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SSO and the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory

Forty years is a significant landmark, particularly in the Singaporean context. After all, few national orchestras internationally can offer that their existence traces the transformations across almost 80% of their nation’s independent history.

It is also a time to reflect on contributions of many people who have devoted significant periods of their professional and artistic life to the cause, particularly for a number of founding members. I would like to acknowledge the pioneers for all they have done to help music evolve in Singapore, and for their continued passion for both music and their country.

Having worked closely now with the SSO’s players and administrative team for more than 12 years during my tenure at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory (YST), and having witnessed the notable evolutions in the orchestra’s programming and productions, it is fascinating to reflect on SSO and YST’s co-evolution as seen through our shared community.

The contributions of the orchestra’s principal chairs – many of whom have been teaching at the Conservatory since its establishment in 2003 – have been pivotal in shaping the Conservatory, as have been the masterclass offerings by many of the world’s finest players that the SSO has attracted to Singapore.

The SSO hired new players from YST’s first cohort and subsequently from almost every graduating class. Today there are at least 10 YST alumni in the orchestra, who have won auditions and taken jobs in the orchestra over the past decade, with a number of others set to join upon graduation. And most pleasingly, we have seen some alumni deepening the connection, joining the orchestra as well as returning to us as a part-time faculty members. Beyond the permanent players, we are aware of many more connections – including indeed a range of faculty and alumni soloists and even several of the SSO’s conductors!

Our period of mutual growth came also from the SSO establishing the Esplanade as its principal performance venue and the revamping of the Victoria Concert Hall – both of which map onto the second half of Lan Shui’s tenure as Music Director – as well as the establishment of the Conservatory in 2003 and the opening of the YST Conservatory building in 2006. Together, the picture painted of Singapore is of an ever-more vibrant and sophisticated regional musical hub, connecting performance education with community outreach. As we celebrate the orchestra’s 40th anniversary, this all in all begins to represent a close allegiance of conservatory and orchestra typical of many mature orchestral environments in other world capitals.

Typical of many 21st century organisations, we have been close allies in responding to evolving societal expectations, reflected both through transforming social media platforms and in developments in what is asked of today’s artists. On this celebratory occasion, we at the Conservatory are confident our relationship will become ever-more symbiotic in the immediate future.

Professor Lanskey is Dean of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.