Behind the persona of every artist lies a human being, just like you and I. The Human Diaries series thus explores the multifaceted lives of our musicians, which gained popularity during Season 1 last year. Expect the unexpected in Season 2 as we step into the homes and favourite places of our musicians, conductors and Composer-in-Residence, discovering stories untold.



Bono, an Irish singer-songwriter, once said: “[m]usic can change the world because it can change people.” This is indeed the life experience of Singapore Chinese Orchestra’s resident conductor, Mr Quek Ling Kiong.

How did music transform a rebellious young Mr Quek, who played truancy in school, into a sentimental and zealous conductor? Being someone who felt the warm touch of music, he always tries to spread this warmth to others, especially to those differently-abled persons, with hopes to be able to transform their lives as well. Read on to find out more about the “magic” of music in Mr Quek’s life!


Text: Oh Hui Yin

Photo: Singapore Chinese Orchestra

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(Screenshot from Human Diaries video)


Chinese orchestra music: A catalyst for change in a rebellious young boy

Adolescence stage is always an awkward and embarrassing phase for most people, and it is often associated with the word “rebellious”. Mr Quek is no exception.

“I was quite rebellious during my secondary school days. My studies weren’t good and I even played truancy!” he shared.

However, after being introduced to his school’s Chinese Orchestra, Mr Quek found huge passion in percussion and started to devote more time into practising music.

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(Photo courtesy of Quek Ling Kiong)

“I’ve learnt how to better manage my time after joining Chinese Orchestra.”

Not only that, noting that Mr Quek was lacking behind in his academics, the teachers and seniors in Chinese Orchestra tutored him and eventually manage to salvage his academic results.

“Music touched me, so I was transformed by music. Music can change a person for the better,” he expressed.

Since then, he worked diligently on this path and was awarded various scholarships to further his studies overseas, claiming numerous awards along the way.

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(Photo courtesy of Quek Ling Kiong)

Percussionist to Conductor

As someone who loves creativity, being a conductor fits the bill for Mr Quek.

Mr Quek’s career in professional conducting took off after becoming SCO’s first Conducting Assistant in 2003. In 2004, he became SCO’s Assistant Conductor cum Conductor for the Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra (SNYCO).

“Being a conductor allows me to unleash my creativity. With this opportunity to become a conductor, I can experience the change from being a musician to being a director, which gives me more space for creativity.”

Ah De, Quek Quek, Professor Quek are all the interesting personas developed by him while being a conductor at SCO, resonating with the young and the old.

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(Screenshot from Human Diaries video)

Transforming lives with music

Having felt the power of music in transforming his life, Mr Quek hopes that more people can benefit from it as well. With that goal in mind, Mr Quek found his calling in guiding the younger generations, including those differently-able persons, imparting his knowledge with them.

“I always tell myself, Chinese Orchestra music is good, I must share it with more people.”

Mr Quek is involved in a project called “Dream Beyond”, which is a collaborative project between SCO and Rainbow centre to help differently-abled children.

Other than helping these children improve their communication skills through playing music, he also hopes that this programme can help them integrate into society in future.

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(Photo courtesy of Quek Ling Kiong)

Hoping that the younger generations can take on the baton and continue practising Chinese Orchestra music, Mr Quek gives much thoughts into guiding the SNYCO members, often pushing them to strive for their best.

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(Screenshot from Human Diaries video)

Acknowledging the fact that he can be quite strict and serious at times, he balances it off with rewards.

“There was once before a concert performance, I ran to a bakery about 3 bus stops away and hand carried 200 pieces of bread back to SCO for the students. Since then, I will always buy food like chocolates for them.”

He explained, in jest, that all these are not bribery, but a form of encouragement.

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(Associate conductor Moses Gay (left) and resident conductor Quek Ling Kiong (right) taking photo together with SNYCO members, photo courtesy of SNYCO)

Life motto: Cherish what you have and live in the moment

The pandemic shocked many people in various aspects of their lives. Watching how Covid-19 unfold across the globe, Mr Quek felt that life is truly impermanent.

Mr Quek got quite emotional and teared up while reflecting on the past year where many people, including himself, was affected by the pandemic and life was getting hard for many.

The passing of his parents also got him pondering on many things. That is why, if he were to say something to his past-self, it would be “Cherish what you have and live in the moment.”

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(Screenshot from Human Diaries video)


Quek Ling Kiong is Singapore Chinese Orchestra’s Resident Conductor and Conductor for Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra. In 2019, Singapore Management University established ‘Quek Ling Kiong Arts and Cultural Scholarship’ to support undergraduates venturing into arts management.

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(Screenshot from Human Diaries video)

If you have not caught Quek Ling Kiong’s episode on Human Diaries Season 2, click here!


Thank you for reading and following through the article thus far! Here are some special behind-the-scenes:

Mr Quek all geared up for the filming, up on the pedestal.

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Mr Quek sharing his sentimental self in this dark filming room.

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Mr Quek looking through the question that he is going to answer on the film.

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Thank you for your kind attention, stay tuned to the next episode of Human Diaries season 2. 😊

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