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!
YEW GUO ZHENG
PETRONAS Carigali Sdn. Bhd.