Published on Tuesday, 09 August 2011 19:09
Written by Tan Hui Yee
Indonesian tuba player Lasnointer Marbun wanted badly to study music in Singapore, a relatively expensive proposition. But in the end, it was English, not money, that stood in his way.
The talented 24-year-old musician grew up in a boys’ home in the Sumatran city of Medan because his farmer parents were too poor to bring him up.
He had his heart set on studying in Singapore’s Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) from 2006, but it was a hard slog mustering the $17,000-a-year course fees on his 800,000 rupiah (S$113) monthly salary as a musician.
After Noin – as he is often called – shared his Christmas wish to study here so he could be a composer some day, a 30-something Singaporean businessman who wanted to be known only as “Mr Ong” offered to sponsor his three-year course at Nafa.
The dream was tantalisingly close. Noin flew to Singapore in March and passed Nafa’s audition. Unfortunately, he could not make it through its mandatory English test.
He returned home a week later and took another stab at passing Nafa’s English requirement by taking the Internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language in April. But he managed a score equivalent to only 400 out of a maximum 677 points, 100 points shy of Nafa’s requirement.
It brought Noin to tears. “I felt so sad and disappointed, but what can I do? I know my English is not good.”
He has since enrolled himself in a four-year programme at Institut Seni Indonesia in Yogyakarta, the country’s premier music school.
Despite the setback, Mr Ong has stood by him. He bought Noin a S$5,700 E-flat tuba and $900 Acer laptop to compose music. He has also promised to pay Noin’s course fees and living expenses in Yogyakarta, of about S$4,300 a year.
Mr Ong says: “Noin came across as a sensible young man who is thoughtful yet resolute in living his life. I would like to support him to make it happen.”
Noin, meanwhile, is grateful for the opportunity to further his studies in music even though his Singapore dream has been dashed for now.
He doesn’t rule out another attempt at Singapore education. In the meantime, he will hit the books and work on his brass.
“I must improve,” he says.