Bravissimo! April 2020

Musician-Mom: “I Spend Each Morning Going From Child to Child”

A few weeks into the “circuit breaker” we caught up with mom of two, Elaine Yeo, SSO oboist and Associate Principal Cor Anglais, to see how her family has been managing.

Around this time of year, the SSO would usually be busy with outreach and educational programmes, including SSO Concerts for Children. This year, due to Singapore’s COVID-19 measures, concert halls have closed and SSO performances have been cancelled till June. Our musicians have also had their mid-year break brought forward.

As Singapore schools switched to home-based learning, parents and caregivers amongst our musicians have the added responsibility of minding their young charges round the clock.

A few weeks into the “circuit breaker”, we caught up with mother of two, Elaine Yeo, SSO oboist and Associate Principal Cor Anglais — to see how her family has been managing. Elaine, who’s been with the SSO since 1992, has two young children, ages 6 and 8; the younger child is in K2 and the older one is in Primary 2.

Before the “circuit breaker”

“Under normal circumstances, my two kids keep me very busy,” Elaine quipped. “After rehearsals at the SSO in the mornings, I usually spend my afternoons supervising homework and bringing my kids to extracurricular activities. We also have some outdoor time in the evenings for cycling or time at the nearby playground.

“It is only when they go to bed at night that I start practising, and prepare for the next week’s concert programme. I must admit that I have very tolerant neighbours!” she laughed.

As the family had gone on a holiday during the March school holidays, they all had to observe a 14-day Stay Home Notice before the circuit breaker began on 4 April. “In that sense, I already had a ‘taster’ of what being home-bound was like,” she said. “In fact, my children only had two days of school before the home-based learning started!”

Home with the kids

These days, the family starts their day relatively late. They enjoy a leisurely breakfast where Elaine and her husband squeeze in some news reading.

“We start ‘work’ at 9.30am and I’m in charge of supervising the children in their school work,” she said.

“I am fortunate in that we have a few rooms to work in, and I prefer to keep the children in separate rooms when they do their work. So I spend each morning going from child to child, supervising and teaching them from the home-based learning or activity books.”

This works all the way to lunch. In the afternoons, her children may have an online class, or she will try to organise an activity of sorts. It could be baking, doing an experiment, a craft, or simply playing some card or boardgames.

“Our current favourite card game is ‘Sleeping Queens’, and there’s always some TV time during late afternoons. To keep active, we play ‘Pepsi-Cola’ — a game I recently learnt — play with our pet dog Hugo and cat Tigger, or just let the kids scoot around.” An active runner, Elaine goes for her evening runs at the nearby PCN (Singapore’s Park Connector Network).

As I am more of a homebody, I don’t really miss going out too much. But I do miss eating out though, as it makes a change from our daily home cooked meals.

Elaine Yeo

What about music practice?

“I have decided to put aside my personal practice time for this month whilst my children are on home-based learning, as it is difficult to focus on both things at the same time,” she said, not without a tinge. “I hope to resume my practice schedule with a vengeance once school starts!”

“As they are still young, they need constant supervision. I suppose what I find the most challenging during this period is finding some ‘alone’ and ‘quiet’ time. This is when I retreat into my study at night when the family is asleep.”

On a positive note, Elaine noted that this has been a wonderful time for family-bonding and getting creative. “I am actually getting a little more sleep as I don’t have to wake up at 5.45am!”

See Elaine and her sister Karen, also an SSO musician, in a video interview about how they learned music as youths

Want to add some music to your home-based learning? Check out the latest issue of RhapSSOdy, SSO’s magazine for young people. This issue, we talk about music and folktales, the Singapore Symphony Children’s Choir, and share some sight-reading tips.

Find other learning resources from the SSO here, and head to #SSOPlayOn for music content for all ages.

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