Brief update of Music Therapy in Singapore
Music therapy is one of the lesser known professions in Singapore (Leong, September 24, 2002). The earliest documented music therapy session here took place in 1984 (Cheng, 1989). The handful of music therapists working in Singapore were trained in Western countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. (Pang, 1993; Ruyters, personal communication, March 13, 2005). Thus, as local practitioners, they may become aware of and begin to examine the cultural applicability of their Western training to the local context. There is limited literature written from the Singaporean perspective in the mental health profession at large. This is even more so for the already small music therapy scene.
Music therapy practice in Singapore has traditionally been largely confined to the special education setting (Cheng, 1989; Ruyters-Lim, 1997). National Council of Social Service (NCSS) supported music therapy positions in the six special schools from 2004 to 2006 (NCSS Human Resource, personal communication, January 31, 2005), although due the availability of trained professionals, there were difficulties filling all available positions at any time. NCSS had given out music therapy scholarships in the past. May Goh-Clulee was one of the scholars. The most recent recipient of this VCF scholarship was Loi Wei Ming (2006).
Music therapy was identified in a report titled, “Social Services in Singapore” (Wong, 1991), to provide services to the disabled. While not specifically stated, the goal of music therapy appeared to be educative, so as to be a viable “alternate work force in many sectors where there is a shortage of labour [sic]” (Wong, 1991, p. 29). Another goal is the integration of individuals with special needs into mainstream society so as to provide a head start for them. The use of music therapy with special needs children seems to be operating mainly within the behavioral model, having specifically targeted goals such as skill acquisition and improved social functioning (Ruyters-Lim, 1997). Recent milestones to celebrate include the following: Music Therapy is currently listed on NCSS’ career opportunities page, as well as SingHealth’s Allied Health Professions Overview.
An important milestone for the local music therapy scene was the formation of the Association for Music Therapy (Singapore) (AMTS) in September 2007. Although our professional membership base continues to expand, there are currently only fifteen locally-based music therapists working in Singapore. These include both Singaporeans as well as professionals from Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, New Zealand, and the United States. Currently, eight music therapists, Loi Wei Ming, Jacqueline Chow, Evelyn Lee, Clara Chong, Ng Wang Feng, Katy Krentz, Chi-Yen Chang, Eugenia Tan, and Germaine Yong serve the following Voluntary Welfare Organizations (VWOs) respectively: Rainbow Centre Margaret Drive School, Rainbow Centre Yishun Park School, Asian Welfare Women’s Association School, St. Andrew’s Autism Centre, St. Andrew’s Community Hospital, THK EIPIC centres, THK Children’s Therapy Centre, and Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH). In addition, Dr. Patsy Tan serves hearing impaired children and various other client populations at Singapore General Hospital (SGH). She was joined by Charissa Tan (2010-2011), then in late 2011 by Hong Konger Christal Chiang. Ng Wang Feng also serves the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore), Bishan Home, and also lectures at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. Melanie Kwan serves general medical, pain, dementia, rehabilitation, cancer and hospice patients at KKH, the former Alexandra Hospital now KTPH, and Dover Park Hospice. She was joined by Ashley Spears at KKH in 2010.
Over the past five years, local music therapists in various settings, including special schools and hospitals have made presentations and publications locally and overseas. As for a comprehensive local MT training programme, we are working hard to make it happen. (We’ve had numerous requests over the recent years. Yay!) Please watch this space as we will update as soon as progress is confirmed. In the meantime, the current pathway to getting trained as a music therapist remains going overseas. Click here for information on internationally accredited programmes. You may also find this SingHealth scholarship site useful.
Music Therapy electives have been offered at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) since 2006. These offer students a mere taste of what music therapy may offer as a career but is not full-fledged educational or clinical training.
To cite this page: Association for Music Therapy Singapore (May 2014). Music therapy in Singapore [online]. Singapore’s very own Music Therapists – Singapore Music Therapy. Retrieved date, year, from https://singaporemusictherapy.wordpress.com/music-therapy-in-singapore
Cheng, L. S. C. (1989). Music therapy in action: A case study of a brain-damaged teenager. Singapore Journal of Education, 10, 2, 77-85.
Leong, P. Y. (Sept 24, 2002). Tune in! [online]. ST Recruit Online. Retrieved Mar 1, 2005, from http://www.asiaonecareers.com/st_recruit/r20020924.html
Pang, K. P. (1993). Music therapy in Hong Kong. In C. Dileo Maranto, (Ed.), Music therapy: International perspectives (pp. 253-261). Pipersville, PA: Jeffrey Books.
Ruyters-Lim, A. (1997). Music therapy. In K. Lyen, E. H. Lee & J. S. Y. Tham-Toh, (Eds.), Rainbow dreams: How to help your child with developmental delay (pp. 266-284). Singapore: Armour Publishing Pte Ltd.
Singapore General Hospital. (n.d.). Arts for health: Inspiring healing experiences [online]. Retrieved June 26, 2010, from http://www.sgh.com.sg/about-us/Arts-for-Health/Our-Programmes/Pages/music-therapy.aspx
Wong, J. (1991). Service directions for voluntary welfare organisations serving the disabled. In M. T. Yap (Ed.), Social services: The next lap (pp. 22-59). Singapore: Times Academic Press & Institute of Policy Studies.