liu, 10, American
School: Stamford American International School (Stamford)
Years at Stamford: 1.5
Years of music tuition: 2
“When I took my bow at the end of the show I felt very satisfied that all the hard work had paid off,” says Nadia, who was the lead in this year’s musical production of Mulan. The musical involved a cast of 90 children from Grades 3 to 5. “Getting to know a lot of people was fun, the props were cool, and the rehearsals and auditioning was fun too.” Nadia’s other passion is piano, and she takes weekly lessons at Stamford at times that fit in with her academic schedule.
#3 Musical Passion: Flute
Student: Ayaka Ishida, 10, Japanese
Years at Stamford: 3.5
Years of music tuition: 2
Ayaka is really taking advantage of the breadth of activities on offer at Stamford. As well as the weekly flute lessons she’s been taking for the past two years, she participates in the swim team, and because she also has a passion for singing, she enjoyed being a part of the choir last year. Ayaka had a lead role in Mulan and loved the costumes. “Making a bunch of new friends from the musical was great,” she says.
#4 Musical Passion: Drums
Student: Chrisllynn Siah, 11, Singaporean
Years at Stamford: 7
Years of music tuition: 8
“Playing drums is fun and it feels like exercising,” says Chrisllynn. “If I’m having a hard day it’s good to hit things! And I like the feeling of the music through my body.” Chrisllynn takes twice-weekly drum lessons at school and one lesson a week outside school. She is now learning and practising techniques in preparation for her Grade 6 exams. Chrisllynn was a lead in the cast of Mulan and is enthusiastic about the benefits of participating: “We learnt about time management, and how to balance homework with rehearsals and learning our lines at home.”
On the Stage at Stamford
Students at Stamford can begin their musical education with the world-renowned Suzuki Violin Program from three years of age, with the option to progress to the cello from the age of five. Specialist music lessons for a choice of 12 musical instruments are available, and there are more than 20 choral, string, orchestral or rock ensembles to join. Performance is encouraged both at concerts in the 500-seat Reagan Theatre and at weekly lunchtime recitals. The five full-scale musicals and drama productions held annually are dedicated elementary and secondary school productions. They are opportunities for students to showcase their talents and the skills they’ve developed through the International Baccalaureate curriculum.
#5 Musical Passion: Violin
Student: Christopher Li, 14 years, Australian (Grade 9)
School: Dover Court International School (DCIS)
Years at Dover Court: 4
Years of music tuition: 4
Christopher Li counts the violin as one of his many talents; he also spends time writing and video-editing, and is a member of the student council. At DCIS, Christopher participates in the school orchestra, and in the new Dover Court TV studio. DCIS participates in the Global Campus Orchestra programme, and last June Christopher successfully auditioned to attend a week-long workshop at The Juilliard School in New York City. This was quite an accomplishment, as hundreds of other students tried out for this highly sought-after programme.
Christopher excels at writing, too. He achieved first place in the Global Campus Creative Writing Competition this year with his composition Kamal. About attending DCIS, Christopher says, “The teachers care about the students; there are many opportunities to try new things and learn; people are kind; students are free to think independently and creatively. It’s a great place to go to school!”
Music at DCIS
All students at DCIS benefit from the collaboration between Nord Anglia and The Juilliard School in New York. This embedded arts curriculum with music at its core helps children learn discipline, collaboration and problem-solving skills. The Core Music Repertoire, a foundation of the programme, is built around 12 categories of music that explore a wide variety of genres, styles and cultures. Each category is exemplified by an iconic work, with opportunities for visits by practising musicians and the development of creative skills such as improvisation and composition. Students are also connected to Juilliard’s worldwide network of performers, artists and teachers, through regular workshops, master classes and performances held at DCIS. Extracurricular activities such as choir, orchestra and individual music instruction enrich and improve the overall learning experience.
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Tips for preparing a nervous child for a public performance:
- While coping with stage fright is a constant battle for performers of all ages and abilities, there are ways to overcome the adrenaline rush.
- Plan rehearsals and mini-performances; these will eventually ease the nerves, while helping to build stage confidence.
- Provide encouraging words at the end of a performance (no matter how big or small the audience is) as this will contribute to a positive performing experience.
- Record their performances. Not only a fun way to show children how they look when they’re on stage, it also offers a chance to discuss areas of improvement.
- Practise in concert attire at home. This is a great way for a child to get used to the performance setting while looking fabulous!
- If a child is absolutely resistant to performing, wait for a more appropriate time for them to play rather than forcing them into what might be a traumatic experience.
– Bina Jung from Aureus Academy
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