Polka Dot Train Studio is housed in two first-floor shoplots in Taman Bukit Rahman Putra, Sg Buloh, Selangor. Ms. Siew Ling (Chong), the founder and principal met us with full-on excitement and we started our interview in a café located below her studio.
Ms Siew Ling came across as a very enthusiastic and passionate music educator. She began to share with us how her journey in becoming a music educator specialising in early childhood first started. Below is an excerpt of our interview with her.
Kiddy123: What ignited the spark in you to begin your journey as an early childhood music educator?
Siew Ling: It all began because of my love for my family comprising of my then year-old son and loving husband. I decided to put my family first before my career, so I gave up my 10 years’ profession as an auditor at a multinational accounting firm to spend more time with my family. My initial plan was to start a kindergarten of my own so that I could guide and nurture my young son.
Being an ethical and professional person, I promptly obtained a diploma in the Montessori method of education. However, I quickly realized that running a kindergarten may not enable me to fulfil my dream of an ideal family life. Lucklily for me, I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to obtain a music education in music theory and practical piano when I was young, completing my studies at the grade 8 level after 12 years at the age of 19 years old. I thought with my basic musical knowledge I could seek to offer my services as a piano tutor around my area.
Kiddy123: How did the idea to start Polka Dot Train Studio come about?
Siew Ling: While working as a piano tutor, I discovered that the children coming for lessons were not well prepared. I realized that what worked for me 25 years ago cannot be implemented for children of the new 21st century. As a mother myself, I began to realize that knowing music and knowing children were not one and the same. I needed to understand how children learn music. I believe all children love music and with a proper method, every child will have the potential to unlock the musician in them.
My search for a reputable and recognized early childhood music education method led me to Musikgarten USA. After a year of training, I began offering age appropriate music classes for children from birth to 9 years old in music studios, kindergartens as well as community centres. Within 2 years, I felt confident enough to start my own studio, which I named as Polka Dot Train Studio.
Kiddy123: Can you tell us about Musikgarten?
Siew Ling: Musikgarten is a music program that will help develop the skills, abilities and talents necessary for a child to be truly musical. Music activities are used to foster development of the whole child - mind, body and spirit - and to promote music at home through the use of family materials.
In Malaysia there are 4 levels of the Musikgarten program being taught. At every level the emphasis of the program is on being musical, singing, dancing, listening and moving to music, learning Tonal and Rhythm patterns and using simple instruments.
Once the interview ended, Ms Siew Ling gave us a guided tour of her studio. Though occupying 2 shoplots, there were only 5 teaching rooms in total. Unlike many other music studios, Ms Siew Ling’s teaching rooms are spacious and equipped with well-tuned and properly cared for instruments.
Of the 5 rooms, the most admired is the room which could also be converted into a performance stage. Ms Siew Ling believes that the joy of music-making should be shared and what better way to share than to have informal recitals on Sunday afternoons for family members and friends. Everyone, no matter their age or their level of accomplishment are allowed to perform on the grand piano.
Another unusually huge room is reserved for Musikgarten classes. The room is brightly painted and equipped with the most interesting percussion and Orff / Bar instruments for use by the students. Many small keyboards are placed along the wall for group keyboard classes and also to free up space for movement activities.
By the end of our visit, we were so inspired by Ms Siew Ling’s passion. Undeniably her passion and her drive are what made Polka Dot Train Studio lively and strong for 12 years. Though we believe Musikgarten is an exceptional program, there is no denying that it is Ms Siew Ling’s love for children and music that makes Polka Dot Train Studio stand out from all other music studios.
Find out more about Polka Dot Train Studio, Sungai Buloh.