Losing sight does not stop you from dreaming big

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She is truly an inspiration.  She has proven that losing her sight does not mean she cannot dream big.  She made her dream happen!

Hopefully, she can be an inspiration especially to those who are limited by circumstances.

With strong determination, you can make your dreams come true and overcome all odds.

To read more, click here.

16 years old girl poised to become the youngest Nobel Peace laureate

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http://www.malalafund.org

She believes in the importance of education and supports strongly for women rights. In spite of the limitations of her environment and young age, she speaks clearly about what she thinks and responds to situations that leave people in admiration.

You are never too young to speak up. Speak with clarity and purpose. Stand up for a good cause.

You will realise how meaningful life can be in the long run.

To catch her video interview that left Jon Stewart (US TV host) speechless, click here.

Take that leap of faith!

Sara Aman, Photographer, Singapore

Sara Aman, Photographer, Singapore

“I see things that makes my heart lift, my eyes sparkle and I smile crazily. And I try to capture those things I see through photography. The designation term for me would be a photographer but I believe I am more than that. ” – Sara Aman

To know more about Sara Aman’s work, you can go to http://www.thelensproject.com.sg.

You can also follow her blog at http://www.thelensproject.wordpress.com.

If you could be invisible for one day with your camera……

Ahh.. probably take pictures where it requires me to lie on the ground or be in an awkward angle! I foresee myself on my belly crawling and trying to get a dreamy shot of wispy leaves 🙂

What made you choose your profession? Were there any particular events or people who inspired you to take this path?

I did not really choose my profession. I was from the Film, Sound & Video course in Ngee Ann Poly. I went into it because being a girl I thought I would have lesser equipment to carry compared to video productions. And trust me I have experienced the huge amount of lights and light stands, apart from other equipment to carry and set up for a production. It was absolutely tiring! And at that time, photography seems like an easy way out.

My dad was quite an avid photographer. He had 2 Pentax cameras which he allowed me to touch on 1 or 2 occasions. I was about 6 yrs old at that time. He also had this amazing Super 8MM camera with the projector and he would record me and my sisters doing regular stuffs. I’ve never really thought about it, but I was already exposed to these things at that age.

Can you share some photographers’ work that have influenced and always inspire you?

There are many photographers, stylists and artists works that inspires me! They are all my favourite! 🙂

I love the photography by Chris Court (http://chriscourt.com/). There’s deep passion in the colours he uses and I absolutely love the simplicity of his shots.

I love the styling by Steve Pearce. You can find his works in Donna Hay Magazine. I couldn’t find a website by him but you can always Google him.

Food styling or any kind of styling is an art by itself. If I’m not a photographer, I would love to be a food stylist!

Among your works, which one is your most memorable? Why?

Sara's most memorable work

Sara’s most memorable work

I was with a commercial studio at that time. My first official assignment was for a hip local magazine. It was a full page product shoot. At that time, conceptualising & photographing a full page seems like the most daunting task in the world. I was just given the bottles & glasses and I had to come up with something. It was a new client that I’ve never worked with. My heart was beating so loud and I kept on second-guessing myself. My palms were sweaty and I kept asking myself how to get this done. It was a nerve wrecking and harrowing experience to say the least. When I finally finished, I was so relieved although still tense with anticipation. It wasn’t until I saw my works in the magazine a month later that I truly felt a sense of relieve and accomplishment. That was just momentous for me when I first flipped through the magazine 🙂

How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?

Find photographer’s works that you love. Do research. Look at magazines, books, YouTube etc. Learn to look at the light. Study those photographers that you love looking at. Do your own experiments. Find a mentor especially one whose works you love. Be relentless in your quest to better your photography. That is the only way.

What are some of the challenges in your job?

Amongst the biggest challenges as a freelance photographer are

(i)Discipline

(ii)Keeping myself current

(iii)Marketing myself and

(iv)Maintaining good client relations.

There are others definitely and its all about troubleshooting. In fact, I would say that being a photographer is to troubleshoot for your clients. I would be given a brief and I have to provide a solution. Its quite fun really 🙂

It is not all roses though. I have been in situations where I was not fully equipped to execute the project. I made mistakes which have caused the job to be not as well done as it should be. But the best thing about mistakes, I get to learn from it. And most times I learn things that others don’t get to teach me.

What are the biggest rewards?

For me, it is the self satisfaction to see my work well done and presented to the client. To know that I’ve given my gift of seeing and my best in what I do. Nobody can give me that feeling except me.

What is something that you wished someone would have told you when you were younger?

I have been really lucky that I’ve always had someone to push me and go for something beyond. Some of the things that I’ve hold on to:

  • Take the leap and have faith. Once the intention is set, do your best and, you are going to be just fine.
  • Be humble and be of service to others
  • Be open and keep learning

You can do it!

Low Shao Suan, Musician, Singapore.

Low Shao Suan, Musician, Singapore.

Low Shao Suan is a full-time piano accompanist with the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at NUS. She also teaches piano part- time and enjoys composing in her free time. Her music can be heard on:

“Precious Moments” was composed and performed by Shao Suan LOW. This video is a collection of photos depicting precious moments of her life, as well as those of her relatives and friends.

What made you choose your profession? Were there any particular events or people who inspired you to take this path?

I received a toy piano gift from an aunt (one of my mum’s younger sisters) when I was a toddler . That kickstarted my love for the piano. As I grew older, I knew that I wanted to be a musician. Attending concerts by world-famous pianists solidified my passion in music.

Can you share some musicians that have inspired you through your career? How have they inspired you?

There were a few musicians who’ve inspired me in my career as a classical musician. My favorite pianists are the Labeque Sisters from France (http://www.labeque.com/) and the superstar of all classical musicians, Lang Lang from China (http://www.langlang.com/).
Lang Lang At The White House. Image taken from http://www.langlang.com/

Lang Lang At The White House. Image taken from http://www.langlang.com/

When Lang Lang was young, he was looked down upon by one of his piano teachers who told him that he had “no talent” for music. But thankfully, with his strong will power to succeed, as well as his dad’s support, he is now world famous and a superstar in the classical music field.

Most recently, I attended a piano recital by a blind Japanese pianist, Nobuyuki Tsuji (http://www.nobupiano1988.com/english/). In spite of his blindness, he made full use of his fantastic hearing and memory to win one of the top international piano competitions in the world. Watching and hearing him play, you won’t believe how musically talented he is! His accuracy in terms of piano playing is so much more accurate than many able-bodied pianists out there, including yours truly!

As for composing and songwriting, my greatest inspirations come from:

What are the challenges of your job?

The biggest challenge is to keep myself in tip-top condition at all times so as not to lose out to the young and upcoming pianists. The second challenge is to learn various new pieces at short notice and perform them in public. The third challenge is to perform more than twenty concerts within the span of two months.

I would also like to share some challenges I faced when I was younger.

Back then, whenever I told certain relatives that my dreams were to study music overseas and perform with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, they would laugh at me. These relatives didn’t (and still don’t) think highly of musicians at all. Thankfully, I didn’t let them upset me. I just kept focusing on my dreams.

The biggest hurdle came when I needed to get my dad’s approval and support for me to study music overseas. My dad had wanted me to be a teacher in a government school, like him, but I was totally against it as that was not what I wanted to do. Because of this, I had a few big quarrels with him. Snide remarks from the above-mentioned relatives added fuel to the already raging fire. I didn’t back down. Instead, I was even more adamant to fight for my dreams.

I sent out many applications to music schools all over the world. The first school that accepted me was the school I eventually went to in France. Of course I took this chance to try to convince my dad again that music was my passion and that music was really what I wanted to do in life. In the end, he relented. The price I had to pay was to have the above-mentioned relatives and the entire clan look down upon me, and my family, as failures, and being ostracized by them. We have not had any Chinese New Year reunion dinner with them since then.

Thankfully, throughout my musical journey, I met many wonderful people who gave me immense help, guidance, and opportunities. Without these people, I would not be where I am today. On hindsight, I am very glad that I had the courage to fight for my dreams. I am also very thankful to say that the goals which I have set since young, I have achieved them all, and I have even achieved much more in return. I am now living my dream life and enjoying my dream job, and I have never felt happier and more blessed.

My advice is: follow your heart, and ALWAYS believe in yourself and your dreams. Remain positive and have faith, irregardless of what happens around you. You have only one life. Live it the way YOU want, and not what other people want of you. Lastly, live your life with NO regrets.

What are the biggest rewards?

Getting to study in one of the top music schools in France and winning prizes in competitions there; performing as soloist numerous times with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra; recording a CD with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra; being featured in various newspapers countless times; appearing on various radio programs and on TV; appearing in an issue of Vogue magazine; performing for the late ex-President ONG Teng Cheong, his wife and his distinguished guests at the Istana; holding a number of successful concerts at the Victoria Concert Hall and the Esplanade Recital Studio; having many opportunities to perform with amazing musicians from all over the world; having a few pop songs sung by various Asian pop singers; winning awards at online songwriting competitions; having my compositions performed in countries such as the United States, China and Austria; as well as securing a fantastic full-time piano accompaniment job at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at NUS.

What is something that you wished someone would have told you when you were younger?

“You can do it!”

Fight For Your Dreams

Low Shao Ying, Musician, Singapore.

Low Shao Ying, Musician, Singapore.

Low Shao Ying is a professional classical pianist, piano accompanist, composer, songwriter and piano teacher. She is currently a full-time piano accompanist at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at NUS and also performs occasionally with friends and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. She also composes in her free time and her music can be heard and downloaded on:

“Baby Kiss me Goodbye” by Low Shao Ying

What made you choose your profession? Were there any particular events or people who inspired you to take this path?

I have always loved music since young (especially after an aunt bought my sis and I a toy piano) and I knew then that I wanted to make music my career. Initially, it was my passion that made me choose this path but along the way, encouragements from my piano teachers and friends, and attending concerts by renowned pianists proved further that I made the right choice. 🙂

What do you do to get inspiration to create your musical pieces?

I get most of my inspirations from looking at beautiful sceneries (be it in real life, on magazines, on tv etc) and listening to beautiful music. At times, a melody will just pop up in my head without warning and I will quickly jot it down or record it on a recorder and it sometimes happens when I’m in the shower. Hahaha. When I run out of inspirations, I will sit at the piano and randomly play something until a tune pops up. Sometimes, when one of my students accidentally played wrong notes, that could create very interesting harmonies which would give me inspirations  to start writing something. As I’m also an ardent fan of film music, I’ll sometimes think of a story or a scenario before writing the music. I know that I have written something good when I can complete a piece of music very quickly and very easily. The ideas just flow very fluently and effortlessly.

What was your memorable performance and why?

My most memorable performance was my very first performance (together with my sister Shao Suan) with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) under Maestro Choo Hoey in 1995. It was also Singapore’s 1st Presidential Concert and the guest-of-honour then was the late President Ong Teng Cheong. My sis and I performed French composer, Francis POULENC’s Concerto for Two Pianos — a very fun, beautiful and enjoyable piece. We learnt the concerto during our studies in Paris so we thought it most appropriate to present it to the Singapore audience for our first concerto performance. As we are twins and both play the piano, we created quite a novelty back then. The orchestra, the audience and both my sis and I had a really great time and the concert was a big success.

The entire concerto can be heard below:

The first video features the full concerto with the composer’s photo throughout the video.

The second video is a live performance of the 1st movement by the legendary and beautiful French sisters, Katia and Marielle LABEQUE (they came to Singapore recently to perform the same concerto with the SSO).  Hope you will enjoy it! 🙂

What are the biggest challenges of your job?

1. Getting over stage fright

Even though I’ve performed on stage many times, the thought of going on stage to play for people still scares me at times. This is because I have been and still am hard on myself, telling myself that I have to deliver a perfect performance to the audience each time I go on stage. However, after knowing that even the biggest names in the classical music scene also make mistakes at times, made me feel less uptight and I’ve learnt to take things more easily. Now whenever I perform, I focus on pulling the heartstrings of the audience with my music rather than worrying about making mistakes.

2. Handling different personalities of the people I work with

In my work, I have to deal with people, be it students, colleagues or foreign musicians. Everyone is different. When I work with them, I have to learn to adjust to each of them and at the same time, figure how to work around their personalities to make things easier for everyone. Sometimes it can be very challenging and I have to try my best to keep my cool. Other times, I have to “open one eye, close one eye” and keep going.

What are the biggest rewards?

Compliments from audience after each concert especially when they tell me they were moved to tears by my playing, and appreciation shown to me by people whom I’ve worked with. As I also compose, I always feel happy and grateful when people tell me they enjoy and like my music very much, and it touches them in a certain way. Also, having many opportunities to perform with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra under renowned conductors, as well as winning awards at competitions for piano and composing. All these really give me lots of confidence and satisfaction. They are evidences that I’ve made the right choice and I want to do even better and bring more joy to people through my music. “Follow your heart and dreams. They always lead you to your goals.”

 Can you share some of your favorite musicians who have inspired you?

My biggest inspirations for composing are the legendary Hollywood film music composer, John Williams (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Williams), and award-winning songwriter, Diane Warren (http://www.realsongs.com/). I admire both their versatility and their ability to compose chart-topping and award-winning hits. John Williams’s fantastic orchestrations and Diane Warren’s ability to write both lyrics and melodies for her hit songs are traits that I greatly admire and would love to have.
As for classical music, my greatest inspirations are my piano teachers. Their patience and dedication to nurture and inspire me led me to where I am today. Without them, I would not have come this far.
My piano teachers’ have also my inspired me to be who I am today. They are Madam Yeo Bee Choo, the late Mr. Ong Lip Tat and the late Madam Annie d’Arco.

What is something that you wished someone would have told you when you were younger?

“Don’t be afraid to fight for your dreams” and “Stand up for yourself. Learn to say ‘no’ when forced to do something you dislike.”.

If they can do it, so can I!

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Eulyn K., Scientist, Singapore.

She has  more than 8 years of research & development (R&D) work experience in a well-known FMCG company specialized in skincare/cosmetics industry & also in an established Singapore’s research agency specialized in manufacturing industry. She has experienced working in Japan, USA, China and Singapore managing and leading research initiatives.

She hopes to inspire and empower people to live their dreams!

Q: What made you choose your profession? Were there any particular events or people who inspired you to take this path?

It is every parents’ dream to have their child to become a doctor. I grew up with that mindset. I remembered my parents told me whenever I was doing my homework at my study table, “Study hard. When you grow up, you can become a doctor and earn lots of money.” Does that sound familiar to you too?

Driven by my parents’ dream, I studied real hard for example completing the assessment books on a daily basis.  I remembered during my Primary School Leaving Examination preparations, I completed almost all the books that bookshops in Singapore had to offer. As a result, I had to review all my assessment books by identifying the questions that I went wrong and painstakingly handwritten those questions on blank A4-sized papers. Then, I would bind it like my own assessment books and attempt those questions again.

As I was working towards that dream, of becoming a doctor, I realized that I don’t think I can be a doctor. This was because I have a strong imagination and can strongly relate to people. This means when I see someone who has injured his leg with blood, I could imagine and feel his pain. This was definitely not a trait of a doctor.

I started to evaluate my dream on why I wanted to become a doctor. I knew I have always had the keen interest on science. My teachers always put on my report cards that I was inquisitive and curious In the table below, I stated the traits of a doctor that I was strongly passionate about and I did a reframing exercise based on my strong interest in science.

Traits of a doctor that I admired: Reframing exercise
Able to save and improve human’s life/health Try to explore alternatives on how I can improve human’s life/health based on science.
Wear a smart white labcoat that exuberate a sense of credibility and respect Identify occupations that can wear a white labcoat

It was only when I was in junior college that I knew exactly what I wanted. That was a research and development (R&D) scientist in biomedical engineering. This was literally close to my parents’ dream of me being a doctor and I was happy in a job that I am passionate about.

If you asked me how did I manage to convince my parents? I realized that as I grew older, my parents gave me the opportunity to explore my own dream. I remembered during my college and university phase when I had to make choices on courses to take, my parents always told me, “Choose what you enjoy doing & make sure you can earn a good living out of it.” That’s it.

Of course, I had to prove to my parents that I am mature and responsible in making my decisions. This is where I have an open communication with them and rationalize the decisions that I made. It is through years of experiences that they began to be confident with me that I can make my own decisions.

The point that I want to say is that parents have a strong influence in our dreams especially when we are young. Their dreams often provide us with that motivation and a sense of purpose. As we grow up and realize that their dreams are very different from what we want to be, you should start to evaluate and do a reframing exercise like I did. Consider factors like your interests, strengths and opportunities that are available for you. Once you have evaluated, talk it out with your parents and people who are pursuing your dreams. It helps to gain perspectives from them who have many years of experiences. Trust me.

Remember it is important that you have a strong passion of what you are doing. This is because it is that strong passion that keeps you going.

 

Q: What are the biggest challenges of your job?

1.Be brave in getting out of comfort zone

In R&D, we need to work on areas that are still not developed yet. We need to understand the established technology areas and be brave to come up with new ideas. We work on ideas that people have not done so that we can come up with new discoveries.

2. Actively aware on new developments and always think on how to make it better

A R&D Scientist need to LOVE reading science journals and papers about the area of expertise. However, if I were to read all these, my eyes will definitely pop out one day! The most effective way is to network with people who are in my area of field. Networking can be done through conferences and seminars. I even make lunch and coffee appointments to discuss. That is how I get myself constantly updated by talking and exchanging ideas with people. I will always question myself how can I make it better. That’s how a scientist can innovate.

3. Have a strong sense of judgement

In R&D, we have to design many experiments. We learn from the results of the experiments. All experiments (both failures and successes) generate learnings. There can be a huge chunk of information to analyse resulting to different of opinions. This is when I need to have a strong ownership of my part of work. I have to rationalize with my team members and convince them why certain approaches have to be taken. This often requires skills of strong communication and analytical skills to justify based on technically sound reasons.

 Q: What are the biggest rewards?

The biggest reward for me is being able to work through a concept idea that was generated from pages of my lab notebooks into the actual product. It provides me with a sense of satisfaction when I received feedbacks from our consumers that they value and love our product/technology!

Q: What is something that you wished someone would have told you when you were younger?

Read stories  and biography books about successful people. Successful people are not successful instantly. They often went through a series of setbacks but their strong passion is what keeps them going. By reading about them, I learnt a lot from their experiences on how they grew from ordinary to successful people. That’s where I have this principle in life that, “If they can do it, so can I!”