Jalen Loh - First Prize Winner of the International Music Competition 'London' Grand Prize Virtuoso 2016. Performed at the Royal Albert Hall Elgar Room at 8 years old and Medley Music School's Pioneering Student.
1. Can you give a brief background history on how Jalen came to learn music, why piano and was there any resistance or interest shown and at what age.
Since young, Jalen has shown some tell-tale signs of his musicality. At a year plus, he was able to sing/hum along (pitch clear) to songs just after listening for a few times; he also enjoyed tapping and dancing along to music DVDs, he even danced to music on a street. He liked figuring out notes on the piano and sing-along on his self-composed tunes. So, we decided to start him on piano when he reached 3.5 years old. I was a little apprehensive at first if that was the right age to start, as I was not sure if he could sit through a half hour session.
After a trial lesson with Teacher Sher Lyn, I asked Jalen if he wanted to continue and he said yes. Something must have ticked. Over the past 5 years, there were pieces that he showed particular interest to, and you could tell because he would play it so relentlessly. It is also sheer enjoyment listening to him playing songs he could sing, and performing sing-alongs with his younger sister. There were times when he also dwelt in transposition and harmonisation of music. Why piano? It is a convenient choice probably. He showed interest in drums as well but maybe in time to come.
2. Were you surprised by the win?
A very pleasant surprise indeed! Dumbfounded actually. We never expected for him to be invited to play at RAH. Such an honour! When Teacher Sher Lyn first suggested that we could consider submitting an entry for Jalen for the Grand Prize Virtuoso Piano Competition, we just thought it would be a good exposure and learning experience for him. In the spirit of trying out something new (which we often encouraged him to), why not?
3. How did Jalen react upon learning about it himself?
Asked him on how happy he was on learning the news, he gave a score of 10/10!
4. What were the efforts put in by him at home?
Practising the piano is a discipline set when he started learning at 3.5 years old. Every day, we will set aside time to practise piano. It is not the duration that matters, but the discipline of setting aside time for it. As the days progress, it becomes a habit. In the initial years, I (or his aunt) will sit with him to guide him along, but as he matures, he is able to do it independently. Very often, his playing becomes our dinner entertainment when everyone returns home from work. He takes pride in his efforts. When he is able to complete learning a piece on his own, we can totally share his joy.
5. How does he balance school work and practicing?
Probably because the habit of practising has been inculcated since young, it still forms part of his daily routine activities even as he progresses through the primary school. It has been set in the mould that homework and piano practising are 2 things he needs to complete before other leisure activities kick in. On days where he has CCA and returns home late, his practising time may be shorter or he would focus on more targeted practise. Thankfully, he has balanced it quite well so far.
6. Does he have other interests or hobbies?
He loves bowling too, and has been bowling for a year now. He is immensely thrilled by every strike or spare he scores! He also loves animals, all sorts. From dinosaurs, to sea mammals, reptiles and creepy crawlies, you name it. He loves reading about them and drawing them. Of course, visits to the zoo, river safari, bird park, SEA aquarium, natural history museum etc. form part of his yearly birthday treats. Recently, he became quite obsessed with origami animals as well.
7. What are your initial objectives in letting Jalen take up music? Any new goals set now?
Probably alike many parents, my initial objective when he started learning is just to complete his Grade 8. I know he enjoys music. And I believe that if he enjoys something, he will be less likely to give up halfway. Whether he pursues further to yet another milestone, I will leave that to him to decide in time to come. For now, I still hope that he continues to enjoy music, especially from his own fingers! Apart from formal attainment in grades, my wish is also for him to use what he has been blessed with to bless people around him.
8. How do you feel about the Suzuki Method?
Since Jalen started his piano lessons under the Suzuki Method, listening to the Suzuki CD becomes a norm in our daily car journeys. It became relatively easy for him to pick up new pieces. Often in class, he will be reminded that he needed to “play like the CD”. So, it is not uncommon that a single song can be put on repeat mode for the entire car journey. I believe this has largely shaped his playing and allows him to have faster progression through more difficult pieces. Lessons time is not just beneficial to him but also to me as a parent. I realised the importance of good tones, techniques and postures. Under constant encouragement and reinforcement from Teacher Sher Lyn, I witnessed his progress. I am very proud of him indeed. The positive environment has enabled him to thrive yet enjoy the learning process.
9. How did he gain self-confidence while learning music? How will you help Jalen calm his jitters before his performance at the RAH?
Thanks to Medley, Jalen was given his initial public performance opportunities at an Open House and even the Istana when he was barely 4 years old. I am not sure if he knows what a “performance” is then. So, being unaware of what needs to be fearful about, I am probably the more jittery one. With many performance opportunities in Medley, Jalen grows to become a confident performer. As a family, we support every one of his performances. Before each one, this is our consistent message: “Just enjoy yourself, Jalen! Just enjoy!” At RAH, it will be the same support, the same message.
10. Any other comments or inputs are welcome.
Jalen won’t be able to achieve this honour without the guidance and coaching from Teacher Sher Lyn and all his PEC teachers. Our sincere gratitude to all.
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