Jazz maestro’s mark on music: Videos, Photos

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Renowned musician Jeremy Monteiro, who has contributed much to Singapore’s music scene, will celebrate his 60th birthday with an online concert on Sunday

“When I was young, being one of the leaders and playing really well and getting all the prime work, I was quite arrogant. I remember being very dismissive,” the musician, composer and educator tells The Straits Times.

Age – he turned 60 last month – has mellowed him a lot over the years. He is more accepting and much more forgiving when other musicians make mistakes.

On Sunday, the executive director and music director of Jazz Association (Singapore) will celebrate his six decades with an online concert.

Reflecting his reputation as a team player, the gig will feature accomplished guest musicians, from local singers like Nathan Hartono to internationally renowned names such as multi-Grammy-winning musician Wynton Marsalis.

While the concert is free, viewers are encouraged to donate to the non-profit Jazz Association (Singapore).

In the Singapore music landscape, no one has made an impact quite like Monteiro, who started out in the 1970s playing in local clubs.

Ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh, the founding chairman of the National Arts Council from 1991 to 1996, calls Monteiro “a national treasure”.

“He is a world-class jazz pianist,” says Prof Koh, who is also a patron of Jazz Association (Singapore). “He has performed with some of the biggest stars of the jazz world. Because of Jeremy, Singapore has earned a place in the world of jazz.”

Here are six ways Monteiro has made his mark on Singapore music in the last four decades.
Jazz musician, Jeremy Monteiro - CNA

1. HE IS ONE OF SINGAPORE’S MOST PROLIFIC RECORDING ARTISTS AND LIVE PERFORMERS

In a professional music career that started in 1976, Monteiro has recorded 45 jazz albums.

From the 1970s to the early 1990s, he was a highly sought-after session pianist who played in over 300 albums by popular regional acts such as Matthew & The Mandarins, Anita Sarawak, Alleycats and Sudirman Arshad.

“From 1977 to 1986, I was pretty much living in the studio,” he recalls.

As a live performer, he has played in over 3,000 gigs. These include headline performances at local venues such as the Esplanade Concert Hall, as well as keyboard duties for iconic American duo Simon & Garfunkel’s 1993 concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

In 1988, he became the first South-east Asian musician to play at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, leading a band that included Grammy-winning American musicians Eldee Young and Redd Holt. The set received a three-minute standing ovation and was televised in many countries.

Jeremy Monteiro talks struggles of jazz musicians and venues in

2. HE WAS ONE OF THE YOUNGEST ARTISTS TO RECEIVE SINGAPORE’S HIGHEST ARTS ACCOLADE

Monteiro was 42 when he was conferred the Cultural Medallion in 2002, one of the youngest artists here to receive the award from the National Arts Council (NAC).

He has since done stints at the NAC as a council member.

The Cultural Medallion was an important milestone in his journey as an artist, he says .

“It was a great shot in the arm and propelled me to work harder and produce more shows, record more albums and play more music in clubs and concert halls.”

Musicians hard hit by coronavirus: Jeremy Monteiro keeps busy, 'we ...

3. HE COMPOSED AND WORKED ON NATIONAL DAY FAVOURITES AND POPULAR ADVERTISING JINGLES

Monteiro composed what is still one of the most popular national songs that is sung every National Day: One People, One Nation, One Singapore. The lyrics to the 1990 song was written by creative director Jim Aitchison.

“I was also music director and arranger for three other national songs – Stand Up For Singapore (1984), Count On Me, Singapore (1986) and We Are Singapore (1987),” he says.

From 1981 to 1991, he also composed countless advertising jingles for major companies including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and KFC.

To Paris with Love: From Jeremy Monteiro and Eugene Pao - Asia 361

4. HE IS A CHAMPION OF COMPOSERS AND SONGWRITERS’ RIGHTS

Monteiro is one of the co-founders of the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass), a non-profit started in 1988 to protect and administer the rights of music composers, authors and publishers.

It collects $25 million in royalties each year in Singapore and distributes 85 per cent of that amount to composers, lyricists, publishers and other rights owners.

He sits on the Compass board of directors.

5. HE IS DEDICATED TO NURTURING YOUNG SINGAPORE MUSIC TALENT

Through his work at the Jazz Association (Singapore), young jazz talent are given the chance to hone their chops with their more experienced peers.

Prof Koh notes: “Jeremy is very generous in mentoring young jazz musicians. As a result, the Jazz Association (Singapore) has two orchestras – a senior orchestra and a young orchestra. Because of Jeremy’s foresight and hard work, the future of jazz in Singapore is assured.”

Monteiro sits on scholarship committees at Compass, NAC and Jazz Association (Singapore), helping young musicians get support for their studies.

He is also the visiting professor at Lasalle College of the Arts and the University of West London’s London College Of Music.

6. HE HAS HELPED RAISE AN ESTIMATED $9 MILLION FOR CHARITY

Monteiro often uses his music to raise funds for charity.

In 2010, for instance, a charity dinner show to mark his 50th birthday raised a little over $1 million for the Community Chest.

It is estimated that the charity events he has been involved with throughout his music career has raised a total of $9 million.

Viewers of his 60th birthday concert are encouraged to donate to Jazz Association (Singapore).

He is also one of the musicians featured in ChildAid 2020, a fund-raising concert for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund that premiered yesterday. It can be watched on The Straits Times and The Business Times websites, as well as their respective YouTube and Facebook channels.

Jazz pianist Jeremy Monteiro (above) has played in over 3,000 gigs and recorded 45 jazz albums.

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