DESPITE their international success, reality still bites for many students from Nafa's School of Young Talents, as they are missing out on careers in the arts.
First, there is school work to contend with, then there are parental concerns and bureaucratic entanglements.
Medical student Chua Cheng Yu, 23, is one such 'lost boy'. He joined the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) when he was five, and at the age of 13 won both the first prize and the Marion S. Gray Outstanding Musician Award at the prestigious Bartok-Kabalevsky International Piano Competition in the United States in 1998.
Founding school principal Fang Yuan said he was one of a handful of students who showed real promise.
Yet, when it came to the crunch, Mr Chua gave in to parental pressure and chose to study medicine at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore.
'Cheng Yu's father said he would become a beggar if he studied music. I felt so sad when I heard that,' said a disappointed Madam Fang.
Another who turned in his piano keys was national serviceman Keegan Ng.
Mr Ng, 20, who was the second Singaporean child to win the Marion S. Gray Outstanding Musician Award at 11, had wanted to study piano at the Eastman School of Music in New York. But he was told that he had to complete his national service first.
'I tried to practise while in NS but there was hardly any time. I felt quite bad about it initially; there is regret. But I've learnt to move on,' said Mr Ng. He is currently deciding whether to study accountancy or business administration.
Although he has given up his dream of studying music, he said music 'is not a total write-off from my life'.
'It was part of my life's discipline and still is. I want to continue to make it very much a part of who I am - whether I play for leisure or to help supplement my tuition fees or salary in the future,' he said.
All attempts to contact Mr Chua, either through Nafa or the medical school, failed.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on 10 Dec, 2008.