EMA Participant Interview - KOH Mui Leng, Assistant marketing communications manager, Singapore Chinese Orchestra
K: Ms KOH Mui Leng, Assistant marketing communications manager, Singapore Chinese Orchestra
R: Reporter (Ms Lui Pui Ying)
R: What makes you join the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and when?
K: I joined SCO in 2004 for a simple reason – because I love music. I am a trained pianist and learnterhu in my secondary school years. After I completed my studies, it was a natural choice for me to want to pursue my career in music and SCO gave me the opportunity to pursue my interest.
R: It seems that your group’s vision is to be different from Chinese orchestras from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and to have your own style. What does the group do to help achieve the goal? Can you briefly share with us ?
K: SCO’s vision is to be a world-renowned Chinese Orchestra with a uniquely Singaporean character. We are different because we maximise the potential of where Singapore is located to make it our artistic strategic advantage. Singapore is surrounded by neighbouring countries of multi-racial elements and multicultural heritage hence SCO developed our unique genre of music we call it “Nanyang” music (南洋音�). Nanyang elements can be presented by music composers through instrumental additions or notations or through adding in certain music elements to enable audience to connect with the geographical land the Singapore audience lives in.
This goal is an on-going process. SCO started the “Singapore International Competition for Chinese Orchestral Composition” in 2006 and reorganised in 2011 and 2015 to build our repertoire and exposure to our composers on Nanyang music. With the gradual increase in new repertoire, audience needs to be educated and be exposed and be able to accept this new music genre. SCO is mindful not to move away from the core music genre – Chinese music – but to embrace Nanyang music as every Singapore audience’s form of national identity as they support the Singapore national Chinese orchestra. SCO will also inject a piece of Nanyang music into every SCO concert as a way of educating our audience of how unique SCO is through our music genre, sound and style. These are some examples of efforts SCO did to achieve our vision with that “Singaporean character”.
R: Is it easy to promote Chinese music to young people in Singapore ? From the marketing perspective, what have you done to make Chinese music attractive and interesting to young people ?
K: Not so, if you know the strategy to reach out to young people. Over the past 5 years, SCO have progressively introduced technology into how we deliver our information and to engage our audience. SCO was the 1st Chinese orchestra worldwide to develop our own mobile and tablet apps and our apps are available for download free on iTunes (Apple) and Google Playstore (Android). SCO music tracks (with Nanyang music) can also be heard on our apps for free (in mp3 format).
We have also enhanced our content on social media and have also branched out into Instagram, beside our strong following on Facebook. In 2017, we just recently started our official WeChat channel to reach out to audience in mainland China. WeChat is our strategy to reach out to China’s young people, particularly those who are music conservatory students. We tap on WeChat to share SCO’s concerts and to promote digital concert high-definition online streaming.
SCO started Digital Concert in November 2016 to reach out to international audience. Young people who like convenience and who likes new experiences would try to watch a concert through the gadgets they own.
We also involve our young audience by allowing certain concerts for them to vote for repertoire they’d like to hear, and SCO will fulfill it in that concert. This is to entice them to purchase a student ticket to watch the live concert and hear the repertoire they’ve voted. We have also introduced a “Buddy Bundle” for every young audience to bring a friend at a special price.
Lastly, we have also implemented webisodes of a novice guide to Chinese orchestra, choreographed in a modern way to package Chinese music as stylish and easy-to-understand.
R: In what ways you find the cultural ecology in Hong Kong different from Singapore ?
K: Cultural elements in the environment and the society shapes the overall cultural ecology in every country. In Singapore, the government has been providing strong support in terms of funding and a policy to shape the arts scene, groom local talents to promote local arts and culture to the young generation. In my opinion, Hong Kong is also seeing an ageing population (like Singapore). Based on the arts I have attended in Hong Kong, I see a big percentage of middle-aged to senior-aged audience instead of the young adults and students. Although Hong Kong’s arts scene is vibrant but attendance seem to be pro-seniors and that also made me wonder if most box office revenue were derived from concession prices instead of regular ticket prices. A cultural policy may not be present in Hong Kong but arts organisations may need to plan further to strategise positioning and market their shows based on audience development and sustainability. Without developing and exposing our future audience to be current audience, arts may not be able to sustain healthily.
R: I know a colleague of you from SCO pursued the EMA programme before you. Does the programme meet with your expectations?
K: The EMA programme came to me by chance. I did not pursue EMA with any specific expectations but with an open mind, to learn new insights and explore new ways of applying to what I do.
R: What makes you join our EMA programme?
K: I wanted to pursue further self-development and have actually enrolled in Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University’s Master of Mass Communications pro- gramme. My Executive Director knew of my intention to study hence introduced me to EMA. It is a timely chance to broaden my horizon into the arts and learn more about the wider scope of arts management. EMA has definitely enriched me.
R: Do you think the EMA programme can fit your expectation? What have you learned to help your career development?
K: The learning was derived through peers, through lessons from lecturers, and through our sharing of experiences. These experiences enabled me to reflect and to strategise what I could possibly do, moving forward, for SCO. I pursue EMA for self-development and to see what I can do more for SCO. I simply hope that knowledge I have gained would enable me to pursue more new initiatives for SCO to strengthen SCO’s branding in Singapore and overseas.
R: Please use one word to describe the EMA programme.
K: Enriching and enlightening.