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Tribute to founding Director of Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music

07 July 2010

IN REMEMBRANCE: Founding Director of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, the late Dr Steven Baxter

Founding Director of NUS’ Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM) and former Dean of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, The Johns Hopkins University, Dr Steven Baxter passed away in the afternoon of 5 July 2010 (US time).

News of his passing was received with great sadness by those who knew Dr Baxter and who had worked with him at NUS. Remembering Dr Baxter and having worked closely with him on a variety of Conservatory matters, NUS President Prof Tan Chorh Chuan said: "It was a pleasure to work with Steve because of his thoughtfulness, quiet humour, strong sense of collegiality and deep commitment. … The Conservatory and NUS have much to thank Steve Baxter for. He had dedicated some of the most productive years of his life to building up YSTCM, and today the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory stands out for its quality and impact. I am saddened that we have lost a true friend and remarkable colleague."

Building a conservatory from scratch in a country with no extensive history of classical music was a mammoth task, and Dr Baxter came highly recommended as the man who could do the job. Under his leadership, the Conservatory grew dramatically from its first intake of over 70 students to a full school with 185 students in just a span of a few years. Operating initially from a two-storey interim building with no performance facilities of its own, the Singapore Conservatory of Music, which was renamed as the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in 2003, also came to have its own iconic building on the NUS campus, complete with state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and performing music.

Dr Baxter was YSTCM’s Director from 2002 to 2005. He was also one of the Board of Directors of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (2003 to 2004), member of the NUS Council (2002 to 2005) and member of Arts Education Council (2002-2005).

Paying tribute to his predecessor, current Director of YSTCM Prof Bernard Lanskey said: "Steve was a man of great fortitude and integrity and his gift of leadership to the Conservatory was incalculable, both in its establishment and in subsequent consultation. ... Singapore and the Conservatory held a very special place in his life and he will be much missed by everyone in our community."