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Singing a new tune


Nur Ameera (left) and Nur Shahirah during the convocation ceremony in Serdang. They are both passionate and confident that music will bring positive outcomes to their students.

Nur Ameera (left) and Nur Shahirah during the convocation ceremony in Serdang. They are both passionate and confident that music will bring positive outcomes to their students.

NUR Ameera Nabila Azmi, 24, from Kodiang, Kedah, is a celebrity in the making.

She’s in the process of recording her first single Oh Sayangku. Composed by industry veteran Eddie Hamid, the song is slated for release soon. While excited, the teacher-by-day insists that singing and being a celebrity, is her part time job.

At the Institute of Teacher Education Malaysia’s (IPGM) Ipoh campus, Nur Ameera Nabila was already blossoming as a performer having participated in keroncong performances and cultural dances. A vocalist by training, she also plays the guitar and keyboard.

Many IPGM applicants shy away from music out of fear. They think it’s difficult because they’ll have to learn to play music, she notes. She feels the anxiety is misplaced because picking up an instrument is part of the process to enhance one’s skill.

Alamelu says that most parents don’t encourage their children to study music, thinking that it offers no future benefits.
Alamelu says that most parents don’t encourage their children to study music, thinking that it offers no future benefits.

“I took up music because of interest. It’s a passion I hope to share with my students. Teaching is my bread and butter and it’s a way for me to give back to society. Singing has always been a dream. I sing for self-satisfaction. But ironically as a student, I’d lip sync whenever there was a group sing-along in class.”

Music, she says, can be a very important de-stressor for children. It allows them to let loose and have fun.

“My goal is to incorporate musical elements in my students’ lives by making sure lessons are enjoyable. Music refreshes the mind after hours of study, and can draw out hidden talents.

“I’m very involved in traditional music. It’s an experience I want to share with the younger generation. I want to groom talents. They must know about their musical legacy as interest in the arts and culture is fast waning,” she says.

Currently teaching in Shah Alam, she jokes that her students are her biggest fans. She says they’re her priority, and she’ll only perform on weekends and after school hours.

K. Alamelu Rathanam, who is now waiting for a posting, was an untrained attachment teacher (GSTT) for three years before studying for her degree in 2013.

“I had no basic knowledge of music until I was offered to do a music course at the IPGM Tuanku Bainun campus. Now I know what music education entails, and how it contributes to humanity.

“Children enjoy music by listening, singing, and playing instruments. These activities build their imagination and stimulate their intellectual curiosity. Music helps them relax and be creative, but it also teaches discipline and builds self-confidence.”

Laughing at how she’d hit the wrong notes because she was always in a hurry to finish her lessons during her degree days, the 35-year-old from Teluk Intan, Perak, now plays the keyboard and piano well.

She wants to expose her students to the music of various cultures, and genres, believing that lessons about pitch, rhythm, dynamics, form and timbre, help students develop critical thinking skills.

“Not many trainees want to take up music because they either have no interest, or don’t know what music is about. Most don’t own musical instruments at home so it’s tough to practise. Furthermore, most parents don’t encourage their children to study music, thinking that it offers no future benefits.”

A fan of arts and culture, Nur Shahirah Mohmad from the IPGM Ipoh campus was always active in boria, dance, choir, and singing performances.

As a child, she took piano lessons and dreamt about becoming a recording artist. In the end, she decided on a career as a music teacher because she saw many things she wanted to improve on.

“The timetable for music lessons is often used to teach core subjects as the former is seen as unimportant. And in some schools, non-music teachers are made to teach the subject, resulting in students only being exposed to song and movement activities. They’re not taught to play music.

“I knew I could make a difference. There’s so much about music as a subject that students can learn and benefit from.”

The 24-year-old from Sungai Petani, Kedah, is now teaching at the Pos Kemar orang asli settlement in Gerik, Perak.

The children enjoy music lessons but they’ve been without a teacher for three years until she was posted there in July.

“They love to sing and I find that it makes learning easier for them. When we have choir lessons, they mix around freely.”

Explaining the importance of music, she says it promotes holistic growth, and gives them the confidence to face large crowds. Children, she opines, are no different from adults. They’ll be very stressed if school is all about exams. A student, she says, will develop physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and socially, if exposed to music at a young age.

She believes she can help students become well-rounded adults through music. The music syllabus, she points out, covers a myriad of personal development activities and many cultural art forms that are unique to the different races.

Describing herself as an amateur pianist and violinist, she’s in a band and is part of the Hulu Perak district education office performance troupe.

“When I was a pupil, I’d always pester my teacher to make me look like a grown up. During a particularly memorable boria competition, I made my father buy me a pair of knee-length boots. With thick makeup, I looked like a diva on a tight budget,” she jokes, when recalling her primary school music days.

Urging schools and the Education Ministry to only allow qualified teachers to conduct music lessons, she says failing to do so would result in students being short changed.

“How can you expect students to benefit from the subject if those teaching it don’t have the necessary knowledge and training? The quality of education will definitely suffer.

“Most trainee teachers don’t apply for the music course because unlike subjects such as mathematics and science, they feel it’s not something they can take pride in.

“When I told people I was majoring in music, the reaction was always: ‘Oh, just music?’. Even when I received an award at graduation, claps weren’t as loud as for the core subject recipients.”

But, if people knew how rigorous it is to major in music, it would shatter their perception of music being easier to pass than other core subjects, she adds. She highlights how music teachers have to adopt creative tactics to engage with students of different capabilities. Drawing on an example, she says teaching 30 students to play the recorder can be a quite challenging.

“Students have to play the instrument by recognising the notes on the music score. This requires cognitive and locomotor skills. To teach a huge class in a way that’s easy for all of them to follow, is not easy.”

Nur Shahirah, Nur Ameera Nabila, and Alamelu Rathanam, received their degrees during the IPGM convocation ceremony held from Aug 27 to 30 at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS). The three are also recipients of the excellence award in the primary music education category.

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