Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good. — Malcolm Gladwell, The Outliers: The Story of Success, 2008
This is a story of a journey of faith I took at age 24. I was teaching music fulltime and felt competent in my capacity as a musician. Part of me wanted to compete in the Yamaha Electone competition for fun, another part sensed that this could be a platform to share my faith in a secular world.
As the story unfolds, you will see the barricades I had to scale, many of which were unexpected and exacted from me a great deal of courage, and faith that God would be there with me and strengthen me when the going got tough.
Singapore, June 2004 This first round was straightforward. It helped that 6 years ago, I’d taken part in the same competition, so I knew what I was up against. Again, I won first prize.
Taiwan, August 2004 Competitions, whether in the field or on stage, are always about the people in there. Your rivals, your allies, new friends, and mentors. Sometimes you wonder how being in a certain place and time can cause certain people to walk into your life and change it forever.
Representing Singapore meant meeting Mrs Eileen Lee, then the senior chief instructor at Yamaha Singapore. We were already acquainted; she was the examiner for the Teacher’s Grade exam at Yamaha where I was a student. But Taiwan gave us the opportunity to work together and eventually, become lifelong friends.
I had eight weeks to polish Transcending Barriers, my friend Jansen’s composition, and prepare Londonderry Air, the Irish folk song. We took a risk with Londonderry when we decided to arrange it as a medley with Amazing Grace, hymnlike, elegant and sublime, but stripped of flourishes and special effects which the then-state-of-the-art Stagea Electone model could do. The other risk was to perform both pieces on the older and less glamourous EL900. It was an act of humility to use the older model. I mean, how would the judges view the performance? Would they think it inferior? The only thing in our minds was how to express our praise to God through the EL900 and make it sing with my heart and soul. Continued on p.2