As NUS celebrates its 110th year of founding and Singapore’s 50th year of independence, we are proud to display the musical works of local composers and performers in the Music Library. Among the many talents, musicians described here are only some examples like many others who have contributed to teaching, composing and performing through their music. Zubir Said, Leong Yoon Pin, Margaret Tan, Lynnette Seah, Goh Soon Tioe and Vivien Goh, among others, received the Cultural Medallion in recognition of their services and contributions to the community.
Zubir Said was primarily remembered for composing Singapore’s national anthem, “Majulah Singapura” (“Onward Singapore”). His songs were traditional and patriotic, and his music evoked a sense of national pride. In recognition of his contributions to the State, Zubir was conferred the Sijil Kemuliaan (Certificate of Honour) on 16 March 1963 and the Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star) in the same year. In 1971, he received the Jasawan Seni (Cultural Medallion) award from eight Malay cultural organizations. He also received the Asean Cultural and Communications Award in 1987. In addition, the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees (AUPE) awarded him the Certificate of Commendation for composing the AUPE song. In 1995, Zubir was posthumously given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS). The address of the permanent campus for the School of the Arts, 1 Zubir Said Drive, is in honor of the late composer.
Leong Yoon Pin
Leong Yoon Pin started his career as an educator at the Teachers’ Training College in 1951. He held various positions, as lecturer and later as Head of Music, when the College was renamed the Institute of Education. Through his roles as Arts Advisor to the National Arts Council, National Institute of Education and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, he was involved in charting the course of the local music and music education. Though he took on many roles namely as composer, educator and conductor, Leong was mainly known as a composer. As a conductor, Leong founded and conducted the Rediffusion Youth Choir in 1951, and later the Metro Philharmonic Society in 1959. He was appointed Resident Conductor of the National Theatre Orchestra in 1969 and was Resident Conductor of the Singapore National Theatre from 1977 until 1979. In 2000, he was the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s first Composer-in-Residence. Leong was honored with the Cultural Medallion in 1982, the Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (BBM) in 2005 and the COMPASS Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.
Lynnette Seah was only 21 when she joined the newly formed Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) in 1979 as a violinist. She rose from deputy leader to associate leader and finally co-leader. In 1987, Lynnette, together with three other SSO violinists, formed the SSO String Quartet. When the SSO celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2009, Lynnette took center stage with her solo performance of German composer Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. She serves as an ambassador for classical music in Singapore and is also involved in nurturing the next generation of musicians, conducting masterclasses for violinists of all ages. Lynnette was presented the Cultural Medallion in 2006 and honored with the inaugural Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame Award in March 2014.
The Singapore-born but New York-based Margaret Tan has established herself as a major force in the American avant-garde through her boundary-defying contributions on both the piano and toy piano. Hailed as the “diva of avant-garde pianism” by the New Yorker magazine and the “queen of the toy piano” by The New York Times, she is also a renowned John Cage interpreter. Margaret became the first woman to receive a Julliard doctorate in 1971, and is a leading figure in experimental music. She has accompanied the New York Philharmonic, is the first Singaporean soloist to play at Carnegie Hall and received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the State University of New York in 2011. Like Lynnette Seah, Margaret was also inducted into the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014.
Goh Soon Tioe
Musicians Goh Soon Tioe and his daughter, Vivien, were also honored for their services and contributions to music. In his illustrious teaching years, Goh Soon Tioe produced Singapore’s musical prodigies like Dick Lee, Lynnette Seah, Kam Kee Yong, Seow Yit Kin, Melvyn Tan, Choo Hoey and Lim Soon Lee. He had a successful musical career as Conductor of the Singapore Youth Symphony Orchestra between 1971 and 1975, and founded the Goh Soon Tioe String Orchestra. He was awarded Pingat Jasa Gemilang (Meritorious Service Medal) for his achievements and contributions to Singapore.
Much like her father Goh Soon Tioe, Vivien is an accomplished violinist. She too played a key role in the development of classical music in Singapore. She is best known for her contributions to music education during her time as music director and conductor of the Singapore Youth Orchestra. For her contributions to Singapore’s classical music education, Vivien was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Music in 1983.
Do check out the works by these musicians and more in the library as we celebrate NUS110 and SG50!
~NUS Music Library