Singapore Government Press Release
Media Relations Division, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
MITA Building, 140 Hill Street, 2nd Storey, Singapore 179369
SPEECH BY PRESIDENT S R NATHAN FOR THE LAUNCH OF THE ONG TENG CHEONG PROFESSORSHIP IN MUSIC ON WEDNESDAY, 2 OCTOBER 2002, 10.55AM AT THE ISTANA BANQUET HALL
Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence
Mr David Lim, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts
Family of the late Mr and Mrs Ong Teng Cheong
Ladies and Gentlemen
We are gathered here today for a very special purpose � to establish the Ong Teng Cheong Professorship in Music at the National University of Singapore, and through it, commemorate the memory of the late President Ong Teng Cheong.
Mr Ong�s passion for music and the arts was life-long. In whatever position he held � whether as a politician, as a Minister, in the Labour movement, as the President, or as a private citizen after leaving office � Teng Cheong made it his mission to bring the appreciation of music and the arts to all Singaporeans, especially to the ordinary men and women.
Teng Cheong�s love for music, and especially his personal touch in the way he lent support for the arts is well known to us all. He never let an opportunity pass, be it to entertain family guests in a private setting, performing a piece to bring cheer to underprivileged children during a Presidential visit, or to take to the stage during public performances to accompany musicians or as a guest conductor of the SSO.
Spotting, developing and encouraging our young talented musicians and artists was something especially close to Teng Cheong�s heart. As President, he took a personal interest in every artist and musician selected for the President�s Charity Art Exhibition and President�s Charity Concert series, which he had initiated as an effort to showcase Singaporean talents. Many talented young musicians found themselves invited to perform in the Istana before select audiences � this was Teng Cheong�s way of giving them recognition and encouragement.
Singaporeans have also much to thank Teng Cheong for his many contributions to Singapore�s development � in the arts and culture; in the MRT system; in rejuvenating the labour movement and improving the lives of workers and their families. But beyond the public persona, and his immense contributions to Singapore as one of the key members of the 2nd generation leaders and as our first elected President, it was Teng Cheong�s passion for wanting to make a difference in people�s lives and his personal touch that has endeared him in the hearts of all of us.
I am indeed happy to see the National University of Singapore establish the "Ong Teng Cheong Professorship in Music" to honour a man whose passion for music and enthusiastic support for its promotion has marked so much of his life. This Professorship is especially timely with the recent establishment of the Singapore Conservatory of Music in NUS.
It also comes at a time when Singapore is taking a significant step forward in the arts with the opening of the Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay next week. The Esplanade is perhaps most symbolic of Teng Cheong�s imprint on our artistic landscape. This icon of Singapore�s desire to be a global city for the arts had its genesis in the 70�s when Teng Cheong, the then Minister for Culture, mooted the idea of a national performing arts venue. The idea took shape and was finally accepted by the Government in the 1989 landmark report by the Advisory Council on Culture and the Arts that he chaired. Thereafter, Teng Cheong continued to take an active interest in this project, overseeing the Esplanade project as its Adviser, and following with abiding interest its development.
I am therefore pleased to learn that The Esplanade Company will be dedicating the closing concert of its annual Music Box Festival to Ong Teng Cheong. This concert, to be named "The Ong Teng Cheong Concert", will showcase talented, young Singaporean musicians. Together with the Ong Teng Cheong Professorship in Music, these are fitting ways to pay tribute to someone who was truly a lover and a champion of the arts and music.
As Chancellor of the National University of Singapore, I wish to thank Dr Jannie Tay, Mr Chandra Das and members of the Ong Teng Cheong Music Fund Committee, and especially the Singapore Totalisator Board and the Lee Foundation for their generous donations to endow this professorship in Teng Cheong�s name in NUS. I am sure this Professorship will bring eminent musicians and scholars to NUS and contribute significantly to the development of music and the arts in Singapore. This would be a fulfillment of the life-long passion of the late President Ong Teng Cheong.