A gala for creation: Yong Siew Toh Music Conservatory kicks off 20th anniversary celebrations

Close to 400 guests were treated to an enthralling performance of ‘Die Schöpfung’ (The Creation) which is regarded as one of Haydn’s greatest masterpieces on 8 April 2023 at the NUS Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YST).

The 40-piece orchestra and 34-member chorus, comprising YST’s alumni, students, faculty and staff, brought to life The Creation under the baton of Mr Jason Lai, YST’s Principal Conductor, in the performance which lasted over 90 minutes to mark its 20th anniversary.

The outstanding performances by soloists, alumni Daegyun Jeong and Tan See Huey and current students Zachary Singson Dominguez, Kira Lim and Jason Suryaatmaja, was lauded in a review by the Straits Times noting that “it was the singing that impressed most”. Their exceptional voices rang through the concert hall crisp and clear, bringing the audience on a journey through the six days of creation.

Professor Alan Bennett, YST’s Head of Vocal Studies and programme director for the special performance, described this Haydn masterwork as being symbolic of the many threads that have come together to bring YST into existence and encouraging all to make their own unique contributions moving forward.

“Eagerness to explore new challenges and to open new possibilities for our craft in Singapore and abroad are ideals that the YST Conservatory embraces. We have come a long way in our first 20 years and are excited to move forward into our third decade with our supporters and friends.”

‘Looking Back, Moving Forward’

The special concert opened YST’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations which will see a series of events and activities rolled out under the theme ‘Looking Back, Moving Forward.’

Founded in 2003, YST has evolved since then to be recognised as a leader in higher music education, nurturing accomplished, world-class musicians known for their exceptional skills and artistic expression.

At a cocktail reception before the concert, YST Dean Professor Peter Tornquist reflected on the achievements of the conservatory over the past two decades, thanking donors, partners and all those who have contributed to the Conservatory for their support over the years.

“As we celebrate this milestone we look back in gratitude, but, more importantly, we move firmly and boldly into the future. Today, we offer a truly exceptional artistic education that goes beyond the classroom, through public performances, community outreach, international exchanges, innovative research, and partnerships across the creative industry. None of these achievements and aspirations would be possible without the generous support that we have received and we are truly grateful for your continued generosity.”

Prof Tornquist also announced the YST 20th Anniversary Fundraising Campaign set up to support the next 20 years of YST’s development. The funds raised will be channelled towards scholarships and bursaries, supporting YST’s newly set up Centre for Music and Health, driving the Singapore International Violin Competition and providing artistic opportunities for students and the community. 

YST will also be partnering the NUS Alumni Student Advancement Committee to create a new Conservatory Bursary Fund, that will support on-campus living and international exchanges for needy students.

Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, who proposed the establishment of a music conservatory within a university during his time as Deputy Prime Minister in 1999, attended the cocktail reception and concert as Guest of Honour.

Dr Tan noted that YST has played a significant role in advancing the music scene in Singapore. He said, “Over the years, it has produced talented performers, composers and producers who have gone on to achieve national and international success. Beyond the stage, Conservatory graduates are making a difference as leaders of arts organisations, innovators and community engagers. I am heartened to see the Conservatory’s multi-faceted contributions to Singapore’s cultural ecosystem, working alongside other arts institutions to co-create a vibrant city for the arts.”

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, who also graced the concert as Special Guest, echoed Dr Tan’s sentiments, saying that through its wide international network across the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the Americas, YST flies the Singapore flag high in the global higher music education sector, bringing a creative blend of musical and cultural traditions.

Senior Minister Teo witnessed the signing of the agreement to set up the conservatory as then-Minister for Education in 2001. The conservatory would later be renamed to the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in 2003.