By David Chew
Thursday, 30 March 2006, TODAY

The Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore does a lot for its students and the public but it is its public concerts - the latest of which will be held next Thursday - that have been drawing the most attention. In terms of reaching out to Singaporeans, its policy of offering free admission or nominally priced tickets ($8) has gone down very well, said its assistant director for public information Lau Wei Yi. The concerts average at least 70 to 80 percent attendance. "Our concerts are heavily supported by Singapore Pools so we can charge less or nothing at all for most of them", she said. "And we hope for as many people as possible to attend." The April 6 concert, one of four major concerts held every academic year for the conservatory's students, will see the school's head of piano studies Thomas Hecht perform Brahms Piano Concert No 1 in D minor with the conservatory orchestra. "Holding the concerts at prestigious arts venues like the Esplanade and Victoria Concert Hall has given our students the opportunity to perform as if it's the real thing," said Hecht. It has also given Hecht's own students the opportunity to see their teacher practice what he preaches. "In that sense it is, indeed, very hard to perform on your own turf," he said. "You've been preaching some kind of gospel to them and you just hope their now sensitive ears won't catch some mistakes." He added with a laugh: "Of course, this is a good problem." The concerts may be held at the Esplanade for now, but soon students will have a world-class performance venue to call their own. Scheduled for completion later this year, Yong Siew Toh's new conservatory building will include a concert hall that seats 600.

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