Sunday, July 27, 2008

Interview by The Straits Times

The Rise of Singapore’s New

Creative Class: Beat-by-Beat

by Leong Phei Phei

The Straits Times, August 9, 2007

Medical practice and music composition may seem strange bedfellows but they found a perfect match in Dr Kenneth Lyen.

Along with his hectic full-time job as a paediatrician, the self-professed musical fanatic found time to start Beat-by-Beat, a musical incubation programme involving workshops, playreading and courses.The group was conceptualised during a regular tennis session with three good friends - one a singer-songwriter, another an accomplished musical composer, and the third, a designer. All passionate about musicals, they decided to do something for the music scene in Singapore.

Dr Lyen recalls: "Although all of us have full-time jobs, we have never given up our love for musicals. As we felt strongly that there was a dearth of Made-in-Singapore musicals, we decided to do something about it."

And so Beat-by-Beat was born.

While response from the public was overwhelming, support was less than encouraging. Dr Lyen says: "During our first year, we knocked on all doors to ask for funding to no avail. We had the people, but we lacked the support to be given an opportunity to prove our talents to the world."

When he broke the news to members, half expecting them to withdraw, the exact opposite happened. "It was incredible. Nobody withdrew. Everybody was so passionate and all they wanted was to still put on a good performance," says Dr Lyen, with a tinge of pride.

As it was, for every night the no-frills musical was staged, it was sold out to an audience which gave it their two-thumbs up.

A year later, thanks to much-needed funding and support from the Creative Community Singapore, Dr Lyen and his team were able to se many more projects come to fruition. More importantly, they were able to provide a platform for many more individuals to see their dreams come true.

Dr Lyen says: "I am so glad that we pressed on despite the initial hurdle. There is a lot of talent in Singapore - what they need is training and opportunity."

Today, Beat-by-Beat has grown from strength-to-strength, and has also seen the birth of several spin-offs that have self-sustaining business models. For instance, its "Adapt a Baby Musical" programme encourages corporate sponsors to support the development of these musicals. Its "Sing Avenue", on the other hand, aims to produce and market musicals internationally.

Dr Lyen says: "Given the opportunity and training, and very importantly, with the support of Creative Community Singapore, our productions can be as good as others anywhere in the world!"

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