The Singing Loft turns 11 this year with a concert showcasing its students’ talents. Founder Sherlyn Chia shares how God led her step by step into growing the school into what it is today.
“The school was started because my house was too far away for my students to travel to,” says Sherlyn Chia, 41, the founder of The Singing Loft. Sherlyn, a City Harvest Church member, was a singer and voice teacher operating out of her home for two years before she opened The Singing Loft in October 2011 with 40 students. It quickly grew—within a month she had 60 students.
“As the number of students increased, we trained up more teachers to cater to them,” she explains. More students meant more teachers, more people meant moving to a larger space (the school took up a larger premise along the same stretch of Killiney Road). The Singing Loft also entered into a merger with artiste management agency IMC Group Asia early this year.
Suffice to say, The Singing Loft has grown considerably in the last 11 years.
From the outset, the school set itself apart by taking a personal and science-based approach to the art of singing and vocal training. Most classes are conducted on a one-on-one basis which allows the teacher to give each student undivided attention, so that there is ample opportunity to pinpoint areas of improvement.
“Coincidentally, almost all our staff members are believers. We seek God on an every day basis. As singing is very personal, we rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit to help us discern what the student needs,” Sherlyn shares. “It is not easy singing in front of a stranger, and at times, it is a singer’s confidence that’s an issue. So, we take steps to address that first before their singing techniques.”
The school specialises in only one area—the voice. Back when there were very few specialised schools, Sherlyn decided to focus on solely on singing and vocal training. There was a lack in relevant resources locally, so she traveled to countries like Japan and America to explore different methods of singing.
PRIORITISING SKILLS ABOVE PROFITS
“My current team of teachers were previously my students,” she says. “After training them up, they travel with me to take same courses so that we are on the same page. We have the common goal of wanting to be good at what we do.”
Unlike most businesses, The Singing Loft does not set off with the aim of capturing many consumers, but rather, the team aims to bring in excellent training methods and make them available in Singapore. It has now become a form of yearly skills-upgrading for the team.
Sherlyn takes the science behind vocal training seriously. “We work with ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialists overseas to tailor a training programme for voices,” she says. “Our voices are essentially our biological instrument. These programmes are beneficial to people with voice problems. In countries like America, students often consult singing teachers before progressing to meet with ENT specialists.”
This dedication to her craft sets her business apart from others. “Along the way, doors open and we have had opportunities to train important people, even celebrities,” Sherlyn shares. “That was when we felt that God has a purpose for the company, to influence the marketplace.”
One guiding principle the school lives by is to always give back to society. They do this by giving pro bono lessons to those who are financially in a hard place. Singing brings people joy, and for some, it is how they cope with their struggles. Sponsorships have been given out to low income families; and for some of the school’s students who lost their income during the COVID period, the school continued to provide classes for them at no cost. “At the end of the day, it is not so much about profit, it is about impacting our students’ lives,” Sherlyn explains.
She adds, “I lean on God to bring the right people into our team, to teach me what to say in tricky situations, to grant us the favour of men and the wisdom in building relationships with others.”
GOING FROM MILESTONE TO MILESTONE
The Singing Loft started in a cosy space on the third floor of a Killiney Road shophouse.
In its fifth year, in 2015, it took up the second floor of the same as well. That same year, the team began going to Malaysia, Taiwan and China to train up franchise teachers there.
In 2018, the reach of the school went regional. The team began traveling to different parts of Taiwan to conduct classes every year. Locally, they started focusing on artiste training, working with record labels to train their new talents.
“A major milestone took place this year when we merged with a concert company, IMC Group Asia, to form a whole eco-system,” Sherlyn explains. “The Singing Loft trains the artistes they sign on. Those of our students who are keen to pursue a full-time job in the industry, we would train up to be artiste-trainees, and eventually, they are signed over to IMC to become full-fledged artistes.”
It was not something she had planned for, yet the divine opportunity for the merger came through one of The Singing Loft’s students that became an artiste at IMC, Sherman Zhuo.
“This year, we also moved from our old premises to a new, larger space along the same Killiney Road. At the same time, we changed our logo to reflect the merger,” she adds.
2022 is the year that The Singing Loft is diving deeper to scout more talents, and it is doing this by holding competitions under IMC for local bands to participate.
“One highlight of our 11 years was having the producers from Voice Of China hold auditions at The Singing Loft for two years,” Sherlyn recounts. “Secondly, our well-received annual concerts have also been a highlight for me. We are always surprised when tickets sell out. It is a chance to showcase our students’ voices to their friends, families and to the public.
“For me, the main highlight of my journey has been training up independent artistes and artistes who eventually get signed on to record labels. It is one of the hardest things for a singer to learn to write their own songs, to get their songs out there, to receive good feedback about their songs, and to have the opportunity to do all this full-time.”
Sherlyn has high hopes for the next decade. “We will be looking at doing things on a larger scale geographically, with five different offices around Asia,” she says. “We hope to set up franchise voice training schools in the different regions, and to come up with our own trademark and patented syllabus.”
OVERCOMING THE LOWS
Although The Singing Loft seems to have prospered non-stop, Sherlyn shares that there have been not a few challenges over the last 11 years, particularly in the last two.
“A challenging period for the school was when the lease for The Singing Loft was expiring in late 2021,” she relates. With the commercial rental market picking up, their landlord wanted to raise the rent. Looking for a similar location that was accessible to all their students was not easy.
“By God’s grace, two months later, another space became available for lease along the very same road,” she marvels. “In addition, we managed to rent it at a lower rate than our previous unit!”
At this new space, the school could finally do something that they had not been able to due to the zoning of the space: they could now put up their own signage, a simple but symbolic move.
Aside from the rental issue, the COVID period was the most difficult time in the history of the school. Large gatherings and singing in public spaces were prohibited for two years. The Singing Loft had to adapt to the situation by moving online, pre-recording lessons and utilising a second device over Zoom to ensure that students still received quality mentoring.
Sherlyn says, “Our team showed real dedication: a one-hour lesson took two hours to complete. Teachers had to bring their keyboards back home so that they could work from home.” She shares that despite the many adjustments, the school enjoyed the favour of their students. “We had a low dropout rate and there were even new students joining the school during COVID. We also made the decision to put our teachers first, making sure we paid them the same salary as before COVID, even if it meant making losses for the business, so that everyone survived this period. It was nerve-wracking with all the changes going on, but with God’s grace, we got through that period without too much difficulty.”
A MUSICAL CAPSULE
“One interesting observation we made these two years was that people started singing through their earpiece into applications on their phones,” notes Sherlyn. “With singing outlets like KTV bars closed and congregational singing not allowed in churches, people turned to singing on their phones to find comfort and a sense of normalcy. This showed us how important singing was in helping people cope with their daily lives.”
The team is excited about their upcoming concert A Musical Capsule. “This year, with the opening up of restrictions, and with our recent merger, The Singing Loft will be holding our annual concert at the larger and grander Capitol Theatre,” says Sherlyn.
“The concert is called A Musical Capsule because almost every significant moment can be encapsulated in a song: from songs played at your wedding or a song sung to your newborn, to songs that carried you through difficult seasons in life,” she explains. “The concert will feature songs from different genres and decades, such as music from the ‘60s, jazz, pop rock, as well as iconic songs that we hope will bring back wonderful memories for the audience.”
Catch the talents from The Singing Loft at the iconic Capitol Theatre on 25 June 2022, 6pm-8pm. Tickets can be purchased from www.thesingingloft.com at $48. City News readers enjoy 15% off with the code: CITYNEWS