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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Pay $70 for a kindy concert?

Preschools stage year-end concerts at posh venues and charge accordingly
The Straits Times - December 11, 2011
By: Jane Ng
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Pay $70 for a kindy concert? PHOTO: COURTESY OF JASMINE CHNG

Gone are the days when a kindergarten concert is just a performance in a school hall.

These days, year-end concerts for three- to six-year-olds are held in hotels or country clubs, with buffet spreads, tailor-made costumes and professional video recordings.

Along with glitzy locations come expensive price tags, with a concert ticket going for up to $70.

One grandfather recently got a shock when he went to see his grandson perform at a concert held in an auditorium in town: $700 in total for 10 tickets.

General manager R. Tan, 66, says his son spent that amount for 10 members of his extended family to attend the five-year-old boy's preschool gig.

'I got the shock of my life when I found out the price of the ticket,' says Mr Tan, whose son declined to be interviewed or identify the private preschool.

But granddad's main grouse was that they were not allowed to take pictures during the concert, with security officers stopping parents who tried to do so. Instead, photos of the concert were sold at $4 a piece.

'It's a happy occasion. They should give families the freedom to take photos,' he says.

In many preschools, parents have to pay not just for a concert ticket but also costumes which children get to keep and optional photos and DVD recordings.

For health-care specialist Jasmine Chng, 30, this amount came up to $200 at her two-year-old daughter Mariko Otani's first concert recently.

Mariko, who attends Little Skool-House at Sixth Avenue, performed in three dance items at the concert held at The Chevrons, a club in Jurong.

Ms Chng, a single mother, paid $100 for two tickets which included a buffet lunch. She also bought the costumes (two for $60), photos ($2 each) and DVD ($22), and says the amount was 'worthwhile'.

'The cost was high but I was impressed by the overall production and the amount of work that the teachers had put in for the concert. The standard was pretty high for a kindergarten,' says Ms Chng, whose daughter performed three dances to Japanese, English and Mandarin songs.

Another parent, lawyer Vivien Teng, 33, whose son Evan, six, and daughter Christine, three, attend Pat's Schoolhouse in Siglap, spent more than $500 on Evan's graduation concert held at Raffles Hotel.

The cost included tickets for four at about $60 each, costumes at $120 and a $150 memorabilia pack which included a calendar, a CD and a graduation photo.

Madam Teng, who says she had 'complained incessantly' to her husband about the cost, was eventually 'blown away' by the concert, a musical adaptation of Mulan and Aladdin, with original lyrics and dance moves, adapted and directed by Mrs Patricia Koh, the school's founder.

'It was professionally executed and the kids were proud to be part of something so grand and impressive. It was more expensive than performances by other schools but you get what you pay for,' says Madam Teng, whose husband Sean Leo, 36, is a doctor.

Schools explain that the grand productions are a learning experience for the children. Pat's Schoolhouse's Mrs Koh says: 'We think this is worth the effort as it is our tradition to stage only one major concert when the child graduates.'

Her schools have been organising graduation musicals, mostly held at Raffles Hotel's Jubilee Hall, for 21 years.

Ms Fiona Walker, principal director of Chiltern House whose concerts at Singapore Repertory Theatre at DBS Arts Theatre cost about $40,000 to stage, says children gain a huge sense of pride and accomplishment.

On parents having to pay for photos and videos, the school says it employs a professional photographer and videographer so that parents can relax and watch the show.

Ms Walker adds: 'If it is left to the parents to capture the show, then we find that many people will be anxious about that and may block one another's view. By hiring a professional, everyone gets the same quality of CD of the whole show regardless of where they are sitting.'

Ms Estelle Fong, district manager of operations at Learning Vision, adds that the children get 'an enriching experience which money cannot buy'.

But not all preschool concerts are big-budget events. For instance, the concerts at the NTUC-run My First Skool were held at the respective centres this year, with props made of scrap materials. To further cut costs, parent-volunteers photographed and took videos of the $200 event. Admission was free.

Likewise, at high-end EtonHouse preschools, parents do not have to pay for tickets as its concerts are held in-house. 'We use recycled resources from our homes or the environment and create costumes using existing materials at home or school,' says Ms Bipasha Chanda Minocha, its brand director.

Parents who attended lower-cost events say their kids benefited from the process and put on a good show too.

Housewife Siti Rohanah Sahari, 38, whose younger daughter Nurul Atiqah Abdullah, six, is from PCF Sembawang, received two complimentary tickets for her concert at Republic Polytechnic. Subsequent tickets cost $6 each.

'The concert built up her self-confidence, taught her about teamwork and hard work and to appreciate art. It's priceless seeing her perform with confidence on stage,' she says.

 

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