David Lim Kim San

David Lim Kim San (b. 7 May 1933, Singapore - ), Executive Director of Young Musicians’ Society, has found great fulfillment as an educator, administrator, producer, advocate, vocalist and conductor in a diverse and challenging career in music which spanned more than four decades,. Lim’s contribution to the school band and choral movements began in the 1960s when he and an elite group of specialists spearheaded the music education scene in Singapore. Lim was notably significant for his role as conductor of the Singapore Youth Choir (SYC) for more than two decades. He led the choir to its momentous victory at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales in 1974, winning the first prize in the youth category. He was conferred the Cultural Medallion in 1979 for his distinguished contributions to the nation. He was also awarded the Cultural Long Service Award and COMPASS Meritorious Award in 1992 and 2001 respectively.   

Early Life
LIm was born to a large and extended Peranakan-Methodist family of ten children. His poignant experience with music as a child was closely associated with wartime memories and the solace drawn from his mother’s singing of hymns as the family hid in the basement of the Cathay building in 1941 to escape from the Japanese invasion.  Since then, his Christian faith and love for music have become the heartbeat that motivates him to crusade for music education in schools and ministry.

Lim’s childhood was spent in Telok Kurau, in the east coast of Singapore. His education at Telok Kurau Primary School was interrupted in 1941 when the Japanese occupied Singapore. He continued his formal studies when the British resumed governance in 1945. During his secondary school days in Victoria School, he benefited from the mentorship of Benjamin Khoo and Paul Abisheganaden, both of whom he credits for his musical and career achievements.

Lim pursued a teaching certification in 1953, with a specialisation in music. Upon graduation in 1955, he taught full time in Cantonment Primary School and Bartley Secondary School. He later joined the Ministry of Education (MOE) as a visiting music teacher and worked under the guidance of Benjamin Khoo, a Senior Specialist Inspector. This fruitful working relationship led to both men leading the Combined Schools Choir, later renamed the Singapore Youth Choir (SYC), with Khoo as conductor and Lim as assistant conductor. Lim took over the reins of the SYC in 1968.

In the mid-1960s, Lim and Khoo initiated the school band movement and designed the band curriculum for MOE. In 1969, Lim was promoted to Head of Music Department in MOE, with responsibilities extending to the supervision of band instructors, school bands, and choral projects. From the initial strength of four Boys’ Brigade bands, he successfully raised the number of bands to more than 150 in both primary and secondary schools within a short term. From 1970 to 1972, Lim was sent to Australia and Japan to study educational broadcasting in Australia and the music education scene in Japan.

Lim’s competent administrative skills were called upon when he was Organising Secretary of the Singapore Festival of Arts in 1977-78. He also served as General Manager of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) from 1981 to 1985. Lim returned to  MOE after his stint with SSO and later pioneered the instrumental teaching programme in primary schools which encouraged the use of instruments in the teaching and learning of music. 

In the area of choral conducting, Lim was responsible for the formation and training of many junior college choirs including the National, Anglo-Chinese, Anderson, and Jurong Junior Colleges. However, it was the SYC’s national and international successes that brought Lim much pride and joy. He led the SYC to win first place in the Youth section and second in the Open section in the prestigious Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Wales in 1974. Lim’s musical legacy is still palpable in the thriving choral scene in Singapore, where many of the school choirs are now led by former members of the SYC. 

1970 : Efficiency Medal
1979 : Cultural Medallion
1986 : Public Administration Medal (Bronze)
1989 : Guinness Stout Effort Award (together with SYC)
1992 : Cultural Long Service Award
1994 :  Government Long Service Award
2001 :  COMPASS Meritorious Award

Wife : Ruby Tam (b.1939)
Children : Rupert Lim Oon Teck (b.1958) and Dora Lim Ai Lian (b. 1964)
Grandchildren : Ashley Lim (b. 1999) and Ethan Lim (b. 2002)

1933 : Born in Singapore on 7 May to Lim Guan Quee and Chew Poh Neo, a Peranakan-Methodist family. 
1941 : Attends Telok Kurau Primary school for a few months before the school was taken over by the Japanese for over 3 years during the Occupation.
1946 : Attends Victoria School (secondary).
1953 : Attends Teachers’ Training College for full time studies, specialising in music.
1955 : Receives the Teachers’ Training College Certificate in Education in August
          : Meets future wife Ruby Tam. 
1959 - 63 : Moves to Bartley Secondary School, teaching English, Geography, and Music.
1964 : Joins Ministry of Education  as a visiting music teacher, a position Lim held until 1967. 
Singapore Youth Choir (SYC) is established and led by Benjamin Khoo in its early years, with Lim serving as assistant conductor until 1968.
1965 : Elected as Secretary and Member of various sub-committees of Music and Dance Presentations, Singapore Youth Festival.
1966 : Attains the Licentiate Performing Diploma (LRSM) in Singing from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM).  Also completes the ABRSM
            grade 8 in piano.
1968 : Attains the LRSM Teaching Diploma in Singing from the ABRSM.
          : Becomes a Specialist Inspector in Music (until 1980, and from 1985 till 1992).
c.1968 - 69 : Formation of The Young Musicians’ Society (YMS) under the auspices of the Extra Curricular Activities Centre, Ministry of Education. Lim serves as Hon.
                       Secretary of YMS and
takes over as main conductor of SYC when Khoo is made principal of a secondary school.
1969 : Promoted to Head of Music Department, Ministry of Education. 
          : Initiation of the school band movement which was endorsed by Goh Keng Swee. A career milestone for LIm.  He designs the band curriculum for MOE
Lim becomes a member of the organising committee for National Day Parade until 1988.
1970 : Receives the Efficiency Medal for his work with school bands.
1970 - 72 : Lim is sent to Australia for 1½ years on an Educational Broadcasting Colombo Plan Scholarship to study educational broadcasting.
1972 : Lim Is awarded a Music Education Scholarship to study the education scene in Japan for three months.
          : Becomes an organising official of the Singapore Teachers’ Choir and SYC’s participation in the Tees-side International Eisteddfod, UK. SYC wins fourth place
            in the Youth Section.
1973 : Leads a choir of two thousand people for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 7th Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games . Composed the 1st SEAP
            Games Theme Song.  
          : Organising secretary of large scale musical The Sound of Music.
1974 : SYC competes in the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Wales, and is           placed first in the Youth section and second in the Open Section.  
          : Organises the Singapore Guitar Festival from 1974 to 1977.
1975 : Organiser and performer of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, a joint production with the ECAC. Lim plays the character Luntha.
1977 : Accepts position of Organising Secretary of the Singapore Festival of Arts (1977-1978). 
1978 : Serves as Vice-Chairman of the Singapore Musical Society until 1981.
1979 : Conferred the inaugural Cultural Medallion Award in Music (along with conductor Choo Hoey).
1980 : Serves as Chairman of YMS until 1996.
1981 - 85 : Accepts the position of General Manager of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. 
1984 : Lim is sent to Hammamatsu, Japan, on a Yamaha Foundation Scholarship. He is there for three months to study the music education programme of Japan.
1985 : Returns to work at MOE after stint with SSO. Lim pioneers the instrumental teaching programme in primary schools.
1986 : Receives the Public Administration Medal (Bronze). 
          : Lim hands over the leadership of SYC to Jennifer Tham.
1988 : Lim serves as member of the Ministry of Community Development’s Music Advisory Committee. Also serves as member of the National Music Competition’s
            Organising Committee from 1988 to 1992.
1989 : Under Lim, SYC receives the Guinness Stout Effort Award for achievements in international festivals.
1992 : Receives the Cultural Long Service Award from the government.
1992 - 94 : Assistant Director, ECAC (Music).
1993 : Leads Teachers Choir in a performance at the XII Semana Choral International De Alava, Spain.
1994 : Receives the Government Long Service Award.
1996 : Retires from MOE.
          : Chairs the Singapore Youth Chinese Orchestra Organising Committee.
1997 : Serves as Executive Director of YMS.
2000 : Forms GYM (Glowing Years Ministry), a senior choral group.
2001 : Receives COMPASS Meritorious Award.
2004 : Serves as Honorary Executive Director of YMS.

Eleanor A. L. Tan

Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, April 11). Oral history interview with David Lim Kim San. [Transcript of Cassette Recording Nos. no. 001471/6/1-6].  Retrieved March 7, 2009, from  National Archives of Singapore Web

Lim, D. K. S. (1980-2003). [David Lim Kim San papers, 1980-2008].

Pentecost Methodist Churth (Singapore). 
Celebrating God’s faithfulness: Pentecost Methodist Church 75th
(pp. 16-17, 41). Singapore: Pentecost Methodist Church.
Call number: RSING 287.095957 PEN

Marsita Omar. (2008, March 5). SYC ensemble singers. Retrieved February 20, 2009, from Singapore Infopedia: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_1052_2008-04-29.html

Tan, E. A. L. (Interviewer). (2009). David Lim Kim San, Cultural Medallion Recipient, 1979 Music [Videorecording]. Singapore: National Library Board Singapore, in collaboration National Arts Council Singapore.
Call no.: RSING 780.92 DAV

The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Conductors (Music)--Singapore--Biography
Lim, David Kim San, 1933-
Award winners

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2010.