Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Mr Yew Guo Zheng Replies...

Kudos for the response! It's certainly heartening to see such responses from seniors.

Much of what is written in the response is what a lot of orchestras do now. I have had the experience of organising performances and having a team of people to think of fundraising methods. We had to plan six months ahead, considering that we had international performers as well.

However, although this is not impossible for our young juniors in the MCO to handle, time spent is always an issue not only to students, but to parents as well. The learning curve is steep but not unattainable, provided that guidance is given.

While I acknowledge the truth in Horng Yuan's response (through Kok Hoong), we need to understand that the current board of leaders are not as mobile as we currently are. Being Form 4 students themselves, they are still very much under parental control.

There is a severe need to upgrade the instruments because contrary to instruments in the MMB, Chinese instruments cannot last long. For example, over the years, the snake-skin membrane of the er-hu will lose its tension and the sound quality will deteriorate rapidly. It is not an unknown fact that Chinese instruments need constant maintenance to ensure a reasonably long life span. Purchase requires cost; the same goes for maintenance.

I wish to share a few issues that happened between 2002 and 2005, as Horng Yuan questioned the happenings after 2002. The orchestra had been in a steady decline since 2002, my second year in the MCO (I joined the MCIG in 2001, the same year it was rebranded to the MCO), and I would say that we reached an all-time low in the year 2004 before Wong Sen Loong, Harvey and I took over the reins of the leadership.

Times were hard (we were just Form 4 students after all) and we were facing a great threat - a lot of our good performers decided to leave the orchestra due to dissatisfaction over the administration which was accumulated in the two years before 2004. Communication between the leaders was scarce, and politics were rampant. This was the hard truth for us to learn.

Therefore, in 2004/2005, with such a small group of people in the orchestra, even a decent concert performance was out of the question. Sen Loong, Harvey and I decided that it was at the interest of the orchestra to rebuild its foundations. We feared the worst – that the orchestra would die of natural death. We began pleading to our peers to remain patient in the orchestra and help them rebuild their passion, and struggled to bring up the juniors.

Nevertheless, we decided that we need to rebuild the foundations of the MCO by first having more members (after all, what's an orchestra without members?) and train them as best as we could. That was our one-term goal. However, there were ups and downs and though I wouldn't say we did a wonderful job, the results were good enough for Ng Wai Hong to take over the board in 2006 and develop it, and then under Lee Kitt Leong the MCO had a concert in March 2007 (plans were done in 2006).

It wasn't easy to maintain an orchestra without guidance from seniors because by the time my peers took over the leadership, we had inadvertently lost contact with seniors who left in around 2001 and 2002 (most of us didn't have mobile phones). Perhaps Horng Yuan and Kok Hoong faced the same issue as I did but circumstances could differ. However, with such advanced communication technology, it should not be an issue altogether.

While it is fair not to compare the MMB with the MCO, the stagnancy was based on progress within the MCO, and not compared to the MMB.

While Horng Yuan may contend that orchestras from UTP, Sam Tet and Ave Maria run on a different platform, it is not wrong to learn and emulate them on whatever values that are applicable to us. We do not copy others; we emulate them intelligently.

But I agree with Horng Yuan that the orchestra in UTP are run by undergraduates (no postgraduates involved so far) and this gives us some other advantages. However, the very fundamentals of administration of the orchestra are very much the same (I was the president and student conductor) and the problems we face are no different.

I am genuinely happy to see Kok Hoong and Horng Yuan still bear some interest in the growth of the MCO. I have been hoping that seniors back in the MCIG days could shed some light on this issue so that the current board can set up a way forward. As far as I know, there are very little records and details on the performances or major activities that had been conducted. It is important that such records and details be kept and filed for future references.

It is a well-known fact that every orchestra will have its highs and lows. It is vital that when the orchestra reaches its peak, the leaders must continue to help set a vision and mission so that the upcoming leaders can work towards attaining the new goals. An orchestra, devoid of a vision and mission, will only go on a decline naturally after reaching its peak. Sadly, between 2002 and 2004, there was little progress, if any, culminating in the deferment of any intention to organise events from 2004 to 2006.

This group of students leading the orchestra are mostly Form 2 to Form 4 students who have little knowledge, experience and guidance in leading an orchestra, not forgetting that they require the higher authorities to give them the green light in their endeavours. While we may be critical on our views, we must realise that they need time and effort to take one step at a time.

To the new board of the MCO, we have finally got seniors who helmed the MCIG back in the 1990s to shed some light. Now based on what I have shared between 2002 and 2005 and what has been written by Horng Yuan on the MCIG between 1997 and 2001 (plus his views), it’s time to plan our way forward. Do not feel belittled or discontented by the criticisms and comments that have been stated thus far. Use them as means to build a better orchestra. Seek us out!


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s said...


I've noticed a vast difference
in the message you are trying to convey in the first and second post pertaining
MCO. First and foremost, I'm just a 2-year old member of MCO since I was in SMK
Convent previously. However, I was rather an active member; attending most of
the practice and participated in relevant events. I was rather shocked and
saddened by your first post, whereby as an EXCO from MCO yourself, you've
retarded the spirit of all the MCO members regardless of the current or
previous ones. You are supposed to uplift their spirits, drive them to improve
themselves but never ever compare with the others. This is really lethal
towards an organisation.

MCO left a whole lot of good memories to me. The
members are all helpful and co-operative. I was taught well in playing ‘gu
zheng’ and when I continued playing this instrument in my university, the
teacher was impressed on how well I was taught back in St. Michael’s.

there are obstacles along the way, we should not blame others but to sit
together and fix it. This is the team spirit that we need. If the fund is not
sufficient, then find ways to fork them out. If the recruitment response is
poor, come up with an idea to attract the students. There is always solution to
a problem.

Life is like a wheel, there is always ups and downs. We might be
down for now but with efforts, things will start to improve and without
realizing it, we will be on the top again! So grow up and think like an adult.
No point criticising on weaknesses but stand up and do something about it.

Action speaks louder than words.

Michelle Chew
Master in Medical Sciences
International Medical University

karakurom said...

Why MCO on steady decline since 2002?
I remember it was the "peak" and the orchetra was the "richest" unit in the school; After a series of sucessful concert/activities:

1999 - Concert/School hall
2000 - Millennium Concert / City Hall
2001 - Perak State Level Competition
2002 - An Exhibition on Chinese Music

Henry Yew said...

In response to Michelle's statement, the discussion wasn't meant to retard the spirit of the members or the EXCOs but rather to bring issues to the light. We are not here to point fingers at anyone, neither are we here to languish in the past which will bring us no benefit.

My second letter is merely a reply, and does not necessarily connected to the first.

It is true that we have members who bear very fond memories of the MCO, but not all are so. I have my share of bittersweet moments myself which I cherish.

There is a need to compare sometimes, not to bring them down, but to tell them never to make mistakes that us seniors made before. I believe that to be quiet about some shameful matters is a cowardly act of running away from reality, and it's reality that we draw our lessons from.

I have never accused anyone in any of my letters. I pointed out that most importantly, we must have our way forward. That should be our action.

And to Karakurom, it would be inconvenient for me to comment further on that, lest I be accused for more degrading remarks. Besides, it's the past.

Nevertheless, I have faith that the MCO can achieve much greater heights than before. Should you still have the MCO in your interest, then I would implore you to chip in your say for improvements.

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kp soh said...

Dear Mr Yew,

Please allow me to tell you what I think for your second comment. And also, please be patient to read through it, as I am telling you all this from an angle of an adult.

Firstly, about the time constraints. I am totally agreed with the parental control that you described. Parents of all times/generation are worried for their child’s future. The same question keeps popping up in their head: What will he gets from all these MCO practices? Will he overspend the time for music instead of study? I believe not many parents see what lies for future of their son playing in MCO. We can’t blame them for such thinking. Now, the question is: Do you take the trouble to clarify to them, how much you enjoy this hobby? Did you explain to them that MCO is not merely playing instrument?

Please spend some time to talk to your parents, and make them see that MCO helps you in other aspects, like leadership, friendship, communication and all the soft skills that you will never learn in academicals. I am sure a parent will listen to you by providing sufficient facts. And no doubt, parents will not take away their son’s favourite pastime, furthermore participating in MCO is not taking part in crimes. Why should they stop you? You got to give your parents that kind of confidence of you are an adult and know very well what you are doing is something good and beneficial….Whereas for members’ mobility, it shouldn’t be classified as an issue, it mainly depends on their willingness, whether they want to come for practices or not!!!!! Don’t put the blame on your parents!!!!!

Next, moving to ‘Communication between the leaders was scarce, and politics were rampant’… First thing first, why such situation happened? All of you are young adults, what holds you back from discussion? Be honest to each other is the key for true friendship and good relationship. Young leaders, you have to bear this in your mind: You share your deepest thought with other excos because you want a better MCO with brighter future. Those who keep hard feelings to themselves are just being selfish, to your friends and to MCO, for what you keep is putting barrier for MCO to advance.

And most importantly, what benefits will you gain from not telling what you think??? Do you feel better if you bottled up your bad feelings about other exco? No!!!! You feel miserable and will start to create commotion among you guys… And that is what happening now… Please be mature to handle all these situations, and this is a skill to learn, not something that you know it by heart, books won’t tell you the solution to handle human to human problem, you just have to face it and tackle it. Be brave to take the challenge.

In relation to ‘lost contact with seniors’, at the first place, what did the older generation has to keep in touch? Not having handphone is not an excuse. Think of the ways to contact them, sifu is there for you, teacher advisor is there. What is more that you need? If you are too proud of yourself and think that seeking advice is a shameful action, then too bad, please don’t blame it to the technology, nor should you blame on seniors. You are not intelligent enough to make good use of the resource and keep blaming all the things around you. If you think seniors should be concerned enough about MCO and should make the first move to interfere or keep asking you “Is everything fine?”, I would predict that you juniors will not like it too. So, be smart. What is more shameful than to have your own uniform body collapse?

Well, I absolutely agree that healthy comparison and competition. But not to the UTP level, tertiary and secondary level can never be equal. Sam Tet and AMC should be a well-chosen comparator. So, buck up, guys!!!!

KP Soh
Member of MCO, 2002/2003
Graduate from Bachelor of Biomedical Science (BBMEDSc),
Faculty of Medicines,
University of Malaya.

Gooi the Blur said...

Dear all,
Thank you for your concern over the issue of the Michaelian Chinese Orchestra (MCO). Many of those who replied, I know and respect greatly, as your names are well known, even to this time. However, some clarification has to be made as I feel that Mr. Yew’s letter was misinterpreted by many.
The letter was written with the intention to bring awareness of the problems that MCO is facing to the school board, PIBG, teachers, seniors, and members (And boy, was he successful, with all the responses coming in), and also as a plea for help and assistance. Some of us, who are also part of the MCO alumni, has been around to help the new batches of MCO to the best of our abilities. However, our best isn’t enough as we couldn’t help out as much as we’d like due to the constraints that come along with being a student. Thus, the aim of the letter: To bring forth as much support and help from other parties as well. How it was misinterpreted to be the way it is now, I do not know.
Should anyone else would like to discuss this matter further, I think it is more appropriate to discuss in MCO’s own blogsite, Do send in your letters to this e-mail address:

Gooi Harvey,
Vice President, 2004/2005
Michaelian Chinese Orchestra.
B.Ed TESL programme,
Universiti Industri Selangor.

Henry Yew said...

I am afraid that all of you have got the wrong idea of my second letter. It was merely to clarify on what happened between 2002 and 2005 and strictly not for the purpose of accusing anybody, or degrade anyone of their dignity.

Neither am I putting the parents at fault because I understand that children of 16 or 17 should still be under parental control. This is well accepted as a fact. The issue is: how do we go about improving the condition of the MCO with the parental control in action. Just because there is parental control does not mean that nothing can be done about it.

Honestly, we have digressed far from my main issue that the MCO needs assistance financially and also in terms of musical expertise, the latter which I am entirely capable to impart. This discussion has moved from financial crisis and expertise crisis to member's commitment and what happened in the period after 2002, issues which are, strictly speaking, irrelevant to my plea.

When I said that communication was scarce, it just meant that communication was scarce. It's part of the history of the MCO that I went through, but as it is already the past, I see no reason to explain why it happened. We may be youths at that time, but we were no adults. We were inexperienced about communication, we were not knowledgeable about managing an organisation. If you must know, we received no guidance whatsoever when we took over the board.

There is just so much that a teacher advisor could offer. There is just so much that the instructor could offer. Seniors are important because they are closer to us as "brothers and sisters". They could guide us on the heritage and how the MCO is run.

But that is all the past and I don't intend to point fingers at anybody. However, I want to engage in a discussion for constructive methods to build up the MCO to greater heights and to impart knowledge that I have gained.

I am thus discouraged and disappointed at the sheer lack of understanding of my intentions, and the interest of some individuals to merely attack the post-2002 EXCO boards for their weaknesses. We speak now from the point of view of adults and we think that what happened between 2002 and 2005 was a sheer display of immaturity. But don't forget that we were just inexperienced, and very well perhaps immatured, Form 4 students.

I am just saying that the MCO requires assistance. Attacking and criticising me and my fellow former board members will not help things at all.

I still visit the MCO quite often, and have been keeping contact with the current board and keeping myself updated of the situation there. I've got a rhetorical question here: Have you?

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