Professor Tommy Koh's Speech - Launch of the Musicians Guild of Singapore

April 25, 2015


1.    Professor Bernard Tan, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Members of the Board, which include Rani Singam, Bevlyn Khoo, Yang Jiwei, Au Yong Tien, Samuel Seow, Janice Koh, Colin Goh and Eric Ng.

2.    Mr Adrian Tan, the Executive Director of the Guild and the members of his team.

3.    The CEO of the National Arts Council, Ms Kathy Lai, our former NMP, Janice Koh, Mr Goh Yew Lin (SSO), Ms Goh Ching Lee, Mr Patrick Lee (SCO), Jeremy Monteiro, Michael Chiang,

4.    Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.



5.    Some time last year, Bernard Tan and Adrian Tan came to see me.  They told me that they intended to take the lead in forming the Musicians Guild of Singapore and asked if I would be willing to serve as its patron.

6.    They reminded me that I was the founding chairman of the National Arts Council and had championed the cause of music and musicians in Singapore.

7.    After such a reminder, I really had no choice but to say yes.

8.    I wish to thank them and all of you for the confidence you have in me.  I shall try to live up to your expectations.


Power of Music

9.    One thing which differentiates us, the homo sapiens, from other animals is our love of music.  The love of music seems to be an intrinsic element of being human.  Thus, we find human beings making music and enjoying music at every stage in the evolution of civilization.

10.Music is a very powerful form of art.  It can make us happy.  It can also make us sad.  It can unite a nation through music, for example, Finlandia for the Finns.  It can unite a people through a song, for example, singing the Star Spangled Banner by the Americans.  A piece of great music can unite a continent, e.g. Beethoven’s Ode to Joy is the anthem of the European Union.  A great music can cross barriers of time, geography, race, culture and unite the people of the world.  Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has been embraced by the people of Japan, who gather on New Year’s Eve to sing the Ode to Joy.  I believe it has also evokes the strong emotions of Singaporeans wherever it is performed. 


Music in Singapore

11.Music is booming in Singapore.  This is true of all genres of music:  classical, pop, jazz, rock, new music, Chinese, Malay, Indian, etc.  There is a music industry in Singapore.  It is now possible to make a living as musicians.  We want to promote, even more, the appreciation of music in Singapore.  I would like Singapore to eventually become a music city.


No Music Without Musicians

12.It goes without saying that there will be no music without musicians.  We must therefore raise the status, income and welfare of musicians in Singapore.  Musicians belong to a profession just as doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.  It is therefore only right for the musicians of Singapore, whether they are teachers, composers or practitioners, no matter what genre of music they perform, to belong to a professional body.  This is the raison d’etre for forming the guild. 


Vision For the Guild

13.The guild must be inclusive and not exclude any one.  While looking after the welfare of its members, it must also be dedicated to the promotion of music in Singapore.  It now gives me great pleasure in launching the guild.  I wish it great success in the coming years.

14.Thank you.


. . . . . . .

The Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans) is a large evergreen tree in the family Gentianaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia. Its trunk is dark brown, with deeply fissured bark, looking somewhat like a bittergourd. It grows in an irregular shape from 10 to 25m high. Its leaves are light green and oval in shape. Its yellowish flowers have a distinct fragrance and the fruits of the tree are bitter tasting red berries, which are eaten by birds and fruit bats.