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Are Piano Lessons Truly Popular In Singapore Or Forced By Parents?

piano

Having had a Jazz band and club back when I was still living in Italy before migrating to Singapore, I was pretty surprised that while Jazz was quite popular in Singapore as a form of music genre, bands and all were not popular among the parents and children here. In fact, piano lessons in Singapore is what is popular!

However upon further digging, as I had learnt from this article by Straits Times on the state of local students learning piano, not all of it is actually driven by interest, passion, and many times, can actually be forced by their parents. Coming from Italy in the past, there was no such culture, so I could not understand. However, after more digging around and reading that article, I understand, and will attempt to share that with my fellow expats living in Singapore like me too, and are confused about this state in SG.

Firstly, the entire country is very driven by academic success, and specifically, paper qualifications. Since piano proficiency can be measured somewhat formally by the formal ABRSM examinations, it has become something of common practice that every child who takes piano lessons here will have to go for these ABRSM music exams. This is because the students are mostly only between the ages of 5 to 15, and clearly still living with, and essentially controlled by their parents due to their age and lack of independence. Therefore, since the country has a kiasu culture, which is a culture of people afraid to lose out to their neighbours or people they know, scoring well in the formal piano exams is an important thing to many Singaporean parents.

Many children actually start off liking to play the piano instrument. However, many Singaporean parents simply send them for formal classes, and the lessons are based around passing the ABRSM exams – which is largely around classical music. Yet these poor Singaporean children are also taking many formal academic exams, and I was told by my native Singapore friends that academic pressure is already exceedingly high in the country. With pressure to do well on both sides coming from society and parental pressures, and the lack of time to do literally anything else, many of these students see going to these piano lessons after some time as a coerced action.

While many of my Italian expat friends I made while running my Jazz club in Italy, who also migrated to SG like me, still have a fond love and we get together playing Jazz music at least once a week, I found out that many ABRSM grade 8 proficient piano students in Singapore no longer play nor want to do anything to do with it after they have graduated.