The Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music is shedding the image of being an ivory tower for a selected group of musicians. It is offering modules to students from other faculties for the first time this semester.
Ty Constant, a senior lecturer at the conservatory, said, “We’ve got a little bit of flak for the conservatory being so isolated, but this is something the conservatory has been eager and excited to do for a long time. I don’t think it’s overdue but it’s something that has been waiting to happen in due time.”
The wait to be more accessible was over when renovation works and new installations carried out on the conservatory were completed in late 2008. This allowed more students to be enrolled for classes within the newly furbished premises.
However, the entire administrative process of opening its doors to students from various faculties was more tedious. It took a year to select, approve and offer three new modules, which were among several initially proposed by lecturers at the conservatory.
Before allowing the three modules to be made available for bidding on the Centralised Online Registration System, approval had to be sought from the General Education Committee and Committee of Undergraduate Studies, among several other committees.
The three modules, GEK1054 Music in the Global Context, MUA3274 Sonic Environments and MUA3211 Chamber Singers II Conservatory are taught by faculty members.
Despite having only one link on the CORS website providing information about these modules, they have proven to be popular even with little publicity. The module GEK1054 is operating at a full capacity, with 80 conservatory and non-conservatory students enrolled.
The advanced seminar-style class MUA3274, taught by Associate Professor Steven Miller, is attended by at least three non-conservatory students.
Lai Wei Wei, a fourth-year psychology major, said she took the module MUA3274 because it taught topics that were not widely available.
Lai said, “The subject is very refreshing and something we can’t read up on even in popular journals.”
Although a module such as MUA3274 is pitched to engage students on a more advanced level, the courses were designed to ensure that musical knowledge, while a basic and useful requirement, is kept at a bare minimum.
Miller said, “[The course MUA3274] is not specifically a music course. It’s a course about sound and fits into a larger field of study called acoustic ecology and communication.
“The course is, therefore, interdisciplinary in nature and students who already have a good grounding in their major, be it engineering or psychology, will be more than able to handle the course. It’ll even be exciting to see how each student focuses on different aspects of the subject.”
This unique approach will also appeal to students wanting to engage in learning that is beyond a classroom setting.
One of the classes conducted by Miller required students to take a walk from the conservatory to Yusof Ishak House. The purpose was to learn about environmental sound by paying attention to the soundscape.
Tay Hong Juan, a fourth-year psychology major said, “It’s a different perspective. More romantic compared to our scientific approach in psychology. It also taps into our aesthetic appreciation for the arts.”
Such an unusual setting for conducting a lesson is only a sign for more unique modules to come.
According to Miller, the conservatory is already looking at going beyond the undergraduate curriculum.
Miller said, “There is also the possibility we might be offering a Bachelor’s degree in Recording Arts and Sciences that would involve both the conservatory and other faculties outside of the conservatory.”