I won’t deny being quite the Asian tiger mum, so I was delighted when Asher told me that he wanted to learn how to play the violin. As a toddler, he had told me a couple of years ago that he wanted to play the electric guitar when he grows up, and he reminds me every year. His music teacher at his preschool has him started on the ukulele, but when she told him that he had to learn to play violin or piano in order to “become really good at the ukulele,” he promptly demanded lessons.
I don’t have a musical background myself, but I guess that a foundation in classical music is imperative to grasping any sort of musical instrument.
So, I brought Asher, who is five years old, for a trial class at a music school in the next town, where they hold violin lessons in a group of six children and their parents, Suzuki-style. We were about to sign up for the course proper when we received an invitation to review another school, Aureus Academy. Intrigued by their unique selling point of individual lessons, I agreed.
Aureus Academy was set up by Hawaiian-born brothers Lawrence and Julius Holmefjord-Sarabi, with their first outlet located at Delfi Orchard in September 2013. Lawrence, 25, is an accomplished musician himself.
He spent his teenage years training as a concert pianist under notable musicians, including Dr John Robert Ringgold, who was a student of Austrian classicist Artur Schnabel. Lawrence later completed his education in music at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. His brother, Julius, is the corporate muscle of Aureus, helping him expand the business and manage the five outlets, which are located at 112 Katong, AMK Hub, Forum the Shopping Mall, Rochester Mall, and Westgate.
You can sign up for violin, piano, guitar, cello, drum, brass and vocal lessons at Aureus, and you don’t have to be a kid to do so! The school welcomes adults who just want to pick up musical training for their own enjoyment.
Aureus differentiates itself from other music schools by specialising in one-on-one lessons. Most of their 75 teachers are full-time staff and are tertiary-qualified performers. This means that they hold either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree (there’s even one doctor of musical arts degree), and them being full-time means that it’s possible to reschedule make-up classes if necessary.
Asher’s violin teacher, Ms Alice Wong, has a Master’s degree in violin performance from the Royal Northern College, Manchester, United Kingdom. She had completed her education in violin performance up to Bachelor’s degree at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts here. She is never without an effervescent smile and Asher’s lessons are always productive. We go to her at Aureus’ outlet at Forum.
Violin, as you can guess, is a very technical instrument that is quite challenging to master. Thankfully, Teacher Alice always corrects Asher encouragingly, without scolding. This really makes him look forward to every violin lesson and leave in a happy mood. The personal attention, I feel, is really beneficial for a young child like Asher, who can tend to fidget and shift after a while. I can’t imagine how it would be like to attend violin class with five other fidgety pre-schoolers and their adults in a group setting – how much can one learn within 45 minutes?
As Teacher Alice only has to devote herself to one student at a time, lessons are only 30 minutes long. That’s about right – any longer and I don’t think Asher can concentrate. Besides, the student needs to stand the whole time while playing the violin.
The lesson starts with a thorough revision of what Asher has learned the previous week, including corrections, before Teacher Alice moves onto newer ground. Parents are welcome to stay, but they don’t have to get their own instrument and learn it together with their kid. At the end of the class, she marks out the sections of the workbook which Asher needs to work on at home, and sums up what she has taught for the day and how I should supervise his practice.
When it comes to practising at home, Asher never shirks from his responsibility – he had agreed that the violin would always come before The Magic School Bus (he’s allowed to watch educational DVDs at home), or, on a busy day, some playtime. Don’t worry – he’s not that hard-pressed for the half an hour he sets aside to practise every day, and he still does go out to the playground on his balance bike.
Asher was generously loaned a 1/10 size violin (he will need to change to a different violin at different growth stages) which we can bring home to practise on, as well as an instructional workbook Teacher Alice during his lessons. Students are able to loan their instruments from the school at attractive rates starting at $25 a month, which I feel removes a significant barrier for parents who might be reluctant to sign up their children for music classes for fear that their investment in expensive musical instruments will go to waste.
Asher started his first lesson with Aureus in the first week of November this year and shows no signs of giving up on his musical dreams yet (fingers crossed!). He’s no prodigy (I think), but we’re thrilled to be on this journey of learning and discovery with Teacher Alice. The violin may be difficult to master, but I told Asher what any Asian Tiger mum will tell her child: “Nothing worth trying will ever come easy.” He’ll learn.
In a nutshell, here’s what Aureus offers:
– one-on-one, personalised music lessons; rates here:
- 4×30 minute lessons – $213.00 per month
- 4×45 minute lessons – $320.00 per month
- 4×60 minute lessons – $427.00 per month
– violin, piano, guitar, cello, drum, brass and vocal lessons available
– all teachers own either a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree in the instrument they teach
– easy rescheduling of classes when needed
– five conveniently-located outlets islandwide at 112 Katong, AMK Hub, Forum the Shopping Mall, Rochester Mall, and Westgate
– instruments – even the piano – are available for loan; you don’t have to buy them (see below for rental rates)
Instrument Rental Fees
For piano rental:
- Aureus Academy will have a 1500 sqf retail space that will open in February 2017 in Forum the Shopping Mall
- Only carefully selected Japanese pianos will be featured in the showroom
- Customers will have an option of renting or purchasing an instrument.
- Alternatively, customers can opt to rent for the first 6 months and then use the rental fee towards purchasing it
- There will be four different tiers of available instruments – rental fee for the most basic model would start from $75 per month – $250 per month
- If you sign up before January 31, 2017, you will be eligible for 1 month of free rent (Terms & Conditions apply)
For violin rental:
- Sizes range from 1/10 all the way to full sizes and the rental per month go for $25.00 dollars for the M100 and $45.00 for the M200
- Both require a deposit and it varies based on the size and make
For guitar rental:
- Price for the 1/2 and 3/4 size classical guitars is $15.00 per month + deposit
- Price for full size classical guitars is $25.00 per month + deposit
- Price for full size acoustic is $35.00 per month + deposit
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