Naturally, the Singapore government must act to block his way and stop his success. With National Service.
ST May 18, 2006
Completing his NS might cost Ike opportunities to be a top musician
I have known Ike See since he was eight. This little boy grabbed my soul when he performed Beethoven's Romance In F for the Associated Board of Royal School of Music High Scorers concert. He played with such soul and conviction that it brought tears to my eyes. Since then I have kept up with his progress and I have never been disappointed with any of his performances.
There are many technicians out there who can play brilliantly and impressively but few can touch the soul like Ike. The gift to elevate the audience is what makes music so special. People go to concerts to listen to music not just to be entertained but to experience the wonderful feeling of being enriched and inspired.
I am a violinist myself and the director and principal of Mandeville Music School. I attend concerts all the time and it is a rare treat to have an elevating experience. However, Ike's performances have always been meaningful to me.
I was terribly disappointed to read the news about Ike in The Straits Times on Monday. I now understand why his parents and teacher did not want to break the good news to me when I asked them about Ike's auditions in the US. It is no use telling people that he has been accepted into all the top music colleges when he cannot go because he has to serve national service first.
It is very prestigious to be selected for Curtis Institute. It would be every musician's dream come true and anyone who can get in there is already very accomplished and all set for the world platform. This is the only top music school in the US where all selected are on full scholarship.
I encouraged Ike to audition three years ago as this school only accepts young students. He tried two years ago but was not accepted although he was one of the few finalists. I am so proud that he got in on the second try. He had worked very hard in the last two years. Twelve out of 12 judges voted him in this time.
If Ike doesn't accept their offer this round, I do not think he will be able to get in after his national service as he would be too old by then. This poor boy would be so disappointed and his hopes of becoming a world-class violinist would be shattered.
Ike might still choose to be a musician in the end, but he would likely have lost many opportunities to be at the top. In the competitive music world, age makes a big difference.
Singapore has always been proud to show off its achievements. Why waste a truly homegrown talent now? Ike will serve Singapore even better when he proves to the world that we are able to produce such a remarkable musician. He will surely do us Singaporeans proud and would be the best ambassador of the arts for us.
Yap Shu Mei (Ms),
Director/Principal, Mandeville Music School
Now Mr Wang will predict the most probable outcome of this matter. Of course I hope I am wrong, but this is what I predict will happen:
1. Some cowardly high-ranking MINDEF officer will make the cover-ass, stupid but eminently defensible decision to not allow Ike's NS deferment.
2. (".... National Service is very important. It is the duty of every male Singaporean to serve NS. We must be fair and impartial. National Service is a character-building experience that makes our boys men ... ") [take the Defence Minister's last SAF Day speech & cut & paste miscellaneous other blah blah blah statements.]
3. Unthinking Singaporeans will nod their heads approvingly.
4. Ike See will do his NS and become another perfectly mediocre, ordinary, faceless corporal or sergeant out of 20,000 other perfectly mediocre, ordinary, faceless NSF corporals and sergeants in the SAF.
5. Upon ORD, he will do a desperate rush to make up for the precious lost years in his musical training. He will realise that to do this, he can't afford to stay in Singapore any longer (this will be the only valuable lesson he will learn from his NS years - but it will be an immensely valuable lesson).
6. He leaves Singapore. For good.
7. In time, some future PAP Minister for the Arts who had never known or will have forgotten Ike See will say, "Oh, Singapore must aspire to be a world-class hub for the arts. Singaporeans lack creativity and talent but we must encourage what we have, and create alternative avenues of success in our society."
Meanwhile MINDEF will continue to grant NS deferments to male PSC Overseas Merit Scholars. Year after year after year, as schools like RJC and NJC and VJC continue to manufacture, by the hundreds, perfectly straight-A students who have memorised their way to great success in standardised exam formats. While the really rare, special ones - like Ike See - will continue to be overlooked, and will continue to languish.