Moved By the Music

By Wendy Rees

Moved By the Music

By Wendy Rees
Chee Weng Yim will graduate from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Instrumental Conducting.

It is said that music is a universal language. Never has this been more true than for Chee Weng Yim. His musical journey has taken him from Singapore, where he served in the Singapore Armed Forces, to the United States where he earned his M.M. at Georgia State University, and to Miami where he will graduate from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Instrumental Conducting. 

For the past three years, Chee has been a fixture on the Frost School campus. Day or night, he can be found hard at work in one of the Frost band rooms or rehearsal halls, studying wind scores, preparing for classes and events, performing in many of the top band and orchestra ensembles, or lending a hand as graduate assistant with the Frost Band of the Hour marching band.

Those who know Chee understand that beneath his serious work ethic is a man with a great sense of humor.

“I appear intimidating at first,” he explained, “but I’m actually a warm person.” On any given Sunday morning he is racing his bike down San Amaro Drive, reading poetry, or doodling silly drawings just for fun.

Music found Chee at the age of four when he first saw an orchestra broadcast on TV. Too young to recall the experience, his mother reminds Chee how he insisted on piano lessons after that. Clarinet, harmonica and band followed, but the thought to study music after high school never occurred to him. Chee was accepted to the architecture and psychology programs at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore where he earned his B.A. degree.

“I thought music in me had died, until I picked it up again after serving in the military,” he said.

Today, Chee professes that for him, “music does not recognize color, race, nationality, or any other qualities. There is only the experience of humanity in its most raw manner.”

When Chee was 18 years old, he was profoundly moved while performing Percy Grainger’s Irish Tune from County Derry. “That feeling when the entire concert hall is in sync is beyond rare,” he reminisced.

He had a second revelation while performing Dimitri Shostakovich’s Prelude in E-flat minor op. 34, no. 14 for a dear friend who just lost someone to cancer. “No words of consolation got through to her, but somehow things improved after we shared that moment.”

While teaching bands in Singapore, Chee felt the need to improve his skills in order to better serve music and his students. He came to the U.S. in 2013 to study conducting. “Conducting is the best place to listen to everything and still be a part of making music. I listen more intently, think more deeply, and speak less hastily,” he said.  

A long way from home and family, Chee describes his experience at Frost as “deeply enriching. The Frost community is a constant inspiration where everyone shows no restraint with sharing their musicianship. Students, colleagues and faculty have helped me become more compassionate, generous, vulnerable, understanding, and more industrious.”

And with that knowledge, Chee now hopes to “encounter love,” and pursue a successful teaching career at the collegiate level with the noble goal “to facilitate growth in people” through music.