Tang Tee Khoon is the founder of The Glasshouse, and the artistic director at Chamber Music and Arts Singapore Limited.
What did you do when COVID-19 hit? Did you manage to organise your house according to tips from Marie Kondo? Maybe you attempted to get in shape with a bit of Chloe Ting? While I come into the category of those who didn’t get around to doing much (I could hardly be expected to be the most productive version of myself in “these unprecedented times”), COVID acted as a catalyst for a lot of people – including Tang Tee Khoon.
Tang is not only known as a “truly transcendent” violinist, but has also become one of Singapore’s leading propagators of the arts. Her love, or rather instinct for music began at 4 years old when she held a violin for the first time. Practising for two to three hours a day, by age 12, she was already inaugurated into the classical scene when she performed with the NUS symphony orchestra.
As she evolved as a musician, performing all across the globe with concertos in America, Switzerland, Thailand, Japan and even the Czech Republic, so did her relationship with the violin – from “that first natural instinct like a duck taking to water”, it shifted “to one that was more sustained with ups and downs”. Even as she made the major career decision to promote (rather than perform chamber music) and eventually became the Artistic Director of Chamber Music and Arts Singapore, what remained clear was that music would always be “an important ingredient to life”. She believes that music needs to be “embrace(d)… fully as a powerful tool.”
For Tang, COVID-19 was an opportunity to turn the music industry on its head. Live performances have long been considered a dying art. However, it was only when the already dwindling flow of audiences came to a sudden halt, that making a significant change went from being a consideration to an absolute necessity. What was supposed to be a gradual process of extinction became a complete wipe-out.
And so, The Glasshouse was born. Created with the intention of making the historically elitist world of classical music more accessible, The Glasshouse is for the masses. Most importantly, as an online platform, it serves as a restoration. A provision of the kind of longevity that will reinstate the arts to its rightful place.
Conceptualized back in March, by August, The Glasshouse had launched a space dedicated to engaging “meaningfully with music and the arts for inner personal growth”. Featuring 4 core programmes that use visual storyboards with accompanying audio bytes and activities to explain both the rich history and the depth of power that music possesses, it helps people see the big picture. Music is no longer viewed from a purely technical standpoint, but is acknowledged as having the ability to mentally, emotionally and spiritually change individuals.
As far as educational resources go, this is a gold mine. Which is why it is currently under review from multiple organizations including the Early Childhood Development Agency and the Singapore Teachers Academy for the Arts.
If you think about what Tang was able to achieve in the span of a few months, you may be curious to find out how she did it. The secret to her success is: she’s incredibly capable of guiding others. Singapore is quite an ageist society: age is often equated with skill. However, Tang acknowledges that while not always the case, age can just be a number. Her 20-year-old executive managers are juggling full-time courses at the National University of Singapore but still “deliver work that is better than those in their 30s”.
What she realizes is that seniority is not a qualification in itself – the trust of your team is not included in your contract, it has to be earned. As a leader, you not only set the example, you are the example. For instance, by picking up the slack when others are too busy, Tang has fostered an environment where sharing one’s workload is the norm. Her two executives are able to gauge when the other is struggling and are always there to help each other out.
Sometimes, it feels like we’re stuck on a hamster wheel: we go through all the motions of life – first it’s school, then university, then job hunting – with so much confidence that the next big step will allow us to get off. But it doesn’t. Because we inevitably want more.
“You’ll get there, don’t be impatient.” It’s been there all along: the raw ingredients of who you are. Just like Tang who is still the diligent 11-year-old girl she was (who planned each and every one of her tours), you’ll find all the remnants of who you were in the fourth grade at 30 when you’re about to start a new job.
You just need time to grow into the person you’re meant to be.
Check out The Glasshouse at: theglasshouse.chambermusicarts.com.sg
Other links: tangteekhoon.com