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How SSO, SCO work with National Arts Council to support freelance musicians during Covid-19 crisis

In recent weeks, a story of a Singaporean conductor who returned from overseas and became a food delivery worker has captured the imagination of many Singaporeans (“Gen Y Speaks: I was a conductor in opera houses around the world till Covid-19 hit. Now I deliver food in S'pore”; Feb 28).

A file photo from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s Celebrating Bach II live concert at the Victoria Concert Hall in December 2020.

A file photo from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s Celebrating Bach II live concert at the Victoria Concert Hall in December 2020.

Terence Ho, Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Chng Hak-Peng, Singapore Symphony Group

In recent weeks, a story of a Singaporean conductor who returned from overseas and became a food delivery worker has captured the imagination of many Singaporeans (“ Gen Y Speaks: I was a conductor in opera houses around the world till Covid-19 hit. Now I deliver food in S'pore”; Feb 28).

As the leading classical music employers in Singapore, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) empathise with Mr Amos Chiya and all freelance musicians who have been hit hard by the pandemic. 

In the initial two quarters of the pandemic, the uncertain financial situation led both orchestras to cease all hiring and engagements, except for freelance video, audio and technical professionals and crew for digital recordings. 

Once the situation stabilised, both orchestras worked with the National Arts Council (NAC) to create opportunities for the freelance music community.

First, jobs. 

SSO created five SGUnited positions and also resumed hiring for five more full-time positions.

Mr Chiya applied for a number of these positions and we invited him for a placement test, but he was unfortunately unable to attend, and has not yet scheduled an alternate date to take the test. 

As the position remains open, Mr Chiya is still eligible to continue with the recruitment process. He did not apply for any positions with the SCO.

Second, performances. 

The orchestras have provided free venues for freelance artists’ digital recordings, produced video concerts featuring freelance musicians (who were paid for the engagement), and presented them in live performances. 

Third, community. 

In the course of the pandemic, many of our overseas-based musicians have returned and we have been heartened to see them coming together to put up innovative digital performances in the past year, tapping grants from NAC to create work opportunities for themselves and other freelancers.

Tapping the creative talent of our freelance musicians and nurturing the talent of young musicians is part of the fundamental mission of both orchestras. 

To help young conductors hone their craft, both orchestras have held conducting workshops in recent years. 

Aspiring conductors such as Mr Chiya have participated in some of these artistic development programmes, including an SCO workshop where he had the chance to learn from Cultural Medallion recipient and SCO music director, Maestro Tsung Yeh. 

Both national orchestras continually track and evaluate aspiring Singaporean musicians and composers, and both have programmes to introduce the best of these to the public when they are ready.

As the threat from the global pandemic continues to recede and the concert situation in Singapore normalises, both SSO and SCO will be able to offer more performance opportunities for Singaporean musicians and composers. 

We encourage the public to show their support for our homegrown talents by coming especially to these concerts, and watching the orchestra’s digital concerts that feature local compositions.

ABOUT THE WRITERS:

Terence Ho is executive director of Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Chng Hak-Peng is chief executive officer of Singapore Symphony Group.

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

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SSO Singapore Chinese Orchestra musician freelance NAC Covid-19

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