Personal Revelations

It’s been such a long time since I have involved myself in volunteer work, and watching last night’s concert made me realise just how much I miss it.

Though it was not as grand and complex as the two A Nation In Concert, the show moved my heart nonetheless, on several levels, unexpectedly.

Some special mentions:

1) MINDS Taiko Drum Troupe

They opened the show with a spellbinding drumming performance (which I have seen before somewhere… company’s Dinner & Dance? ANIC?), settling everyone down for the show ahead. Halfway through the performance, one kiddo forgot his solo and his mates got naturally confused and unsure as to how to continue playing. As we, the audience, watched from our seats, the other performers became increasingly frustrated with the kiddo, with some shouting at him (to try giving him his cue) and others displaying crestfallen expressions. Somewhere about, someone started clapping encouragingly, and it was not long before the entire hall burst into loud applause for them. The show must go on, and the show did go on.

In the past 7 years, many people have asked me why I (like to) do volunteer work. They couldn’t fathom, for the lives of them, my enthusiasm and passion for it.

JF once mentioned a couple of years back, “People who have a passion for something are scary people. Take away their passions and they are left with nothing.

There is a grain of truth in his words, though I wouldn’t say ‘left with nothing’ – that’s a little extreme. Take away all the experiences of volunteer work, I will be less of a person that I have become now. (Lest anyone think that this is an entry to ‘beautify’ my image or boast about things, it is not. This is something close to my heart, and though I seldom talk about it here or to anyone for that matter, it does not mean I will not ever.) Volunteer work taught me so many things on so many different levels, and my life and self is much fuller and richer than I have ever thought it would be.

Far be it from me to indirectly put down non-volunteers or generalise, but most of the people whom I know in this circle are more mature in their views, thinking and perspectives than counterparts their age, and I believe I am too, in some ways even though I tend to present myself in a not-too-serious and bimbotic self. I just don’t see the need to ‘prove’ my depth and character. (This paragraph has too many ‘I’s.) I’d like to think volunteer work moulds us to grow this way.

This is sure very useful in the resume. No doubt it is good learning and expansion opportunity but you still got to balance out for a normal life. ‘Normal’ as in things what gals of your age do most. Don’t grow up too fast. You don’t want to miss out anything,” said DL recently.

Sure, volunteer work opened doors for me to know some important people (hence his remark of expansion opportunity) and it also paved the way for me to land my dream position (hence the resume comment), but those were never my intentions from the start; they were just bonuses that came along. I wouldn’t exactly say my doing volunteer work stems from pure altruism because sometimes the want for recognition could come about, though not from the people who I was helping but from the people who came up with the projects and ‘activated’ the volunteers. But there is seldom any need for rewards; I do them because I like to I want to and the only ‘reward’ that is a reward is to see the success of the project done. Give and do not expect any personal returns, and everything will feel great.

A smile on a beneficiary’s face is worth going through all the hard (and sometimes, shit) work.

Volunteering keeps me grounded, I would say. It keeps me sane in the insane world. When volunteering, I feel I am who I am and not what I have to be.

But I am getting ahead of myself, as usual, and losing the point of the entry.

Thing is, the encouraging applause for the first performance reminded me that the world may be harsh, but there are kind people around. Kind people keep others going. It reminded me of the second A Nation In Concert where couple of kinks cropped up during performance day and the audience were equally ‘forgiving’ and encouraging, only that this time I was the audience instead of the performer on and behind stage.


2) Deaf Performer Lily Goh – Marimba solo

An ex-xtomic leader, she bravely ventured out solo to chase her dreams. Last year, she became the first artiste to be selected for the Very Special Arts Talents Development Programme. You go, girl! She performed a piece on the marimba, her skills have improved by leaps and bounds!

She has came a long way to be where she is now.

3) SADeaf Hip Hop dancers and Song Signers

I belong to a volunteer performing arts group consisting of deaf and hearing volunteers who come together to spread deaf awareness through song-signing and dance performances.

Part of my reply to DL’s comments:

But see.. you’re viewing volunteer work very differently from me, and very similar to a lot of people I’ve met. You see it as something which may hinder me from leading a ‘normal’ life. But to me, volunteer work isn’t something that I’m forced to do or is like a burden. It is fun and sometimes I think I have more of a life than other people! I belong to a performing group and recently in our committee meeting, a member commented that we are more like a social group than a volunteer group. And it’s true! We are all crazy people who play mj at unearthly timings (like on Monday nights?!), club, do dinners and gatherings, and go holidaying together just like ‘normal’ people.

These people are my loves, the people who keep me grounded and going.

4) Azariah Tan – Piano Solo

The acoustic wasn’t that good in the hall but still! He was playing Chopin Etude (that much I know, though I don’t know which one) which focuses on technical piano playing.

This guy is my hero. I will be going to his future performances for sure.

I have seen piano performances before. I have heard him play a couple of times before.

But this is the first time a person’s music touched me so much my heart literally trembled in response. This is the first time I cried listening to a live piano performance. This is the first time I closed my eyes to experience his music, because I do not need to use my visual skills to know how good he is. I felt like I was transported into two different worlds with his two piano pieces – that was how powerful his performance was.

He is amazing, his talents and skills are amazing, his understanding of the music and respecting it is amazing.

He is only 16 by the way, and hearing-impaired.

Apparently he impressed the London Royal College of Music so much to the extent that it offered him a scholarship to pursue his Bachelor of Music degree, which he turned down to study at the NUS Yong Siew Toh Conservatory instead.

After the concert, I was catching up with his parents, and people were approaching Azariah and praising him for his performance. “I like your piano,” a little boy said shyly to the equally-shy Azariah.

I love your piano too, A.

Chang Tou Liang wrote a review about his piano recital last year.

Azariah has a very special talent. Even if he does not make music a career (I can think of only one hearing-impaired musician who has made it really big, the phenomenal percussionist Evelyn Glennie), he has what many far more efficient technicians of the keyboard lack – a very high EQ [Emotional Quotient]. He will touch the lives of many people with his music wherever he goes.

– Chang Tou Liang

His music still rings in my ears. The quick light sensitive touch of Chopin Etude. The intensely-moving piece of ‘The Moon Represents My Heart’ that made me cry. My heart still trembles, upon recalling his soulful, moving performance.


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