Hitting the high note

13 October 2016 | Education
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Jade (in green) made her debut performance with the SSO at the President's Young Performers Concert (photo: Jack Yam)

Melodious strains filled the Victoria Concert Hall in Singapore as Year 4 Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM) student Jade Tan Shi Yu performed Sir Edward Elgar’s Sea Pictures during the President’s Young Performers Concert on 23 September. For Jade, who has been performing since the age of 14, this was a significant milestone as it marked her debut solo performance with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO).

Jade has enjoyed singing from a young age, belting out pop songs in her early teens, before gravitating towards classical singing. She recalled, “The important turning point was when I started my classical voice training at 17 under the Conservatory’s Young Artist Programme.” The switch has paid off, with the mezzo-soprano scooping first prize in YSTCM’s Concerto Competition 2016, as well as third prize and the title of Best Singaporean Artist in the SLO-ASEAN Vocal Competition organised by the Singapore Lyric Opera.

Jade shared that the act of classical singing requires a lot of physical-mental coordination that, when achieved, creates within her a sense of being larger than she is. Secondly, and more importantly, she found singing to be the most natural yet nuanced way of expressing a gamut of human emotions. “Every composer has a different style of expression and being in constant communication with the score and the music thrills me no end,” she explained.

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Jade during a masterclass with noted pianist Mr Roger Vignoles in April

Upon completing her Young Artist Programme, Jade decided to enrol in the Conservatory as an undergraduate. “I would have the opportunity to study with Professor Alan Bennett, a teacher who is very knowledgeable about vocal technique so my voice would develop healthily,” she said.

Prof Bennett, YSTCM’s Head of Vocal Studies who has been teaching Jade for the past four years, said that he is very pleased with her progress over the years. “She has constantly gone the ‘extra mile’, developing her talent with disciplined practice while maintaining an attitude of curiosity and eagerly pursuing opportunities whenever they arose. Jade is the type of student who, when you ask for ‘A’, she will work very hard to get to ‘B’ and ‘C’,” he pointed out. He is very proud of the hard work she has invested into developing her natural talents, saying, “I trust that she has a bright future ahead of her!”

Jade paid tribute to her family and Prof Bennett for their help on her musical journey. “My parents and family are the home I can go back to no matter my successes and failures,” she said. She thanked the music maestro for being “such a meticulous teacher always pushing me to do better”.

Over the next few years, Jade intends to gain as much experience as possible — “be it in life, in music or in performance”. Graduate studies are in the works, where she hopes to “deviate from the norm and craft my own path of learning”.

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