Singapore Day One: Selfies, Schools, and Songs

Full band selfie with the students at Juying Secondary School!

As a one-handed guitarist who plays the instrument by building an adaptive Gorilla Tape cast on my arm that allows me to pluck and strum, I know it’s going to be an especially great show when, before I’ve played a single note of music and I’m demonstrating how I build the cast, the audience erupts with applause and cheers because I can rip my Duct Tape. This describes our reception at our first event in Singapore.

I was up with the sun. Well, before the sun actually. To attempt defeating my jet lag, I stayed up as long as I could on Wednesday… a respectable 8pm local time. I slept like a baby, but woke up at 4:50am eager and ready for the day. I went for a jog, grabbed some breakfast consisting of a mix of local fruits, eggs, and more traditional Asian dishes.

Delicious breakfast in Singapore

Our team from the U.S. Embassy in Singapore picked us up in a van, and we made our way to our first event, a concert and conversation with the students at Grace Orchard School.

Grace Orchard is a school that prepares students with special needs with a good education and skills for future employment. For example, after our soundcheck we were served tea and coffee from a cafe that’s on the school grounds and totally run and operated by the students.

During our conversation/question time, the students asked many things about the band. I regularly touch on themes like: perseverance, hard work, and living a purpose driven life, and these themes were not just something that resonated with the students, but were themes that they were already living out and that reinforced my own beliefs on those things.

One student asked “How do you deal with difficult people?” I loved the language that he used. Don’t you? Genuine, direct, and clear. I shared a few thoughts and experiences from my own life, and the room filled with applause. To me, it felt like it wasn’t just because of my response, but because this is a topic everyone navigates in life – perhaps some more than others, but navigating it builds character, confidence, and strength.

Another student asked if we knew any pop songs. When we opened with the first few bars of “Roar” by Katy Perry, the students erupted in a giant cheer and singalong. One student grabbed an extra mic and came on stage with us and sang his heart out to his classmates.

We had a second school visit on Thursday at a secondary school called Juying. The day was hot, and we were in a warm gym, sweating, singing, and enjoying a great afternoon. One student requested that we play “All Star” by Smash Mouth… That request took me off guard. I’ve never played or sung that song in a show, but Joey new the basic progression and started playing it on guitar, Lesleigh shook her shaker and tambourine, and I started to sing… It’s amazing how deeply engrained that song is from years and years of U.S. radio airplay and TV/movie scenes. I didn’t miss a word.

What touched me most was something I learned after the concert. It was an exam day for the oldest students in the school, and the younger students had an early dismissal. Even though that was the case, there were 200 students who came to the concert in the gym to spend their afternoon with us.

The wonderful teachers and staff at Juying Secondary School

Singapore is beautiful. We’ve already been given more than we can give, but we will keep trying to reciprocate the love and generosity we’ve been shown.