The Music Circle!
Team TMC shot by The Studio Loft - I love spontaneous photos more than posed ones for sure! (Photo courtesy of The Music Circle Singapore)
One of the most compelling reasons for my move back home to Singapore is the existence of The Music Circle. The seeds of The Music Circle were planted in early 2015, one semester before graduating from my Master's degree. I received an email from a dear friend I've known for more than 10 years who wanted connect me with a colleague of hers interested in setting up a music education company. The first thing that came to my mind was, "Are there not enough music schools in Singapore, do we really need one more?" Teaching in music schools in Singapore or setting up one was never on my radar, nothing I was interested in or planned for. Since this came from a friend and colleague I trusted a lot, I agreed to e-meet her colleague and speak with him about his plan. Who knows right?
E-meetings turned into lengthy emails and discussions and the only reason why I considered building The Music Circle was how our views on music education aligned. There was the possibility to build a team that could make a greater impact than what I'm capable of achieving as an individual music pedagogue.
The first email dates 23rd January 2013 and we've been working on TMC since.
Excitement built up with plans for TMC before I was due to move back in 2016 and then…. the decision to pursue my DMA happened. *More insight on my dilemma here!* I genuinely felt guilty but I also knew that there was no way I could move back to SG, build TMC and leave to do my DMA again. If I wasn’t ready, things will probably not work out either. I volunteered to find another suitable partner for the company since it wasn’t fair to the rest to keep them from building TMC. It would have been selfish of me to expect them to wait till I finished up my DMA, who knew how long DMA would take anyway.
Blessing in disguise
After the initial shock from my announcement and much discussion, the team decided they would wait for me to complete my DMA. It was a huge risk they were taking, and the initial pressure I felt was immense. As it turns out, waiting to secure a permanent space till a few years later also ended up to be a blessing in disguise for us since we were not constantly battling rental-related financial woes. The downside was that without a permanent space, it was tough for the team shuttling to and from our classes, bringing our array of instruments from heavy keyboards to percussion instruments, equipment from projectors to speakers. We would never have survived without Clarence’s diligence, sweat and most importantly trusty Outback, in ferrying all our equipment sometimes up to 4 times a week, as well as the patience and cooperation of the team.
Our kiddos at our shoot with The Studio Loft
(Photo courtesy of The Music Circle Singapore)
Throughout the 2.5 years, the team worked together on various projects, and we learnt a huge deal without being tied down to a physical space - many lessons learnt the hard way. Aside from regular holiday camps, we also worked closely with ARC Children’s Centre - what initially started as a holiday camp turned into weekly music lessons. Now the ARC team headed by Alyssa has an incredible relationship with Ronita and Geraldine, the guardian angels of our precious kids at the Centre, and also helps in producing and preparing the kids for ARC’s annual gala lunch.
The team has also been writing curriculum for pre-schools, composing and producing our own music, planning lessons and training pre-school teachers to teach weekly music classes. The Junior Circle classes were also successfully launched and our first batch of students are already in their 3rd term and we are looking forward to so much more at the Academy once we launch our physical space soon!
During the time I was in the US, the team was extremely patient and we survived Skype meetings as well as my MIA-ness during recital and comps seasons. There was a lot of adjustment done for me to work remotely but I’m glad that all worked out.
Since 2015 when Clarence and I spoke about starting TMC, we also started to search for a suitable team – like-minded educators who believed in the same vision to build a music community focused on the enjoyment of quality music, character building in our kids as well as the love for learning. Building the team was and still is the toughest part of the journey and I’m extremely proud of how the core team has turned out. It was with extreme patience and a lot of support from our friends and colleagues plus luck that we have managed to bring together an incredibly strong core team - our MD Clarence Yap, our head of Piano Academy Dr. Alyssa Koay, our pre-school specialist Sylvia Seow and our music producer and honorary teacher Kim Eun Hyung along with many of our treasured assistant teachers. I’m constantly amazed by how creative the team members are we are truly blessed that the team has such varied expertise and complement each other perfectly.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” -Helen Keller
Clarence has incredibly experience with management and all the sorts of skills musicians really lack. He brings so much perspective to the table that sometimes music educators are blinded by and he definitely balances out us 3 other OCD ladies on our core team. =)
Alyssa, I've known since we were in Boulder. We performed my first and her last recital in Boulder together in 2011, cooked, ate, hiked, travelled, done silly things together and as it turns out, she eventually married a lucky Singaporean and moved to Singapore! =) I’m always in awe of this girl – amazingly musical pianist, writes and draws well, incredibly adventurous and tech savvy, and we are extremely fortunate to have her on the team. I always wonder “what can’t Alyssa do, really?” And now she’s super mummy as well!
Post-recital in Boulder (2011) where we baked/cooked and prepared our entire Asian reception ourselves! Pity I don't have food photos...
Sylvia I've known for a while just in passing but was reintroduced by my 92steel&guts partner-in-crime when TMC was looking for like-minded pre-school educators. Everything Sylvia does for her daughter Allie and for the TMC pre-school program shows how much love she has for her family and for education. Her creativity and energy is boundless and her passion for education drives her to painstakingly write lesson plans late in the nights when her daughter has gone to bed.
I've learnt a great deal from the team as well as the initial years building TMC and am constantly being inspired. Of course, with different backgrounds and training, we do often have opposing views, but nothing that cannot be resolved through communication and the understanding that our goals are perfectly aligned; we all want the best for our kids, families and community. We are all still constantly learning to work as a team, but are getting better at it each day. With each new project and situation, each team member takes on a different role - we act as supporters in some and leaders in another and that requires incredible flexibility. There is also the fine balance of working together as a team but at the same time allowing each educator to have their own freedom for creativity and to achieve individual passion. My hope is that even in tougher times we will continue to support and fuel each other’s passion. As we continue to learn how to work as a team, we're also looking forward to welcoming more like-minded educators as we grow!
TMC School Launch - Spark Festival
We will finally be moving into our own space at Farrer Road in a couple of weeks and you cannot imagine the excitement we all have. For years, the team has been envisioning our dream school and with high rental prices, limitations of finances, this will be the closest we are getting to our vision and we are contented! We wished for a space the TMC community including the team, students and parents can call home and we are certain the space we are moving into will be it. It's a cosy and extremely humble venue with a tiny cafe, flexible layout which can be converted into a recital space all made possible by our IDs SuperSkinny. We will officially be launching our home with the Spark Festival from June 1-10 and I can’t wait to share this space and our launch with everyone!
This is really, just the beginning!