The NAC Arts Scholarship aims
to nurture outstanding and
promising arts practitioners like
Julian Wong and Dave Chua to
elevate Singapore’s growing arts
scene to greater heights.
The National Arts Council (NAC) champions the arts in Singapore
and aims to develop Singapore as a distinctive global city for the
arts. The NAC cultivates artists and arts companies, and promotes
the arts for self-expression, learning and reflection.
NAC Arts Undergraduate scholarship recipient Julian and NAC Arts
Postgraduate scholarship recipient Dave recall how their scholarships have
helped nurture them into bold, creative and passionate individuals who play
vital roles in the music and theatre, and literary arts fields, respectively.
Dave Chua Hak Lien
Recipient of NAC Arts Scholarship (Postgraduate)
Independent Writer/Editor and Lecturer
at Nanyang Technological University
Master of Creative Writing,
University of East Anglia, UK
"Getting up-close and personal with some of my literary heroes was quite exciting – in fact, I was lucky enough to help Kazuo name his most recent book The Buried Giant!"
What sparked your interest in the arts and persuaded
to apply for the NAC Arts Scholarship?
Dave Chua: My background is in computer science, but I started to
develop a gradual interest in writing over the last few years – in fact, my
novel Gone Case, which won the Golden Point Award for Short Story, was
adapted into a graphic novel and this strongly encouraged me to finally
further my career in literary arts.
I was also on the NAC Scholarship panel in 2012 and through my
numerous interactions with candidates, I was inspired by their enthusiasm
for the literary arts and I eventually decided to do a Master’s degree in
Creative Writing under the NAC Arts Scholarship (Postgraduate).
Julian Wong: I was fortunate to be taught by three very important
teachers who have inspired and motivated me to pursue the arts. One of
them was the late Mr Iskandar Ismail, who nurtured my love for music when
I joined a children’s ensemble for one of his musicals. He also instilled in me
the precepts that I carry with me today – work very hard, stay humble and
never be late.
Through my other two teachers, I also learnt to push myself to excel
and to put my heart and soul into music. The NAC Scholarship panel is
made up of fellow artists and musicians and this shows that the NAC
really understands and cares deeply for its artists. Furthermore, the NAC
Scholarship gave me considerable autonomy and flexibility in choosing my
course and modules, not to mention the ability to freelance while studying!
What opportunities did you enjoy during your scholarship journey?
Dave: While studying my master’s degree at the University of East
Anglia (UEA) in the UK, I had the privilege to be part of its 50th anniversary
celebrations – definitely a unique experience as we had special sessions with many renowned writers like Kazuo Ishiguro
and Ian McEwan. Getting up-close and personal
with some of my literary heroes was quite
exciting – in fact, I was lucky enough to help
Kazuo name his most recent book The Buried
Julian: As a student in Boston, I lived and
breathed music. I immersed myself in film
scoring, orchestra, chamber music, pop, jazz
and many other genres of music. Furthermore,
after my time as a student accompanist and
conductor, musical discovery, the rigour of
research, and fine-tuning one’s ears are aspects
that I continue to bring to my work even today.
I also count myself privileged to work with
Nyol Manswell, an incredible singer-songwriter
who is visually-impaired. I even accompanied
him on a performance for my idol John Clayton,
which turned out to be a truly moving and
memorable experience. I felt truly blessed to
have supported him – both as a friend and
as a musician – so he could communicate
his feelings through the song and inspire the
How has your scholarship journey developed you for your career?
Dave: At UEA, we met with publishers and
agents to listen to their frank views on the
writing and publishing industry, which is in
flux right now and this definitely made me
think deeper about the craft of writing and its
business aspect. I feel that this knowledge will
help me decide on how I can best carry out my
Recipient of NAC Arts Scholarship (Undergraduate)
Accompanist, Arranger and
Bachelor of Music in Professional Music,
Berklee College of Music, US
I have also discovered better, more interesting
ways to conduct my creative writing workshops
which have made me a more efficient mentor!
I feel it’s important to keep youths actively
engaged while giving them the best experience
and I am definitely thankful that the skills
acquired during my scholarship journey have
helped both me and my mentees grow.
Julian: What I like about the NAC Scholarship
is that it strongly encourages you to be
independent and diligent. I find that when
people entrust you with large-scale projects
and more responsibilities, they do so based
on your performance – not just on your paper
qualifications or scholarship background. As a
Music Director, I feel I have to put my best foot
forward and take the initiative to improve myself
through each performance.
I also wear other professional hats and one
invaluable asset my music education has given
me is the ability to work out musical details in
my head and to then transfer them onto paper
for a performance later. As an Arranger, the
pieces of music I write also need to be detailed
enough to convey clear musical intentions to the copyists, performers and music directors
for every performance.
What things should aspiring NAC scholars take note of?
Dave: Have a good understanding of the
industry. Establish good relationships with
existing practitioners and be connected to
the scene. Be sure to organise your relevant
documents and portfolio before the interview.
Young writers should remember one thing:
You have to be thick-skinned and keep on
writing no matter what obstacles get thrown
your way. Make the effort to grow from the
inevitable rejections and persevere, come what
may – never take them too harshly!
Julian: The artists I admire the most are
humble and never complacent about their
achievements. Cultivating such traits from day
one is important.
Never forget that many music greats have
paved the way for future generations to succeed
locally. The most exciting aspect of being a
musician in Singapore is immersing yourself in
a melting pot of cultures. If you are determined
to work hard, then you should be open to have
many 'masters' who are willing to nurture you to
fulfil your true potential!