Someplace, somewhere, on the small island of Singapore, in a school atop a tiny hill along a secluded road, something seemingly insignificant has occurred.
The A-level Music course has been cancelled.
The outcries arising from the student population are few and far between. Their voices have little to no effect on the overall grand scheme of things. There are, after all, only a small handful of students who have been affected by the change.
And here is one such insignificant voice.
I am a student currently taking the H2 A-level Music course, and I am deeply saddened by the fact that my juniors will no longer have the opportunity to study the same course. I have been told that I am far too idealistic for expecting the school to continue funding such an expensive program ultimately for the benefit of only a small, insignificant group of students. They say that I am out of touch with reality, unable to fully comprehend the economic limitations of the school. That I have to face the harsh reality that Music is not and never will be as important as other subjects – Mathematics, the Sciences, History and Geography. But I am tired of music always being the target, the scapegoat, the one which gets the ax when resources run thin. Music should not be cancelled.
When will people finally learn to appreciate the study of music – a pure pursuit for the mastery of a most ancient and pristine art form, of something so thoroughly woven in to each and every one of our lives, a constant source of courage, grief, strength and pain? As famous American poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow aptly puts it, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Denying our opportunity to study music is akin to denying our opportunity to study one of the most fundamental and integral aspects of human life.
The value of a music education should not be underestimated. Studying the history of music gives us a completely different and fresh perspective on the history of the human race – we learn about the shifting attitudes and perspectives of individuals and societies through the different types of music which prospered and thrived over time; how some societies valued simple rhythms and harmonies, while others valued complexity; how some valued traditional tonal music, while others valued the unconventional. Such unique insights into history will not be provided through any normal history lesson. And for an art form so deeply influential in shaping man’s experiences, it is no less significant.
The skills we obtain through the study of music are not just confined within the realm of music. They are transferable and applicable to other kinds of areas of study, and even useful in preparing us for working in the 21st century. Like other history students, we learn to apply critical-thinking and essay-writing skills as we argue about the conflicting opinions scholars hold on many controversial areas of music. Meanwhile, composition provides the platform to express our creativity, and practical performance trains us to handle our nerves and focus under pressure. These skills are undoubtedly useful beyond the realm of music – critical-thinking in solving environmental problems; creativity in innovation; maintaining composure when making a speech in front of a crowd. Even for a student who does not continue his music education in tertiary institutions, his education will continue to benefit him in his future endeavors.
If the school does not fully believe in the importance of studying music, then I implore upon the school to think of teaching Music as a kind of long-term investment. In return for the current costs it takes to fund the program, the school will one day attain prestige for raising some of the best musicians in Singapore. Imagine how good it would look on our school record to have students not only excelling in Mathematics and the Sciences, but also in other areas like Coding and Music. There is potential that a student from our very own school could one day be at the vanguard of the Singapore music scene, leading local talents on to the international stage. The school might one day be credited for pushing the boundaries of the Singaporean music scene.
But I do believe that the school administration is not completely oblivious to or ignorant about the power that music holds. They are forced to cancel the program due to practical concerns – the lack of financial capabilities needed to continue supporting the program. This is understandable, considering the high costs needed to not only employ music teachers (which do not go cheaply) but also to purchase and maintain the quality of music instruments.
But let us not succumb to such a circumstance. I have a proposal; why not let the Music students themselves supplement the funding of the program? Why not let the Music students organize their own concerts and musicals to raise funds? This not only encourages students to take initiative in organizing their own concerts and think creatively of how best to advertise their event and sell tickets, but is also an opportunity to show off to members of the public the creativity and musical ability of the students in the school. Furthermore, it even inculcates a sense of gratitude in the students, as the students pay back to the school using the education and training they receive. And above all else, it is ultimately a celebration of the beauty and power of music.
Hopefully, this insignificant voice from an insignificant school from an insignificant country has convinced you that our school should allow us to continue our music studies. I hope that the school will reconsider its decision, and view the cancelling of the music program only as a last resort in dire economic circumstances. I trust that the school administration recognizes that there are alternatives to ease the economic burden the school faces.
Let us study music.
Let us pursue our dreams.