Follow Your Heart

I am perhaps one of the lucky few ones who managed to defy my parents’ career choice for me and persevered to be in the career I am now, a professionally trained pianist. I have shared this before in the Music, Singing, and Dancing sub-forum before, but I am going to re-share this again to give some perspective as someone who actually went against the grain.

My parents have always wanted me to be in the IT industry. They are in the profession (and still is) and have done quite relatively well. So naturally they see me to go into the same industry, either to start my own business or taking over their business. So they groomed me from young to be in this career.

So I started learning piano as a hobby at a ‘young’ age of 16 back when I was in Polytechnic (my parents didn’t really care whether I went to JC or Poly as long as I ended up with a Honors degree in IT in the end), then I realised that music field is really where I wanted to be in. Yup, pretty much one year into piano lesson, I decided that I simply HAD to become a musician. Now I didn’t make this decision lightly. I was fully aware of the career choices available to me and the difficulties of acquiring the necessary skills necessary for those career choices. And yes, I knew I was severely disadvantaged as compared to those who started young and had a lot of resources at their disposal. But I knew that I would live forever with regret if I did not make the switch. I went into career knowing that I might just be ‘average’ and might not actually fulfil my dream of becoming a concert pianist, but I knew I had to try.

Predictably, my parents were incensed at the idea. Several professional musicians I spoke to all discouraged me, saying that I should stick to music as a hobby because I didn’t receive the prerequisite training from young. So the starting journey for me was very difficult. My parents would often refuse to give money for lessons, so I often went for months without lessons. Heck, I even prepared my grade 8 without teacher because no money to afford lessons. My parents would also openly discourage and shame me. For example, when I was practicing piano my mom would come stand beside me and said that I was untalented and should just give up now (yes, this was absolutely true and I am absolutely not making this up). It was only really that after I graduated from Poly and found an IT job that I could afford some decent instructions. At the age of 23(?) I auditioned for NAFA and was accepted. My parents grudgingly helped sponsor the course fee because they finally realised that I was very adamant about my career choice. Well, at least I was working towards my degree.

I was by no means cream of the crop when I started my full time study. In fact I was practically bottom feeder at the start because of my poor training. One of the NAFA teachers practically said directly to my face that I would not survive 2nd year and I should just quit the course now. But I persevered and simply worked as hard as I could to correct all my deficiencies. Unlike most of my classmates, I sacrificed so much just to be in the course, so it’s really do or die for me. I improved tremendously and by the final 2 years of my course, I was on a respectable level compared to my peers.

The starting of my career as a music teacher was also by no means easy. I was a complete unknown fresh grad and also thanks to my lack of proper instruction early, I did not really know how to teach the grades. So, yeah, the first couple years after graduations were really rough. But I knew that I simply had to improve as fast as I could because my livelihood depended on this. So fast forward to today, and I am glad that I have done considerably well despite my less than ideal start. It is not a life of luxury and glamour, but I do not need all those at the moment.

What I shared might seem incredulous to some of the KSP parents here. If I had followed my parents’ intended career choice and become a successful IT entrepreneur would I be happier? Seriously, I can’t answer that question. Yes, I know, one can argue that it might be better to have a day job and pursue passion as a hobby. But I made this decision and I had to live with it. And slowly by slowly the dream is getting closer.

You have found your element!

Hi, in my opinion, you have certainly made the right choice! I believe that we have to love what we do so that we can do it really well. And when we do it really really well, surely the world will appreciate it and reward you accordingly. If you would like to be more assured, you could read books by Sir Ken Robinson on our elements.

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