This is Sing50 versus local musicians

Sing50 has drawn flak online for buying 50 highly costly pianos with a $346,000 fund, with the intention to donate them to schools thereafter. Their actions have been criticized by local musicians, who claim that the funds could have been put to better use. But who is right? We present both of their arguments.

In the red corner: Sing50

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The idea for Sing50 was born out of the annual ChildAid charity concert co-organised by The Straits Times and Business Times (that’s why there’re so many articles about Sing50 on ST). Sing50 is unrelated to SG50.

The Sing50 fund is a private sector initiative and $368,000 has been raised so far from fundraising. No government money is being used.

50 Steinway-designed Lang Lang pianos are being bought at cost price. Steinway Gallery had approached the Sing50 organisers with the offer, following the board’s decision to donate the pianos to schools.

The Sing50 concert is to be held on August 7, and will feature said 50 pianos in one of its segments. Auditions are open, and organisers are looking for pianists, orchestra musicians, rappers (wat), and choir performers (no experience required). Also, no remuneration except for food provided.

The Sing50 fund would go beyond buying pianos and 2015 — community outreach is a priority, with musical instruments, instructors and learning materials to be provided to schools. The fund aims to develop a knowledge of and appreciation for Singapore songs, by showing the younger generation music popular in the 60s and 70s and current music to the older generation.

Something like this, we hope!

The fund will also be used to hold an annual vocal competition with original songs and music from Singapore’s pop culture heritage.

In the other corner: local musicians

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The Sing50 organisers were slammed for buying costly pianos and donating them to schools for children to “appreciate”. Complaints ranged from them not buying cheaper but still good pianos, to shunning local piano makers, and attaching a non-local pianist (Lang Lang) to the pianos’ brand.

Daniel Peters, editor of local music site Bandwagon, does not think the placing of pianos in schools would cultivate students’ interest in music; they would be more repulsed by local music instead due to schools’ environments, where students are force-fed with songs like “Count On Me Singapore”.

Regardless, 100 schools have applied for these pianos.

Overall, homegrown musicians do not feel schools and Sing50 are going about music education in the right way, as appreciation cannot be force-fed and expected to be liked simply with providing pianos.

The implied force-feeding of “Singapore music” to the younger generation left musicians with questions about the lack of funding for local musicians so that they can perform overseas and locally.  There is also a disturbing lack of attention given to local bands within the fund.

Bands also questioned the lack of remuneration for Sing50 performers, citing transport costs and the requirement of being committed for months as suitable grounds for paying performers. One critic said not paying participants was mind-blowing and goes counter to the organisers’ ambition of “build(ing) up a sense of affinity and community among ourselves as Singaporeans”. Isa Foong of local act sub:shaman wondered why money to be spent on pianos was not going into paying performers.

Organisers not going to pay performers, and that’s final

 

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Colin Goh, executive producer of the Sing50 concert and manager of the Sing50 fund announced that the fund will be used to support local musicians and promote their work, but that was only after the backlash (report dated 22 January). Goh, who also runs The RICE Company Limited, a non-profit organization for the arts, said he was “encouraged” by the audition response, proving that they do not need to pay the performers.

Really? Just because Sing50 concert is a “mega concert at the National Stadium together with professional musicians in celebration of Singapore’s rich musical heritage over the last 50 years”? These people are spending their precious time promoting music and you’re not going to give them a single cent for their efforts because the concert is supposed to be “exposure” for them. Shame on you and other operators who exploit musicians for their hard work.

Better ways for funds to be used

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No, not like in the gif.

Some people have come up with several other ways for the funds to be used over buying expensive pianos, such as funding and hosting new music venues and festivals, providing money for bands to record albums, and developing infrastructure locally with companies.

The Sing50 fund also does not take into account perception of music by ordinary citizens; music is a waste of time and not worth pursuing except as a hobby. Traditional jobs are still preferred over making music a career. Would appreciating local music encourage parents to allow their children to make music their career? Are there enough opportunities for musicians to make a living in Singapore?

We do applaud the initiative and if done properly, more youngsters will hopefully be encouraged to make music. At the end of the day, if support for local musicians improves with the fund, who’s going to complain? Maybe the ones who still think the government is responsible for Sing50 (it isn’t).


Featured image via Eduardo Merille
With references from Mr Seah, Yahoo News, The Straits Times, The Straits Times, lhuwenkai.com, sarahchengdewinne.com, Bandwagon, AsiaOne