This post is a direct response to Dr. Marc Rochester’s concert review on his blog post, “A Secret Stabat Mater”, dated 15th April 2017: <http://drmarcsblog.marcrochester.com/2017/04/a-secret-stabat-mater.html?m=1>.
I could not think of a better place to post this other than here. Other suggestions for better platforms to post this are gladly welcomed.
My name is Ching Si Min Evangeline, currently a third-year student at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). On the 14th of April, I was involved in my school’s performance of Rossini’s Stabat Mater as a chorus member. Overall, I felt that the concert was a success and the performers did well. I am pleased to know that classical music critic and lecturer Dr. Marc Rochester has attended our concert and enjoyed it. Although I appreciate the positive review he has given on the concert, I would like to address some issues he has pointed out, in particular his observation of a ‘badly-behaved audience’ and the assumptions he has made.
What appalled me in his concert review was the third paragraph, where he stated that the audience, majority of whom were students from NAFA, were having an ‘internal party’ of some sort, oblivious to what was going on during the concert as apparent to the ‘comprehensive texting, selfies and chatter’. He went on to assume that NAFA does not teach its students to listen to music, but training students to be ‘manufacturers but not consumers is the policy when it comes to music colleges’ in the next paragraph.
To start off, Dr. Rochester observed that although the concert received a large audience, the largest portion of the audience consisted of students from NAFA. I can safely assume that Dr. Rochester was referring to students from the NAFA School of Music, not from the larger student population as a whole. While I was on stage, I did observe the people in the audience. Being a NAFA student myself, so are most of us onstage, we could definitely recognise our fellow schoolmates who were in the audience supporting us. I can assure Dr. Rochester and everyone reading this that NAFA students definitely did not make up majority of the audience. Despite a large number of NAFA students, there were also parents, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, music enthusiasts, and not forgetting NAFA staff and alumni. Moreover, with a 151 students performing (out of a total student population of about 230), it is highly unlikely that majority of the audience members were NAFA students. Therefore, the observation Dr. Marc Rochester had made was simply based on assumption.
Secondly, regarding the assumption he made about NAFA students not taught to listen to music and are only trained to be music makers, I would like to take a moment to enlighten everyone.
In NAFA, all of the students enter with their own Principal Study- basically the instrument we specialise in (unless you’re a Composer then composition is your Principal Study). In NAFA, we are always being asked what makes a good musician, what is expected as a full-time musician and/or music student. A lot is expected out of us for our Principal Studies, but that is definitely not sufficient to be a good musician. In my three years in NAFA, we are taught the importance of having good musicianship, being knowledgable on the historical background of the music, as well as being able to describe different musical elements in the music we play or listen to. All these will change the way we listen to music. NAFA students attend concerts on a regular basis, with the weekly Music Platform where our own students perform to their fellow schoolmates. A large number of us also attend concerts and open rehearsals externally, whether as a school or on our own time. So who says NAFA students are never taught to listen to music? When we become more sensitive in our listening, we become more sensitive to our playing. We become better musicians, not music manufacturers. The school has definitely played a part in cultivating us in the right direction, it is up to the students to decide what kind of musician they want to be in future.
In conclusion, even if the audience did behave poorly during the concert, Dr. Marc Rochester’s initial observation that majority of the members in the audience were NAFA students was a baseless assumption to begin with. Moreover, he made a bold assumption about NAFA and NAFA students based on that baseless assumption. As such, his comments about NAFA and NAFA students are biased and derogatory. I am not against criticism, but constructive comments should carry some weight to them. Surely someone who has done this for some time knows the level of professionalism required to maintain one’s credibility?