Brunei’s performing arts scene in school is growing rapidly with competitions in choir, drama and traditional music happening on a regular basis. Although most of the secondary schools in Brunei teach performing arts as an extracurricular activity, many students are taking their passion for it to another level.
We’re happy to hear from Pg Hj Md Shahremi (Remi) Pg Md Salleh who teaches music and drama in his role as the Performing Arts Coordinator at Sayyidina Husain Secondary School in Jerudong. He has been instrumental figure in bringing the performing to the school.
Hello Cikgu Remi! You started music classes at Sayyidina Husain. Well done!
I’m proud to say that we are the first local secondary school that teaches music as part of our curriculum.
How did that come about?
We wanted to make music education accessible to local students because we do know that learning music can be expensive. My former principals, Cikgu Zarina Hj Khadir and Cikgu Hajidah Hj Abd Wahab, an officer in the Department of Co-Curricular Education (JPKK) at the Ministry of Education, both agreed to the idea of making music learning accessible for students. Music has been proven to assist our ability to learn. When a student is learning music, they’re having fun. Basically, my classroom is like a therapy session every day. We sing and make noise. We play board games as well.
How does board games relate to music?
I have a board game called ‘Simon A’ which is a musical take on the famous game ‘Simon Says’ but in music format where they try to remember the patterns. There’s lots of humming as the students try to recall the notes.
If you want something to happen, you make it happen. That, to me, is being progressive.
That’s part of the teaching technique?
My line of music education uses the Kodály method, an approach to music education pioneered in the 20th century by Hungarian composer and linguist Zoltan Kodály. First, we teach students to recognise sounds, counts and patterns. We also employ hand signs, where every sign or pattern has its own sound. I think it’s best to train your ear and identify sounds first because that’s an important aspect in music education.
You coordinate performance programmes, teach music, train to teach music, and you also do things for other schools. Tell us more about that.
Occasionally, JPKK will request assistance in training which could be for new choir teachers or judging in competitions; and I’m thankful for all these opportunities. It has built my repertoire from being just a teacher to being a composer, judge and trainer as well.
Who are your biggest inspirations when it comes to teaching music?
The first being my late father, Pg Hj Mohd Salleh Pg Hj Chuchu, who was supportive of me and always told me to follow my dreams. Another inspiration is my studio partner, Suhaimi Abdul Rahman, of Misha Studios. We’ve been working together for a long time and he was the one who suggested to me that it’s time for public schools to have music. Then there’s my former principal, Cikgu Zarina, who suggested for music in our school. Because of her, I took it upon myself to get certified as a music teacher.
The final inspiration is Cikgu Hajidah, from JPKK, who gave me the opportunities to train others, become a music judge, go on exchange programmes and learn other kinds of music. She also helped me to become fond of teaching music.