I received an email a couple of days ago about the on goings in the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. It was disturbing and I was undecided whether I should write about it because I was not sure if it was true. Well, I was just told last night that the news has already been reported in the press. Here is an excerpt from my email:-
Much as we like to encourage appreciation of Western Music in Malaysia
why is it that Petronas sees it fit to finance the 'Malaysian
Philharmonic Orchestra' which is a misnomer because 95% of its 105
musicians are foreign and mainly European. Each musician is paid
between Rm 16,000- RM28,000 per month. They are given 2 months paid
holiday and working conditions which are second to none in the world.
They have not one but 3 European conductors ! The Chief Conductor is
paid RM130,000 per month and the Associate Conductor gets paid RM
50,000 per month. The total Monthly budget for this orchestra is RM
The Malaysian Conductor Ooi Chean See resigned because it was widely
known she was being undermined and not allowed to develop in her
career. During her time with the orchestra, her concert scehdule
decreased gradually to the point she was doing only a couple'Children's Concerts' per year.
The orchestra has been in existence for 10 years now and the total
amount spent on this orchestra has been a staggering RM 500 million.
Yes, Petronas does not have money for bridges for Malaysians but it
has money to splash on foreign musicians. Petronas does not appear to
have real desire to train or give opportunity to locals musicians.
They promised to set up an Academy of Music to train local musicians
with the tutors drawn from the orchestra but this sadly has not
Since its inception, the Malaysian Philharmonic orchestra has not
increased its Malaysian participation which still stands at a shameful
4%. They have cosmetic programs like 'outreach' to supposedly
encourage the love of western classical music to local Malaysians but
these are essentially self serving publicity stunts. Even the newly
formed 'Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra' is a publicity stunt
with no serious commitment to develop Malaysian talent. It is poorly
organised and its musicians meet about twice a year only! The previous
founding CEO of the orchestra Mr Hamid Abu Bakar was clueless about
music and left the artistic decisions to IMG, an international music
agency who have successfully milked Petronas for tens of millions of
The current CEO Juniwati Hussin is a chemist by training and is a
slight improvement because she does actually attend the concerts and
is not averse to learning to appreciate western classical music. But
the overall artisitc planning and direction in controlled by the
Europeans who have a vested interest telling Petronas that there is no
talent in Malaysia and the ignorant management of Petronas are happy
to maintain the status quo. It would appear that they prefer foreign
participation in this 'Malaysian Orchestra' then to have Malaysians.
What a pathetic mindset.
I hope issues like this will be brought up in parliament. Why can't
Petronas train local musicians, provide scholarships for locals to
study abroad if need be, and then employ them in the orchestra. In a
matter of a few years we can have an orchestra consisting of
Malaysians true to the name Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and good
enough to rival the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.There is an abundance
of talent in Malaysia. The sad fact is, Malaysian talent is usually
As if the above was not bad enough, there was a reader's letter in yesterday's "Star" in which, the writer complained about the quality of music studies available locally. I concur with what he/she wrote and I believe the relevant authorities should look into.