By Sia Ling Xin
GONE are the days when aspiring musicians from the School of the Arts (Sota) had to perform in an old art gallery in the school's temporary premises.
They can now perform in a music auditorium in Singapore's first independent, pre-tertiary arts school's premises, which can seat three times more spectators than the previous performing space.
The room has also been acoustically treated to absorb certain frequencies of sound so that stray sounds do not bounce off the walls, which means that the audience can look forward to better sound quality.
The 1.06ha campus - the size of a standard football field - was officially opened yesterday by Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew.
The school operated for two years at the old site of Lasalle College of the Arts in Goodman Road, whose area is three times that of the current site.
Visual-arts student Lee Lip Jiang, 14, said: "I miss the old site. It is bigger and I have many memories there."
But Sota music student Amni Musfirah, 15, one of the main vocalists for last year's Asian Youth Games opening ceremony, liked the soundproof music practice rooms.
"In the old campus, noise would seep in while we were practising. It was very distracting," she said.
First-year dance student Nassim Hanna, 12, said that she was excited about starting classes at the "new and pretty" campus.
It is open to arts practitioners to hone their craft. They can rent facilities such as the recital hall for performances.
The public can attend performances and exhibitions, which will be held regularly at the concourse. The $145-million, 11-storey building, next to cineplex The Cathay, was designed by home-grown architecture firm Woha and built over three years.
Sota offers a six-year programme for 13- to 18-year-olds, which leads to the International Baccalaureate diploma.
Students can choose to specialise in dance, music, theatre or the visual arts.
When it opened two years back, it took in only 239 first-and second-year students.
It now has 586 first- to fourth-year students.
It has a maximum intake of about 200 each year, and had to turn away about 800 of the 1,000 hopefuls who auditioned for this year's first-year spots.
Principal Rebecca Chew said that children who are gifted and talented in the arts "now have an opportunity to have a secondary- school and junior-college life that is supported by a curriculum that is designed for them".
Sota can become "one of the top arts-education institutions around the world", said Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui yesterday.
The Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts would work on increasing the amount of time spent on the arts in mainstream schools, in line with the Education Ministry's aim of tighter integration between the standard academic curriculum and the arts curriculum, he added.
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