You might have seen the headline already and thought, hmm, well done, supporting local music! The headline’s innocent enough: “$348k boost for home-grown music“. Wow! More money for starving musicians! Excellent!
The only problem? This.
The first initiative by the fund will be to buy 50 Steinway-designed Lang Lang pianos, at $26,000 each, for use at the Sing50 concert on Aug 7, which is organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times.
After the concert, the pianos will go to 50 primary and secondary schools for music education and choir practices.
Wait, what? 50 STEINWAY PIANOS??
If you have no idea what a Steinway is, here’s a short summary. A Steinway is a piano that sounds so good, most prestigious concert halls carry them. For example, the Esplanade Concert Hall has four Steinways that probably sound like God himself designed them.
Do any of the schools actually need the Steinways? And why 50 GRAND PIANOS, for —-‘s sake? Do any of them have concert halls as well designed as the one in the Esplanade?.. (A comment below pointed out that these may not be grand pianos, but upright pianos which are still double the price of a very good Yamaha upright. Thanks, Josephine!)
Here’s an idea: buy 50 pianos from a local company, and support a Singaporean business. Instead of China’s Lang Lang, brand the pianos with a local pianist’s name, and support a Singaporean musician (I randomly did a Google and found this lovely award-winning pianist, Abigail Sin).
Sing50 concert planners, JUST HOW HARD WAS IT TO THINK OF SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY BOOSTS HOME-GROWN BUSINESSES AND MUSICIANS?
(I’m a wee bit pissed off now, yes.)
OK, maybe I don’t have the complete picture, and maybe having Steinways in schools will actually help home-grown music. Somehow. But here’s the thing — home-grown musicians are making sacrifices and suffering for their art, and they’re only getting very minimal support for it.
The family that scrimps and saves just so their beloved daughter can study music — they could use S$1.3m.
The rock band that’s good enough to play at overseas festivals, but can’t because they have to work at their day jobs — they could use S$1.3m.
The entire local music industry that few people pay attention to — it could use S$1.3m.
It’s true that “home-grown music” is getting some funding. But S$1.3m is a huge pile of money to most Singaporeans, and getting 50 Steinways that will probably end up being underutilized just sucks. And where’s the remaining S$1m gonna come from? I HOPE MY TAX MONEY ISN’T GOING TOWARDS THAT.
Cost of 50 Steinway pianos is — S$26,000 x 50 = S$1,300,000
The fund currently has S$348,000.
Shortfall is — S$952,000.)
Let me make a point in a more civilized manner.
The general elections in Singapore are coming soon, and our social media feeds will soon be full of GE-relevant articles and essays. But discussions about politics shouldn’t just be contained to election periods. All of us need to be politically aware and active so that we don’t end up having shit like this our taxpayer monies misused, or having policies enacted that few of us actually are happy with.
Everything is political. If we appear apathetic about our politics, politicians can and will assume that they can get away with anything, because no one’s watching, and no one cares.
I hope the Sing50 concert planners do something to redeem themselves. If they have big budgets to play with, perhaps they could spend the money in ways that actually help the nation. Perhaps I should complain less and actually contribute more.
Ah, I’m a musician, perhaps I could play for the concert!
Oh. Sigh pie…
I realize that some of this money comes from well-intentioned individuals and private companies. Generosity is a lovely thing, and anyone who gives a gift from the heart should be lauded. I am not finding fault with these generous donors. If you’re someone who contributed to this fund with the intention of helping local music, thank you. There are just so many other better ways to support home-grown music, and that’s what gets my goat.
Let me be very clear about this, since some people seem to be misreading my writing. I’m not blaming the government for this. (The Sing50 concert people are the ones being a bit silly.) I’m implying that the power structures of our country allow for this kind of wastage, and that these structures exist because too many people are apathetic about politics. Everything is linked, but these links are very often invisible even to the people who use them.
*The author blogs at http://mrseah.com