“What do you do you after you graduate?” is a question that never gets old. As a music student, it is the unspoken reality that many of us are at crossroads of “what do we do next” after earning the first level of an educational degree. The Institute of Music invited Ms. Vivian Chua and Ms. Fayene Toon from Ann Perreau’s to share their stories and experiences in the teaching profession.
Ann Perreau’s was founded in 1980. Ann Perreau’s offers a very holistic way of approach in teaching music to children as young as 5 years old. How holistic? I will get to that later. They realized that learning only three pieces a year and theory papers for graded examinations a year can bore a child’s curiosity and interest in music. Vivian Chua, the principal of Ann Perreau’s mentioned that the school has adopted the ‘Specialist Music Training’ ever since 1998 as they believe it is a method that could bring out the love of music in a child better compared to the dull way of learning music. I am sure you guys know what I am talking about!
Children would get to learn music not just boring theory syllabus and same old three pieces in the exam books in a mundane way, but also history of music, understanding of repertoire they are playing, how music and sound is linked together and to be produced and also learning how to perform in a group (orchestra) or an ensemble. The duration of each class would be around 2-3 hours per week. It is a breakdown of a 2 hour group class to learn music appreciation and theory while the other 1 hour would be an individual class to learn their chosen instrument. Children in primary school could actually tell you the story of Handel’s Water Music with precise detail after studying there!
I am intrigued by their teaching method as when I was younger; I was not exposed to music appreciation and music history. I had to memorize composers’ names and their background by heart and did not understand the socio-cultural aspects during the composers eras. I feel that this affects a person’s music education greatly. I was taught in memorizing rather understanding the concept how things run during the olden days regarding to music. It’s interesting to know how the lives of composers are could affect with their compositions. I feel this could make the learning of music more interesting and different rather than going for exams only.
Most children who studied or are studying there would start at the age of 5, first learning how to play the piano. A year or so later, they could pick up a second instrument to learn. They get to ‘try out’ the second instrument of their choice before deciding. Tutors who teach instruments like these would explain to the children how sound are made in that particular instrument and so on. Most of the time, their second chosen instrument are orchestral instruments that enable them to be able to play in an orchestra.
Ann Perreau’s give their students performance exposure as much as they can. They have end term performances and annual performances in rented auditoriums. This is a great opportunity for children ranging from kindergarten-going children to teens to experience how one feel while performing in front of people, whether they are only just friends and family. Different age groups would be taught in a different manner. Young children would learn through games and pictures while older children would learn through presentations and analysis, in a fun way of course.
Some of their alumni students had further their musical journey abroad in the UK learning in specialist schools and conservatories there. Some decided to further something not related to the music field, like medicine, engineering and even business. Even so, they are still part of something related to music, like being a part in orchestras.
This career talk has definitely given me a wider perspective on music education. Although teaching is a staple music career in the Malaysian context, it definitely is one of the many respected professions in any occupational field. Ann Perreau’s motto is to change the dull approach of teaching music into something interesting and enjoyable for children of any age. In my honest opinion, I would not mind joining the students there and learn music with this different approach! I do hope an adult class would be form for us to join too!
This article was written by Mabel Soong, 1st year student of the B. Music Classical program.