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Celebrating music at the Southeast Asia Teacher Conference

4 months ago


More than 150 teachers from eight different countries attended the first ABRSM Music Teacher Conference in Southeast Asia at the beginning of December.

Travelling far and wide, there were teachers from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and many states across Malaysia at the event, which was held at the Putrajaya Marriott Hotel, Malaysia, on December 3 and December 4.

It was an action-packed two days for delegates, with 20 different sessions for teachers to choose from to best suit their interests and needs. The theme of the conference was exploring more holistic approaches to teaching and learning, and therefore understanding the importance of music exams within a broader context.

ABRSM Chief Examiner John Holmes spoke about these points in his keynote speech, concluding that the art and craft of music were equally important to develop but building a solid foundation was essential, in particular thinking about breadth and depth of understanding. However, most importantly, this should all be born from a continually growing interest and love for music, which is essential to instil in students. This set the tone for the busy conference, in which teachers really engaged, learning together and smiling.

The experienced team of presenters showed great passion and insight in their sessions. While John Holmes covered broader topics, including assessment in context, there were also a number of group and specialist sessions:

  • Loo Bang Hean provided sessions for piano teachers, focusing on tone, balance and shaping, as well as the myths of pedalling. He also delivered sessions on the art of piano accompaniment, together with Andrew Filmer (viola) and Chi Hoe Mak (baritone), concluding that the accompanist does not provide a passive role but a musically integral and collaborative role in the ensemble. 
  • Andrew Filmer and Mabel Wong provided sessions on approaches to strings teaching and coaching ensembles, sharing best practice with the teachers, who also interacted, reflecting on their own experiences. 
  • Chi Hoe Mak delivered sessions on getting students to sing in the context of instrumental lessons as well as sing together, thinking about how to start a choir in a music school.
  • Jerison Harper Lee provided music and movement sessions, looking at how to teach theory in a more practical way, how to listen with the body, and how to unlock creativity through improvisation. 
  • Gan Kai Ze gave further sessions on introducing musicianship in individual and group classes, while Susanna Saw delivered a dynamic and thought-provoking morning session, which not only gave insightful tips on developing musicianship skills but also challenged the audience to reflect on their values and objectives, and therefore their approach, to teaching and music-making in general.

The teachers found the conference informative and positive, and thought there was a wonderful atmosphere throughout the two days. Overall, there was a great sense of community among the dedicated music educators who attended, still desiring to participate, learn, and reflect on their own teaching practice as well as enriching their own lifelong musical journey.


ABRSM would like to thank all the helpers and supporters of the event, including the Malaysian Youth Orchestra Foundation (MYOF), Graceful Piano, and Arrow Vision.

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