45 year old Marcus is a father of three and currently works in the IT industry. However, give him a guitar and you’ll see a whole new side of him! We spoke to Marcus about his musical journey, and how he passed on a passion and love for music to his three little ones.
Hi Marcus, tell us more about yourself and what you do!
I am 45 years old this year and I am currently working in the IT industry. I have five other siblings in the family and they were either in the brass band or singing or playing in some kind of band.
Tell us more about your wife. What does she do? Does she share the same passion in music?
Mrs Loh does not play any musical instrument, however she plays a very important and supportive role in many of our musical endeavors. She is a full time house maker and it was a conscious decision for one of us to be at home full time. She plays a very active role in our musical journey. In my absence, she continues to work with the kids as she understands the importance of daily practice.
How and when did you fall in love with music? Was it through your parents as well?
My eldest sister bought a guitar and joined the guitar society in NUS when I was 12. She only played for a short while and I decided to teach myself the classical guitar using her guitar and materials. I stopped playing after O levels, as I was working on my A-levels, my education and then my career. I only picked up the guitar again after I took on the project to teach my eldest son, Kevin, when he turned five. However, I have always been an avid classical guitar fan all these while. My parents did not play any musical instrument.
Your three children seem to have been bitten by the music bug too! Your eldest son Kevin seems to be doing very well, having received the HSBC Youth Excellence Award in 2010 for his musical excellence and now pursing his music study at the prestigious Yahudi Mehudin music school.
How did you and your wife incorporate music very early on in their lives?
A friend of ours introduced us to Suzuki Violin. After seeing his kids play the violin at such a young age, we decided to let Kevin try the violin using the Suzuki method when he was almost five years old. However, shortly after, his teacher told us that Kevin was not ready to learn as he was always fidgeting around and told us to perhaps try again later when he is slightly older. Refusing to take no for an answer, my wife and I decided to embark on our little family bonding project.
Since I knew how to play the classical guitar, I decided to teach him. My wife encouraged him and took videos of our daily practices and performances. This slowly became a daily affair- not only did we learn an instrument together, we had fun and learnt various things together such as rhythm, discipline, new songs. We even prepped for concerts.
Soon, Kevin was outplaying me and he started proper music lessons externally. However, taking music exams was never the objective. It was all about making music to balance the academic workload that they go through.
From small concerts in the living room, we progressed to family gatherings to public concerts. One thing led to another, we were spotted and we got the opportunity to play at the Esplanade concourse, Concert Hall and even for ChildAid 2010.
Each child is unique in their own ways. What were the initial reactions of your three children when you first introduced music to them? Were there any initial rejections or did they simply accepted it like fish to water?
With modern technology today, the children are exposed to many personal devices which can be a big distraction, preventing them from doing many other fun things like learning a musical instrument. When we first introduced music to them, it was a slow and gradual process because making music cannot happen until they have acquired certain levels of technical abilities such as pressing the frets and also being able to pluck the various instruments.
We introduced games and other activities as part of our daily sessions. Soon after, when they had the ability to make music, they started to enjoy it more and more. Being able to play a complete song is an achievement for all of them and at times, they are very motivated to complete the piece especially when it is a piece that they particularly enjoy. Sometimes, I would return home from work and Kevin would want to play me a piece that he mastered during the day.
Most kids would give up, as they have many other options. I would say most parents would give up upon realizing how difficult it is to learn with their child. However, parents who stick it through with their kids will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor together.
Your oldest son Kevin, instrument of choice is the guitar. Does he play other instruments as well?
Kevin, aged 15, plays the classical guitar, the fingerstyle steel string guitar, the piano and the ukulele.
What is Jon and Abby’s favourite instrument and what are they learning to play now?
Jon, aged 9, plays the classical guitar, piano and a bit of the ukulele. While Abby aged 5, plays the piano and the classical guitar.
I think many parents believe that pursing Music or anything to do with the Arts will not be able to earn their child a living. What are your experiences and views on this?
Yes, most parents would discourage it, however, from my perspective, my wife and I would support it if they show passion. There are certainly challenges, but if they understand that talent alone is not enough; they need to have the passion for it and are willing to put in hard work, then I believe we have taught them a very important lesson in life that they can apply to anything they do.
Music is only for the affluent and ‘cultured’ families. Any thoughts on this?
I disagree. We come from humble beginnings ourselves, where our parents did not have sufficient money to send us for music lessons. There are many avenues for families these days to seek assistance. For example, The Business Times Budding Artist Fund that provides funding for arts program at The Little Arts Academy.
As much as the arts and music scene is slowly picking up in Singapore, with the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory just turning 10, what do you think can be further improved in arts education or outreach in Singapore?
From my point of view, the government should continue to look into nurturing our own talents, regardless of age. Currently there is no structure to support the talents in the music scene until they reach tertiary level.
If you could choose to be a musical instrument, what instrument would you choose and why?
I would choose the classical guitar, because it is the most popular instrument in the world and it is a lifelong instrument.
If you could share one piece of parenting advice to all the mummies and daddies out there, what would it be?
From a musical stand point, my advice would be to choose an instrument together and learn it with your child. The benefits are endless and most importantly, you are bonding with them.