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Deutsche Bank Singapore’s Born to Be programme provides platform for children with special needs to shine

September 2014 │ Singapore

Born to Be confident. Every parent wants their child to have confidence. Some send their children to all forms of enrichment classes from music to dance to sport, and even to professional grooming and public speaking -- with confidence being one of the desired outcomes. But what if your child has autism? What challenges would you face in building their confidence?

In Singapore, the Corporate Responsibility team identified music as one tool that can help these children gain confidence. Working in partnership with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO), we established The Deutsche Bank-Singapore Chinese Orchestra Music Programme with Pathlight School. Pathlight is Singapore’s first autism-focused school to offer the mainstream academic curriculum together with life readiness skills. The children at Pathlight have the cognitive ability to do a mainstream curriculum but still need support in terms of social integration. The programme uses music to help develop the musical capabilities of the students, and also to encourage social interaction, facilitate creative self-expression and stimulate emotional satisfaction.

Deutsche Bank’s partnership with the SCO began in 2012 and has successfully demonstrated the power of music to transform and inspire. The lunchtime concerts we have hosted at One Raffles Quay, where Deutsche Bank Singapore is based, have been very popular. This year, we expanded our partnership with the SCO to launch Born to Be in Singapore. Born to Be is Deutsche Bank’s youth engagement programme – in Singapore we work with the community to support projects that help young people with special needs fulfil their potential. With the SCO, we established two programmes focused on children with special needs: the Music Programme and The Deutsche Bank-Singapore Chinese Orchestra Music Scholarship. Created for talented music students with disabilities, the scholarship is for recipients recommended by the SCO through their outreach initiatives where they identify and nurture young talent.

“Through SCO's partnership with Deutsche Bank in these music education programmes, we hope to reach out to children and youths who do not have this access in order to change and inspire them through the joy of music,“ said SCO Resident Conductor, Quek Ling Kiong.

Earlier this year, we named eighteen-year-old Stephanie Ow as the first recipient of the scholarship. Though visually impaired, Stephanie has never let this stand in the way of her passion for the erhu (a two-stringed bowed music instrument sometimes known as the “Chinese violin”). She wants to be a professional musician – the three-year scholarship will enable members of the SCO to nurture her artistic talent and help her on the way to realise her dream.

“We wanted Stephanie and the Pathlight Percussionists to work towards a short-term goal and to have a platform to perform in front of an audience in a formal setting. That’s how the idea of a concert was born,” said Annie Yeo, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Asia, who conceived this programme with the SCO.

Dream Beyond – a concert held on September 20 specially for the children of Deutsche Bank’s employees and charity partners.

And so the work began.

The Pathlight Percussionists started weekly sessions with SCO musician Ngoh Kheng Seng in March. “I did a lot of research into how I can best benefit the students. First of all I tried very hard to understand every student’s needs because each student in Pathlight is unique,” said Ngoh.

His infinite patience paid off. On the afternoon of the concert, although their first few moments on stage looking out into a sea of audience members was initially daunting, the students rallied and performed with passion – their energy was palpable as they kept the beat in complete sync with one another, displaying a skill far beyond expectations. In the video that was aired after their performance, one of the boys voiced the hope of receiving a standing ovation. His wish was granted: the students brought down the house!

“Through this training I learnt about teamwork with my friends in following the same beat. And when I go out in the future, I will join a music appreciation club to learn new things and make new friends,” said Adib Bin Mohd Zain, one of the Pathlight Percussionists.

Before Stephanie’s performance, the lights in the concert hall were dimmed and the emcees – Deutsche volunteers Joy Qiu and Oliver Bettin – invited the audience to close their eyes and imagine themselves in her world as she shared her hopes for a future as a musician. Stephanie was then led on stage, in a vivid red dress. She gave a flawless performance of Yu Bei Ballad together with the orchestra – a song that conveys the revolutionary spirit of the Chinese of the North and evokes the people’s romantic imagination and hopes for the future.

More than 700 guests attended, including guest of honour Mr. Sam Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth; as well as employees and their families, beneficiaries from 12 of our charity partners. The SCO designed it as a full-length concert but included some children’s songs to cater to the young guests who made up half of the audience. Led by Resident Conductor Quek Ling Kiong, the orchestra had the audience laughing and clapping along to Song for Little Angels, and a medley of popular songs such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Mary Had A Little Lamb. The young guests were treated to pre-concert fringe activities in the atrium, which included a “touch-tour” of Chinese musical instruments. This was a rare treat and proved to be a huge hit with the children who had a great time banging on the drums and making lots of noise with the other instruments. Popcorn, candy floss and airbrush tattoo booths were also set up to provide entertainment.

The concert was a resounding success. “I enjoyed the concert tremendously! It is really inspiring to see the Pathlight youths and Stephanie performing with such confidence. Indeed Born to Be is a powerful programme and I love how your beneficiaries thanked Deutsche Bank with the concert title “Dream Beyond” – sweet," said Ong Hwee Suan, a guest from the National Arts Council.

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Last Update: October 7, 2014
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