Perhaps a rarely glimpsed aspect of Dr Wilson Goh, founder and director of GPA Dental Group in Singapore, is his close and longstanding association with music. Besides serving as chairman of the board at the Amadeus International School Vienna, he is also the head of the Goh Family Foundation, a charity organization based in Vienna that is well regarded for its program of loaning fine musical instruments to top caliber musicians.
In his characteristic modesty, Dr. Goh describes himself as “a failed musician”. Although he has taken music lessons, the demands of his profession has set him squarely on a different track. However, he has remained aware that “having a very good instrument is of utmost importance to musicians. That’s what got me started building a collection of musical instruments.”
Through the years, Dr. Goh and his family have amassed a collection of fine, rare, mostly string instruments, including precious pieces such as Antonio Stradivari and Carlo Ferdinando Landolfi violins, and Jean Baptiste Vuillaume cellos.
Not content with merely collecting, Dr Goh, with his wife Karen and their children set up a foundation that would put those instruments to good use – in the hands of exceptional musicians. Working with top conservatories and institutions in Europe, they have been equipping top talents with some of the finest instruments to use in rehearsals and performances. “We get recommendations for top music students from their music professors,” Dr. Goh explains. “Some of the top musicians in the European circuit have also come to us when they needed the instruments."
Some of the Foundation’s collection of about 30 instruments is currently on loan, including a 1709 Stradivari and a 1780 Landolfi violin, as well as an 1844 J. B. Vuillaume cello.
The family foundation is not only in name – in fact everyone is involved in selecting and engaging the beneficiaries through interviews and conversations. “We look at their character and consider how they present themselves, and discuss with them their ideas of using music in improving people’s lives.”
The Foundation has set up a flexible guideline in the lending and use of instruments. “We want them to be used for professional development; as long as the beneficiaries are progressing in their career, they can use them.
“The character of the beneficiary is a primary consideration,” Dr. Goh emphasizes. “On top of that, they must also support the philosophy of the foundation – that is to use music for the betterment of society.”
Today, five or six musicians are currently on the program. “It is gaining pace, and the musicians are doing very well,” Dr. Goh says with pride. “A head of a conservatory’s cello department is using a cello from our collection. He also does his bit for the Centre for Fathers in Singapore.”
Other musicians in the program have played in fund-raising concerts, including those for the Centre for Autism, and the Cancer Society. A fundraising concert in aid of UNICEF is already in the pipeline. The Foundation also loans instruments to recording musicians. Last year, one such musician was awarded Newcomer of the Year at the prestigious Echo Klassik Award.
“There is much to gain from using music to help society,” Dr. Goh elaborates. “From attending performances to learning how to play an instrument, and taking in the powerful, positive message of music, we can expect a society that lives together with harmony and purpose.”
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