Between a rock and a hard place

May 16, 2006 at 8:10 pm 8 comments

The national daily today published five readers’ letters, all urging MINDEF to reconsider its conscription policy to allow a talented teen to defer his NS to attend one of the finest and most prestigious music schools in the US.

Much as I sympathise with him, but well, to use a SAF term – LPPL. This is the price to pay for being a male Singapore citizen/2nd generation PR. All of us who went through the system also had our dreams be put on hold for 2 (or 2.5) years. Are our dreams and talents any less worthy than his then?

Incidentally, the new MINDEF conscription policy came in the wake of the Melvyn Tan saga.

One of the forum letters:

May 17, 2006
Give Ike a chance to pursue his dreams

I READ with dismay that 17-year-old violinist Ike See may have to turn down a scholarship to study at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in the United States because he has been denied deferment from national service.

I have had the honour to witness Ike play (and conduct) on many occasions – charity events, chamber recitals, symphonic concerts, competitions (from which he emerged champion three times) and masterclasses. The standard and maturity of his musicality is unlike that of any other young musician I have seen.

The combination of sheer musical talent and skill, diligence and unassuming personality is probably the reason why he is one of the few Singaporeans to be accepted into the Juilliard School, Peabody Conservatory, New England Conservatory and Curtis Institute of Music. To have been offered a US$114,000 (S$182,400) scholarship to study at the latter just goes to show how bright a future Ike has and how much faith professional musicians from the West have in wanting to nurture this bright talent from Singapore.

Abigail Sin, Clare Yeo, Gabriel Ng and Loh Junhong have all been given a chance to pursue their dreams. They have even had their experiences glorified and sensationalised by the media. How is Ike any different? Because he is a more mature, less affluent, male Singaporean?

Will letting one young man have his national service deferred for a few years be a detriment to the country? Why must Ike’s loyalty to his country be placed in doubt, and why should he be treated like a potential Melvyn Tan? To quote the boy himself, ‘I understand that serving my nation is important and I will do so eventually.’

I would be very perturbed if Ike has to give up the opportunity of a lifetime in his prime because of some red tape in a conscription policy.

It is not enough to build a conservatory, put on concerts and say we support youths and the arts. Show it.

Wong You Min

Edit (17 May): KTM had put up all 5 letters on his blog.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Is higher education a right or privilege? To the Nice Guys and Girls

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. samuraibunny  |  May 16, 2006 at 10:33 pm

    does him doing NS mean his scholarship is revoked forever and ever? and what is LPPL?

  • 2. takchek  |  May 17, 2006 at 10:09 am

    I am not sure if the scholarship would be revoked, at least not from the details the ST had provided.

    As for LPPL – it means “To feel frustrated, generally as a result of being unable to do what one wants to do”

  • 3. Angeline  |  May 17, 2006 at 10:39 am

    Er, I always thought LPPL refers to doing the unnecessary, pointless, superfluous, otiose, and so on.

    Why would LPPL mean “To feel frustrated, generally as a result of being unable to do what one wants to do” ???

    I can’t reconcile the two.


  • 4. takchek  |  May 17, 2006 at 10:56 am

    I took the definition from here (under “bang balls”):

    At least this was consistent with how I used the term when I was a conscript. Talkingcock’s singlish dictionary (under “LPPL”) gave a different meaning though.

    So which is right?

  • 5. Angeline  |  May 17, 2006 at 11:22 am

    Given that i’m female without the extra bits sticking out and not conscripted either, there’s a very high chance i’m just damn wrong lor.

    (so 20 odd years of existence and i’ve misunderstood the essence of LPPL wah lau! too much!)

    As far as metaphors go, you can hardly fault me for my original belief. Isn’t banging balls unnecessary, pointless, superfluous, otiose, and so on – okay like why would a guy wanna do that like so extra!!

    your meaning of LPPL doesn’t quite tally with the image.

    how come????? why????

  • 6. L'oiseau rebelle  |  May 18, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    >does him doing NS mean his scholarship is revoked forever and ever?

    While I don’t know the details of his scholarship, some universities offer scholarships based on the funding that they have in that particular year. i.e. in one year they might have the money to pay for your education, in the next year the applicants may be better or the school might have received less funding.

    But anyway.

    I don’t think it’s sheer coincidence that all five Singaporean music majors who graduated in the last 2 years from my university are female. While I’m no musician, I’ve learned from the music types that 1) you’ll need to continually practise to be good, putting away your instrument for two years does hurt your ability, and 2) your fingers must be protected at all costs.

  • 7. Anonymous  |  May 19, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    Yes, if he is only able to be free of other obligations when he is 18, he will be too old to be accepted for Curtis. Also, the other kids there are also immensely talented and are all of 15 to 16 or even younger. The amount of years you lose in practice can make a great deal of difference.

  • 8. Anonymous  |  May 25, 2006 at 12:23 am

    Ike See doesn’t have his dreams put on hold. His professional aspirations and prospects are greatly affected.

    Does it make that much of a difference whether you enter college at 19 or 21 or 25? For a promising young classical musician, it does. I understand that the window of opportunity for development is usually in the late teens and early twenties for recitalists.

    Even if we insist on fairness, we should not shy away from the fact that doing NS may cost Ike a lot more than the average Singaporean.


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