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A Gift of Song for Music Teachers

Updated: Jul 15

It's been so long since I wrote anything. Piecing together the events that has recently happened to my life, and my music studies have been very challenging.

I chose to return to a local college to upgrade my piano performance skills, learn music in a classroom setting, and eventually, get that paper to proof (unnecessarily) to the world that I did all that work and am now a credible musician, I guess. But life always throws at us curveballs, doesn't it?

During Reading Week this past February, the college announced that they were closing the music program. I will not be able to complete my diploma. With one year left to go, I felt disappointed; I felt defeated; I felt stuck. I was upset.

I worked hard with my private teaching, and saved up funds on my own for this so I did not need to depend on anyone for my own goals. I timed it in such away that when both my kids were in school full-time, I have the capacity to return to school and pursue my dream.

I was very torn knowing the effort I had put into it, all of sudden it felt like it went down the drain. Coming back to this as a mature student, and as an individual who was seeking a purpose through the learning of music, I had real dreams. Dreams of performing music in the community, and experiencing higher music education that I never got to do in my youth due to cultural norms, parents' expectations and financial reasons.

NWP last spring choir concert esther ling
My feature performance of Tan Dun's Staccato Beans and Herdboy's Song at NWP's last Spring Choir Concert. Image courtesy of Jesse Boily from Town & Country News

A bigger challenge for me was mustering the effort to rebut the college's offer to continue my education elsewhere with additional perks. While it seems promising to many, the reality is that I'm not 19-years old with the capacity to move and study full-time at a university anymore. I have family commitments, a spouse with his career commitments, and school-going children. My intention was to complete my studies here, and continue teaching, performing and composing.

Coupled with all the turmoil I was personally going through, it was also difficult for me to witness the pain my music instructors were going through. Sadly, they are losing their jobs.

Can you imagine how hard it is for them to still show up every morning for work knowing that their life's work is all going to come to an end in a few months' time? On top of this, they have been so supportive in helping us navigate through this difficult time, and providing mentorship and guidance selflessly. Only a teacher who is passionate and dedicated in what they do will go the extra mile.

One afternoon, I remember sitting by the comfortable couches outside the classroom, waiting for my theory class to begin, when I heard a melody in my head. I decided to write, as how I've learnt in songwriting class. I pulled out my hand-dandy rhyming dictionary; found a few keywords, and rhyming words, and started to write a few phrases.

The next day at home, I started to write it all out, and while I don't remember exact details of the thought process, I remember it all came together in just a few days. I went to the piano, found the key I wanted to be in, and just sang it.

People ask me often, was this an assignment? I always laugh about it, and tell them I wish it was. I've never personally written a song to dedicate to anyone before, so this was truly the first. And it was written from the bottom of my heart.

This song is deeply personal. Perhaps it was a way for me to deal with my own emotions. As the song developed, I realized it was my desire to celebrate the music teachers that have come into my life; who have made such a difference with their passion for teaching and love of music.

Music teachers, in my humble opinion are the unsung heroes of the world. I hope that with this song that I share, you will also share it with your music teachers who have touched your life in one way or another.

This song, The Greatest Gift, in its original and raw form, is simple with just piano and vocals. It is now streaming on major platforms such as Youtube, Apple Music, Spotify, and it can be found on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram for use in reels/stories.

I hope you will find comfort in listening or using the song to share your stories. I am grateful for any support in your clicks to listen to my music!

You can also watch a video of my original message, and live performance of the song at our last student recital here.

I'm not going to lie, I'm still hurting inside. I try my very best to hide it, and the remaining coursework has been keeping me distracted for sure.

It's was very heart-wrenching in the last few days of lessons, rehearsals and concerts. This experience holds such a special place in my heart and I will miss it.

It is so quiet now. It makes me teary-eyed to know that the hallways will have an eerie silence for a very long time, with no piano or vocal sounds echoing from the practice rooms and recital halls.

Who knows what will become of the beautiful 9-foot Steinway piano on stage?

But, I do know one thing for sure, I am where I am today because I worked hard. As my amazing music instructors have relentlessly reminded me ... as long as we do not give up in making and learning music, doors to new opportunities will open.

Flowers for our music instructors at the 2023 NWP Fine Arts Awards

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