Halfway Through Year 3

As the semester comes to an end, I feel that I should reflect on how the first half of my third year in NAFA went and my thoughts on my experiences as a third year student so far. It has been a meaningful and eventful 15 weeks, wow, where should I even begin…

If I would have to summarise my experience Year 3 Sem 1, it would be about

  1. Preparing us for the future
  2. Learning music that we are not used to
  3. Lots of singing
  4. Changing of mindset

Preparing us for the future

One major difference between Year 3 and Year 2 was that the modules and the lessons are planned in such a way that we become more independent and to equip us with skills that will be useful for our careers in future, no matter what we end up doing. “Career Skills” is obviously there to teach us skills for job application like writing CVs and Cover Letters, and “Instrumental and Vocal Teaching” (IVT) basically equips us with the skills and knowledge needed to teach music and the instrument we specialise in, especially from the beginner level. On top of that, our presentations are no longer just like, a group presents, answers some questions and then they’re done. Rather, it’s more like giving a 45min to an hour’s lecture to a classroom of students, together with worksheets and handouts for the students. I find that this style of presentation was really interesting and useful for me, as I learnt to communicate with people not only to present my information to them, but I also had to think of how to communicate with my audience in a most effective way and plan the content in such a way that someone without any prior knowledge to the topic can understand it. From the skills I have obtained, I have learnt more about life outside of school and preparing for my future, and experienced what is it like to be a teacher and empathising with other students’ concerns and needs.

Learning music we are not used to

Another impression I got from this semester was learning a lot about the musical elements about contemporary music and their styles, which is something that is foreign to many music students like me. We learnt about modern scales, modes, new ways of forming harmonies, extended techniques of instruments, discussed about the possibility of noise being music, introduced ourselves to contemporary musical trends and living composers, etc. It opened up my eyes to music beyond those that I am so used to listening, in particular music consisting of diatonic harmonies using traditional techniques. They say we are afraid of things we do not understand, and to be honest, learning about new types of music was strange to me, but after much research about the topics, I have grown to be interested in them. Those new musical concepts and elements are no longer foreign and peculiar to me. Some people may still find them weird, but I’m glad to have had the opportunity to learn about them.

Lots of Singing

Of course, how can we forget one of the things that took up most of our time in NAFA this semester- singing Bruckner’s Mass in F Minor and Pärt’s Te Deum with the SSC and SSO. Rehearsals in school, rehearsals at night every week at Victoria Concert Hall, contemplating what to eat for dinner before rehearsals, trying to keep in tune, trying to stay in tempo, rushing to complete my work at the wee hours of the night after rehearsals…those were definitely memorable times. As a student, it took up so much of my time that when it was all over, it felt like something huge was missing. I have never sung so much for so long in my entire life. I definitely enjoyed the experience and learnt plenty, but sadly it would be Mr Lim Yau’s last concert with the SSC.

Changing of Mindset

Finally, this section is more personal to me. While studying music full-time, sometimes I have doubts on choosing to study music, and sometimes I wonder whether I have made the wrong decision. We can all love something, but we might not do what we love as our job right? Music has been something that I’ve always wanted to do since I was a young age (and my parents still tease me today for what I said when I was a kid about wanting to do music), and when I am passionate about something, I tend to be very focused and want to do my best at it. However, studying music in school can be very stressful with lots of pressure all around. This semester definitely taught me to just take it slow and steady at my own pace, any progress is good progress and I should not worry about how fast or how slow I am progressing. Again, it is about quality and not quantity. Just like how my teacher said, it is okay if I only learnt half the exposition in a week, what matters is how I learn it.

One of the highlights of this semester is that I FINALLY GOT TO WATCH ANDRÁS SCHIFF IN CONCERT. He is someone that I have idolised since Year 1, and he was the one who made me realise my interest in Bach’s music. Listening to him perform made me finally realise what making music is all about. I was genuinely touched by his music and I guess that’s the direction we should all be heading towards. The days of playing as loud and as fast as we can are overrrr, above all the virtuosity, people still want to listen to music. Classical music is a form of art after all.

Super looooong reflection, but I’m glad I got it done and dusted, just in time before my last exam in 2 days time. Holidays are near, and my to-do list is pretty long!

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