Miri Tutti Project

Miri Tutti Project

A little music education movement in a Bornean city.

The pilot project was a bit of a disaster:

We placed everyone in a full symphony orchestra, and the wind and brass players spent most of the time struggling to count rests;

We selected repertoire that was too difficult (we did try), and the tutors understood it as indicative of the technical level of the players - it took them some time to figure out how to save the camp;

The rehearsals was held in a Malaysian school, which, as per national standard, is not equipped with air-conditioning. Most of our tutors fell ill from the tropical heat by the third day.

You can only imagine the courage it took to say "Yep, we're going to do it again next year". Luckily, we made sure that we learn from our mistakes.

Click on the images to enlarge

Every year around June, I skip a few QYS rehearsals to return to my hometown in Miri, Malaysia and work with a few friends and colleagues to organise a 5-day music camp. We invite professional musicians from the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) and abroad to work with local music students and prepare them for a concert on the last day. Along the way, students get to attend workshops, masterclasses, a faculty concert, community outreach activities, and a social night of games and food.

The project, called Miri Tutti, is very close to my heart because there are a lot of musically passionate students and very limited music education opportunities in my hometown. Of my many friends who aspired to be musicians, very few had the opportunity to pursue tertiary studies because they did not have sufficient technical or musical skills to pass the admission audition, and/or tuition fees are too expensive with sparse and highly competitive scholarship. This becomes a self-perpetuating consequence as they then begin their teaching careers without professional music and pedagogy training.

I believe that it’s no fault of theirs. Had they been born in a country like Australia, they could potentially be as skilled as anyone in QYS, given the amount of passion they have and the time and effort they have invested in. It was simply a matter of resources and opportunities.

This realization was what emboldened me to submit a proposal to the MPO back in 2014, who responded and offered to send a troop in three weeks. Teaming up with my music peers, we took on the challenge that gave birth to this project. Perhaps the individual in most horror was my harp teacher, as the pilot project was held during the study week of my very first semester in uni, and I did zero practice for my upcoming recital-cum-examination during my trip home.

Since then, the Miri Tutti project has been growing. We’ve introduced programs for beginner and advanced strings, wind and brass, choir; we've welcomed specialized pedagogues including Brisbane’s very own Loreta Fin and Gordon Hamilton; and we've taken a focus on professional development opportunities for local teachers, which has previously not been available in my hometown. It's all a trial-and-error process, much inspired by Brisbane's existing music education programs including the QYO. We’re very proud to have inspired a few other similar projects in Miri as well, including a classical piano festival and an outreach and online education project by students of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory. All of us in Miri are very excited to see where this project will head towards.