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Don't let anything stop you from moving: My UWCSEA music journey
Don't let anything stop you from moving: My UWCSEA music journey
By Tony He, Grade 11, East Campus
Everyone in their life has to make some big decisions. For me, coming to UWCSEA in Singapore was the biggest decision I ever made in my life - and I have made a lot of big decisions.
What made me want to join the school wasn’t the course, the system or the diversity. It was actually the school’s most famous vocal group 'Bersama'. The word 'Bersama' in Indonesian means 'together'. Bersama is a group of awesome singers who put their heart into music, enjoying the process of making music and singing together. The day I visited the school, Bersama was having a small performance outside of the Music department. I was shocked because I had never heard such amazing singing voices before. With the joy of this experience, I decided that I was going to join this amazing school.
If you have dreams, then fight for it. If you want to do something you like, then do it. UWCSEA is the place that makes me believe that as long as you have an interest in something, you can always achieve something higher. The school makes me believe that there is no “impossible” because every day we are trying to push ourselves to the limit.
I love music. I love playing the guitar and I love singing. I joined the school when I was in Grade 9, and I chose music as one of my IGCSE subjects. Now I am in Grade 11 and I have to say that studying music is one of the most enjoyable things in my life, and I am happy that I made the choice of choosing IGCSE and IB music. However, no matter what you do, even if you love everything about it, there are always some obstacles that try to stop you from going forward.
When I joined the music class in Grade 9, everyone in my class had studied music for at least six years with teachers, all of them had at least one mastered instrument. For me, a self-taught guitarist with limited knowledge of the chords and who didn't know how to read the score; a self-taught singer who didn't know how to protect my throat and doesn’t know how to use the air properly. The most difficult part for me is not just the performance skills, but also the theoretical part of music. My theory was so weak that I actually didn’t understand anything for the first three months. When it came to the composition part of the music, I didn’t even know what notes I was putting in.
No doubt that I got a 'three' for that piece of music. I have to admit that I really want to quit music, I found out that interest alone was not enough for everything, you also need to have the skills. However, a person pulled me back from the cliff. He did not just pull me back from dropping music, he also changed my life in so many ways. That person is my first official music teacher Mr. Mark Bradshaw. Before I arrived at this school, no teacher had come to me to talk about those problems not just as a teacher, but also a friend. I still remember the day he was talking to me about the notes I got wrong and actually giving me advice about how to improve my music skills. I was shocked about his action that he wasn’t mad at me at all when the whole class was way better than me. During my first three-way-conference, Mr. Bradshaw was worried about me, not for my performance during class time, but just my understanding of theories. He said so many things that really changed my perspectives about music. He gave me a lot of advice about how to improve myself as a musician instead of a student, and as such an academic-based student, I was surprised. That was the day I felt the difference between this school and my old school, and I am really glad that I can study here with so many people from different countries. My final IGCSE score for music was a 5, which drastically improved from when I first joined the course.
Mr. Bradshaw wasn’t the only one, there were so many other people who helped me walk through my musical journey in this school. During the middle of the year, I went to Beijing with Ms. Stirrat, Mr. Bradshaw and a lot of other students for AMIS music workship. It was a fantastic experience to work with so many amazing musicians around all the international school students around Asia. That was the first time I had time to actually see everyone as musicians not just teachers or friends. The joy from the teachers when they were making and listening to music was just amazing.
I am really grateful that I can join the High School Sonos group back in Grade 10; that was the time that I opened my path for singing. Joining a group with so many singers, I really learnt a lot from them. When I joined the group, I didn’t even know there was a difference between harmony and melody. After several months of training, I had my first ever concert in my life, Wavelength. As a bass singer, I never knew that there were so many things I needed to learn and could learn from other people. After our performances, I finally heard the group I was looking for 2 years, 'Bersama'. For the first time in my life, I cried after listening to a song. The name of the song was “You Will Be Found”, I can really feel the strong emotion from the group. At that time, I had never thought that I was going to join this group, and I never knew that I would one day have a chance to sing with the best singers from the school.
I really have to thank Ms. Stirrat for guiding me through the path after IGCSE. We started working together when I joined Sonos. No matter how many mistakes I made, she always encouraged me. Without the encouragement from all my teachers and friends, I would never have improved as much. At the end of the year, I asked her, with all my courage, if there was any chance that I could join Bersama. I didn’t expect a lot because there were so many people in the school who are better singers. After 5 months and 3 days of waiting, I finally got a reply to that request: I got into the group I had been looking forward to joining since the first day when I visited the school as a bass singer. With excitement, I read through the email again. A bass singer, instead of just singer. This meant that I filled the place for bass singers who just graduated - three professional and amazing bass singers. There was not just excitement, but also responsibility and pressure. Because of my vocal range, I can sing a lot of notes which other singers can’t sing. It’s a gift and also it will push me way harder to keep up my skills with other people in the group. I needed to prove to other people that I have the ability to be a real bass singer. I needed to prove to Ms. Stirrat that she didn’t trust the wrong person.
What UWCSEA gave me were not just the values, the teachers, and the students. It gave me a dream, a stage, and a home. It gave me a dream to do anything I wanted to do. It gave me a stage to show people my progress. It gave me a home where everyone was nice, warm and caring. What music gave me was not just joy, the theory, and the melodies. It gave me a key, a cure, and a voice. It gave me a key to open my future path with music and it will stay in my life forever. It gave me a cure to save me from school work, from pressure, and from grades. It gave me a voice, with which I can express my emotions with music.
Everyone will have something they struggle at some point in their life. When you struggle, do something you like, be the person you want to be. UWCSEA gives you a stage where you can do the things that you want to do, achieve the things you want to achieve. Enjoy the UWCSEA community, use your heart to understand the community, and enjoy your High School.
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