Jasper Goh, Principal Flute

RIGHT NOW, I AM… Answering a series of questions posed to me by Orchestra Collective. I wonder if I would have written the answers to these questions very differently if I were to be in a different mood, in a more jovial mood perhaps. But as it stands, I shall answer these questions in a sombre matter-of-fact manner. 

IN THE BEGINNING… My passion for music started inprimary school, when we picked up the recorder. Because of my love for Final Fantasy games (and their music, great fan of Nobuo Uematsu here), I learnt to play most of the tunes by ear on the recorder and devised my own fingerings to play two full chromatic octaves on the recorder. When I got to secondary school, it was my brother that got me to join the band since he was from band himself as a bass clarinetist. He told me to choose flute but I was assigned to the euphonium section in Maris Stella. It was only after they realized how hopeless I was at the instrument that they transferred me to flute - where I was equally hopeless for the first year.

MY CURRENT INSTRUMENT IS… A 0.18” Sterling Silver Burkart Professional Flute, which may not be so silver as you guys might think.

MUSIC IS… Everything to me. Perhaps this is a bold statement to make and shows quite clearly how very little other interests I have, but when one is prepared to make music his entire life, one had better stake everything on it. 

MUSICIANS TODAY… Are desperately trying to find paid performances, even if it is not much money. This has resulted in a lot of musicians I see feeling jaded; going to rehearsals and playing in concerts where they don’t feel like being at, and consequently playing in a subdued and lacklustre manner, despite graduating from top schools all over the world and winning prestigious competitions. Perhaps such is the nature of being a musician, or perhaps I have not garnered enough experience to feel the harsh aftereffects of choosing to be a musician. But I feel that one should always perform at his or her best capabilities, and treat the music with utmost respect. As the mad rush for money continues, I can’t help but wonder if the quality of our music is actually diminishing. In this generation, we musicians have to prepare for multiple concerts in a month or even a week. It is indeed difficult to produce a high level performance in such a situation. Hence, we should not take up performances which we do not feel like doing, and to focus on the ones that we honestly commit ourselves to, not for ourselves but for the sake of the music.

SOME OF THE THINGS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO ME… Other than music are human relations. Musicians are one of the loneliest people on earth, because we lock ourselves in the practice studio for hours everyday. We do seek and crave human love and care more than anyone else. Being an introvert though, it is difficult for me to be in social situations which involve large numbers of people and so I usually hang out with one other friend at a time. I really do appreciate my true friends a lot.

IN MY SPARE TIME… If I even had any, I would take a nap. Sleep is the best activity (or non-activity) because it resets your brain and helps you to focus better at any given task. Never ever practise or do any mentally straining tasks when you don’t have enough sleep, because you won’t be able to focus. 

MY INSPIRATIONS ARE… Everybody. Everyone is unique, and has something to teach you. Everyone has their positive and negative qualities that we can learn from, to either emulate, or to avoid. I also enjoy teaching because students do inspire me sometimes - finding out their weaknesses and strengths help me to practise in a different manner as well. Obviously, my flute inspirations would be the flute legends Emmanuel Pahud, Jacques Zoon, Phillipe Bernold and Vincent Lucas, amongst others.

A WORD FOR YOUNG MUSICIANS… Is to try to learn as much as possible what music has to offer you. You may be sure that music is not the thing for you and that you will never pick up another instrument for the rest of your life after graduating from your school band, but try to see what similarities music has to life itself. Make your own discoveries, and you will do well. A particular conversation with a student from one of the school bands I teach at made me realise this. He mentioned that he regretted joining band because it felt like such a waste (when he could have joined other CCAs), but everything does indeed have something for you to take home. I could have said my three years at Temasek Polytechnic’s Law and Management Course was a waste of time and that I totally regret it, but the fact is I don’t. I did meet a great number of diverse people from different backgrounds and interests, and each of them did inspire me in ways that musicians could not have inspired me. To young musicians who want to continue on this journey to make music part of your life, there is no other way but to work hard. Listen to a lot of music (not just pertaining to your instrument), practise intelligently, ask many questions (find a teacher). You can never make it big on your own without a professional’s help. Even if you practise 2 hours, 5 hours, or 8 hours a day, if you have bad habits, you multiply these bad habits. Right now, your problems with your instrument may be small, but after one month of practising 8 hours a day, you now have a huge problem. Get rid of all your bad habits right now, and the only way is to get professional advice by having regular lessons.

IN THE NEAR FUTURE… I will hopefully be formally starting my music education in France. I am very excited because this is my first time studying in a music institution. And to be in a foreign land, where the flute scene is one of the best in the world, leaves nothing to be desired.

Photo credit: Nelson Chua

*Published 13 February 2014.