Local jazz mainstay Jeremy Monteiro describes himself as an “a ***** e” when he started out in the music industry.
“When I was young, when I was one of the leaders, when I played really well and got all the main work, I was quite arrogant. I remember being very dismissive,” said the musician, composer and educator at the Straits Times.
The age – he turned 60 last month – has softened it up a lot over the years. He is more tolerant and much more forgiving when other musicians make mistakes.
“Even though as a musician you retain certain narcissistic tendencies, I have become less self-centered,” he says.
On Sunday, the executive director and musical director of Jazz Association (Singapore) will celebrate his six decades with an online concert.
Reflecting his reputation as a team player, the concert will feature accomplished guest musicians, from local singers like Nathan Hartono to internationally renowned names such as multi-Grammy-winning musician Wynton Marsalis.
Although the concert is free, viewers are encouraged to make a donation to the nonprofit Jazz (Singapore).
In Singapore’s musical landscape, no one has had as much of an impact as Monteiro, who started in the 1970s playing in local clubs.
The itinerant ambassador, Professor Tommy Koh, founding president of the National Arts Council from 1991 to 1996, calls Monteiro a “national treasure”.
“He is a world-class jazz pianist,” says Professor Koh, who is also a patron of the Jazz Association (Singapore). “He has performed with some of the biggest stars in world jazz. Thanks to Jeremy, Singapore has carved out a place for itself in the world of jazz.”
Here are six ways Monteiro has left his mark on Singaporean music over the past four decades.
1. HE IS ONE OF SINGAPORE’S MOST PROLIFIC RECORDING ARTISTS AND LIVE PERFORMERS
In a professional musical career that began in 1976, Monteiro recorded 45 jazz albums.
From the 1970s to the early 1990s, he was a much sought-after session pianist who performed on over 300 albums by popular regional bands such as Matthew & The Mandarins, Anita Sarawak, Alleycats and Sudirman Arshad.
LOOK AT THIS
JEREMY MONTEIRO AT 60 – CELEBRATING A LIFE IN MUSIC
OR: Various platforms including www.facebook.com/JazzAssociationSingapore, bit.ly/3h5c6UB and the social networks of The Straits Times, International Jazz Day, EFG London Jazz Festival, EFG International, Jazz Education Network and Jeremy Monteiro
WHEN: Sunday, 8 p.m.
ADMISSION: Free, but donations to the Jazz Association (Singapore) are encouraged. Go to www.jazzassociation.sg/support-us. Tax benefits apply.
“From 1977 to 1986, I was pretty much living in a studio,” he recalls.
As a live artist he has performed in over 3000 concerts. These include flagship performances at local venues such as the Esplanade Concert Hall, as well as keyboard duties for American duo Simon & Garfunkel’s iconic concert in 1993 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
In 1988, he became the first Southeast Asian musician to perform at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, leading a group including Grammy-winning American musicians Eldee Young and Redd Holt. The ensemble received a three-minute standing ovation and was televised in many countries.
2. HE WAS ONE OF THE YOUNGEST ARTISTS TO RECEIVE THE HIGHEST AWARD FOR ARTS IN SINGAPORE
Monteiro was 42 when he received the Cultural Medallion in 2002, one of the youngest artists here to receive the National Arts Council (NAC) award.
He has since made stints at the NAC as a board member.
The Cultural Medallion was an important step in his journey as an artist, he says.
“It was a great boost and it made me work harder and produce more shows, record more albums and play more music in clubs and concert halls.”
3. HE COMPOSED AND WORKED ON NATIONAL DAY FAVORITES AND POPULAR ADVERTISING JINGLES
Monteiro composed what is still one of the most popular national songs that is sung every national day: One People, One Nation, One Singapore. The lyrics for the 1990 song were written by Creative Director Jim Aitchison.
“I was also musical director and arranger for three other national songs – Stand Up For Singapore (1984), Count On Me, Singapore (1986) and We Are Singapore (1987),” he says.
From 1981 to 1991, he also composed countless advertising jingles for large companies such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and KFC.
4. HE IS A CHAMPION OF THE RIGHTS OF COMPOSERS AND LYRICS
Monteiro is one of the co-founders of the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass), a non-profit organization established in 1988 to protect and administer the rights of composers, authors and publishers of music.
It collects $ 25 million in royalties each year in Singapore and distributes 85% of that amount to composers, lyricists, publishers and other rights holders.
He sits on the Board of Directors of Compass.
5. IT IS DEDICATED TO NOURISHING THE YOUNG TALENTS OF MUSIC IN SINGAPORE
Thanks to his work at the Jazz Association (Singapore), young jazz talents have the chance to improve themselves with their more experienced peers.
Professor Koh notes: “Jeremy is very generous in mentoring young jazz musicians. As a result, the Jazz Association (Singapore) has two orchestras – a senior orchestra and a young orchestra. Thanks to Jeremy’s foresight and hard work, the future of jazz in Singapore is secure. “
Monteiro sits on the Compass, NAC, and Jazz Association (Singapore) scholarship committees, helping young musicians gain support for their studies.
He is also a visiting professor at Lasalle College of the Arts and at the London College Of Music at the University of West London.
6. HE HELPED GET A $ 9 MILLION ESTIMATE FOR CHARITY
Monteiro often uses his music to raise money for charity.
In 2010, for example, a charity dinner show to mark its 50th anniversary raised just over $ 1 million for the Community Chest.
It is estimated that the charity events he participated in throughout his musical career raised a total of $ 9 million.
Viewers of his 60th birthday concert are encouraged to make a donation to the Jazz Association (Singapore).
He is also one of the musicians featured in ChildAid 2020, a fundraising concert for the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and the Business Times Budding Artists Fund which was established yesterday. It can be viewed on the Straits Times and Business Times websites, as well as their respective YouTube and Facebook channels.
• The Straits Times is the official media for the Jeremy Monteiro At 60 – Celebrating A Life In Music concert.