Supporting music education in Malaysia

4 years ago

Ryan Lewis, our Malaysia National Consultant, reports on the latest festivals, competitions and seminars that we’ve been involved with around the country. So far, 2015 has been another busy year for ABRSM in Malaysia, working with organisations, musicians, teachers and learners to inspire musical achievement.

Fantastic festivals

In May we were proud to support the first ever Johor Bahru Classical Music Festival. This exciting weekend of concerts treated audience members to a rich variety of music. The festival opened with a stunning lecture recital from the Sutera Ensemble, while the second day included workshops on how to form and rehearse with ensembles and on different approaches to teaching. It was a real pleasure to present these along with members of the Sutera Ensemble, and to explore ideas on teaching in a masterclass setting. The festival also included performances by the Foon Yew High School String Orchestra and Singapore’s popular T’ang Quartet, who bring a cool edge to classical music and entertained the audience with a range of classical favourites and contemporary pieces. The weekend culminated in a concert by Malaysia’s National Symphony Orchestra with guest soprano, Cecilia Yap. This festival was the first of its kind in Johor Bahru and with its enriching programme of musical events for children, students, parents and teachers it was a great success.  The Classical Music Festival is just one of a number of events organised by Johor Bahru: International Festival City. We also supported their Johor Bahru Arts Festival, which took place in September and where I was delighted to present a series of workshops for teachers with fellow examiner Bill Thomson. Also in September we sponsored the 9th Malaysian Youth Music Festival, organised by the Malaysian Youth Orchestra Foundation, and the 22nd Kota Kinabalu Music Festival.

Competitions to motivate and inspire

ABRSM has sponsored a number of competitions this year. The first ever AIMS (Association of International Malaysian Schools) Music Competition was held at The International School @ ParkCity, Kuala Lumpur, with participants from schools across the country performing in a supportive setting. Our Hong Kong and Singapore Development Executive, Bill Thomson, flew in especially to help judge the event and, along with fellow judge Eugene Pook, enjoyed a weekend of performances across many instruments and genres. The Euroasia Violin Competition is now in its third year and has expanded considerably. This year the competition went on the road to host regional rounds in Johor Bahru, Kuantan, Kuching, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Seremban. There was a warm and positive atmosphere at all the events, which saw hundreds of budding young violinists competing. The winners in each regional round from the Young Artist Category went on to perform in a thrilling final in Seremban – part of the Euroasia Youth Music Festival. First prize went to 10-year-old Low Zi Yang from Kuala Lumpur, who marvelled the audience with a programme of Elgar and Sarasate. Both the Violin Competition and the Youth Music Festival are run by the Euroasia Association of the Performing Arts, who we are delighted to be supporting this year through our International Sponsorship Fund.

Seminars for teachers

Alongside our activities promoting music making we’ve been holding many events specifically to support teachers. This year we conducted two series of seminars across Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Penang, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. The first series, in April, was presented by pianist and ABRSM examiner Ann Martin-Davis with a focus on supporting tests – aural, sight-reading and scales. Of course, these are not just supporting tests, but essential skills for all developing musicians, which teachers and learners need to integrate into lessons and practice. In the seminar, Ann guided teachers through these exam elements, looking at the marking criteria in detail, as well as presenting live demonstrations and videos of the tests, which teachers could review and assess themselves. Ann also put the tests into context, particularly relating to aural skills. Using pieces from the Piano syllabus, Ann showed teachers how you can include aspects of aural training when teaching pieces. The emphasis was on active listening and understanding and identifying musical features, with plenty of suggestions on how to help students develop these important skills. The second seminar series took place in July, led by pianist and ABRSM examiner Meurig Thomas and Malaysian violinist and Royal Academy of Music graduate Yap Ling. Our two presenters explored works from our new books of Violin Exam Pieces. Meurig discussed the pieces from the examiner’s perspective, always relating this to the marking criteria, while Ling gave a short masterclass on each piece looking at technical aspects and giving lots of teaching tips along the way. With Meurig and Ling also emphasising the importance of aural training, the role of the piano accompanist and the value of scales and playing with musical shaping, this was a seminar that left teachers buzzing with new ideas. We were delighted that the seminars, full of so much insight, attracted so many enthusiastic teachers. With over 400 attending and positive feedback all round, these events were a real hit!


This article was originally featured in the September 2015 edition of Libretto, ABRSM's magazine.

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