Band of Strangers – Musician Profiles

Were you intrigued by our rock stars in Band of Strangers? Learn more about them in this online exclusive.

Mohammad Budiman

Development Executive
National Parks Board (NPARKS)

Mohammad Budiman Jamail, Development Executive, National Parks Board - Budiman occasionally takes his wife and daughter along for his jamming sessions in the studio. His recent work projects are the Punggol Park Connector and Xtreme SkatePark @ East Coast.

Thinking he would join his secondary school band for the opportunity to learn the guitar, Budiman was assigned the trombone instead. After two years playing the trombone, he “gave up the notes” to pick up the guitar on his own.

“I believe that music is about free expression, not about having to start somewhere definite and end a certain way.”

Budiman’s passion for music was influenced by his musician father. Playing in a band himself, his father was against Budiman pursuing music, before it became more “mainstream” and accepted as a way to make a living. “As a typical parent, he wanted me to focus on academics.”

Even so, before Budiman joined NPARKS, he juggled two full-time jobs, playing in nightclubs after completing his day job. He would have about one hour’s rest in between. “It was tiring – worse than jet lag – but I enjoyed it a lot.”

His favourite music is what he calls “old-school”: Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and AC/DC. But he loves all music, and has performed Top 40s songs and other genres at various events including ministry events.

Mohd Shahril Othman

Higher Technical Officer
Housing Development Board

Mohd Shahril Othman, Higher Technical Officer, Housing and Development Board - With regular gig performances, he is thankful for supportive bosses who even come to watch him play. At work, he attends to residents’ requests in the Sengkang and Punggol estates.

Budiman and Shahril have something else in common besides working in the same ministry. Shahril started playing the trumpet in his secondary school band, but ended up playing the drums.

“I watched the band drummer always making a lot of mistakes, which annoyed me. Every break time, I would get him to teach me the drums while I still played the trumpet.

“Once I got used to it, I switched to the drums,” he says with a laugh.

Later, Shahril improved his drumming skills on his own by listening and watching other drummers play. Though he says he can only read “a little bit of the notes” from his school band days, he also arranges music pieces with his current bands.

He has been playing with local metal band Ossuary since the 1990s. They released an album in 1997 and continue to make singles. He also has other bands that play different music genres like instrumental and pop music.

He describes his style of playing as “flashy” and “something different”, highlighting his favourite drummers from heavy metal bands Pantera and Metallica.

Katherine Soh

Manager of Healthcare Standards
Ministry of Health

Katherine Soh, Manager of Healthcare Standards, Ministry of Health - When not singing songs by Taiwanese pop diva A-Mei and taking speech-level singing classes to improve her vocal technique, she applies her other interest in writing to draft healthcare standards.

Katherine has played the keyboard in a church band and was even in the the Lee Wei Song School of Music for nine months. There, she entered a song composition competition and emerged a semi-finalist.

Her compositions have always been in Mandarin: “I find that Mandopop music draws to me, I seem to understand the music, the lyrics, and the feel for it more than English music.”

With formal training in piano and electone organ, Katherine always wanted to sing in performances but did not think she had the voice for it, though she says she is able harmonise any time.

To improve her vocal technique, she has taken up speech-level singing (SLS) classes. After about six months of intensive one-on-one lessons, she has seen a tremendous improvement in her voice. “I learnt to do vibrato, which I didn’t know was something you can train to do.”

Although she no longer performs in the church band, she has aspirations to perform in a musical one day. “Because of my SLS lessons, I have to learn a new song every week, so that keeps me going.”

Don Shiau

Senior Associate
Ministry of Finance (MOF)

Don Shiau, Senior Associate, Ministry of Finance - His New Year’s resolution is to improve his guitar-playing skills to live performance standards. In the office, he handles the budget allocations for the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.

Don has a knack for vocal impersonations but admits there are several musical instruments he “cannot actually play”. Instead he uses his keyboard and guitars to “test musical ideas”, inputting notes step-by-step into computer software synthesizers to compose songs.

Don’s love for 80’s music was influenced by his brother, who is ten years older than him, blasting music in the house as a teenager.

“How I taught myself music is really by listening to music that I like and trying to listen to all the layers in them,” says the self-taught musician. With the Internet emerging in his teens, he would download MIDI files of his favourite songs from bands like Depeche Mode and The Pet Shop Boys.

Focusing on individual instruments within the tracks sparked his interest in the arrangement of sounds in music. Later, he would pick up the basics of music theory on his own.

After all that experimentation, he says, “I do feel that I have a natural talent for music arrangement... as in making songs sound complete and knowing where all the different layers in an instrument go.”

Joyce Teo

Assistant Director (Academic)
Republic Polytechnic

Band of Strangers Joyce Teo, Assistant Director (Academic), Republic Polytechnic - She pursued a Masters degree in ethnomusicology after her bosses encouraged her to do what she loved. Her current role is in “academic quality assurance”, upholding education standards at RP.

Joyce began teaching the gamelan fresh out of university at Kampong Kembangan Community Club (KKCC). She had only wanted to play with them upon learning that KKCC had bought a gamelan set, but was asked to conduct gamelan workshops for youth instead, to revive gamelan music among the Malay community.

Joyce learnt the gamelan in a music module while majoring in English Literature and History in Australia. With formal piano training, the unique sound of the gamelan captured her interest.

Joyce, who calls Jogjakarta in Indonesia her second home and wrote her Masters in Ethnomusicology thesis on contemporary Javanese music, explains that the gamelan is used by all races and religions in Indonesia. It is used for every occasion including Vesak Day, the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and even in church during Christmas.

“I learnt a lot of valuable things as a young Singaporean, learning the gamelan,” Joyce says. The gamelan cannot be played alone, so I learnt values like humility and teamwork, as well as respect for the Asian culture.”

“A scholar wrote that playing in a gamelan is learning how to live in society, about democracy, teamwork and listening, that I think a lot of young people in modern society have forgotten or put aside. That’s something that’s very important to me. That’s what keeps me going.”

Kenny Goh

Ministry of Trade and Industry

Kenny Goh, Economist, Ministry of Trade and Industry - He enjoys listening to guitar virtuosos like Joe Satriani, and owns a blog on guitar techniques. In the Economist Service, he conducts research for energy market and climate change policies.

Like the others, Kenny switched to playing his preferred music instrument, the guitar, because he found it more fun. He started out playing the piano when he was younger, and picked up the guitar in his secondary school days.

“It is one of those things you feel you should learn to do as a secondary school boy,” he says.

Kenny’s passion for the guitar means he enjoys listening to guitar masters “because it is just about the guitar”. He subscribes to guitar instruction magazines that have pages of guitar exercises, and publishes his own blog on guitar playing at

Kenny performs regularly with a church band. While he plays mostly religious music in the band, he enjoys listening and playing secular music on his own. Currently, some of his favourite bands are Muse, Lifehouse and Paramore, with his all-time favourite band being Dream Theater. Kenny admires the American progressive metal band for their musical instrument technical prowess, which he finds refreshing.

Besides taking part in the Challenge band of strangers, he has kept his interest in music quite separate from his work as an economist, except for listening to music at work.

“They say listening to music makes you smarter,” he quipped.

Read about their experience with Challenge in Band of Strangers and discover more bands in the Public Service in Other Bands in the Public Service

    Mar 16, 2011
    Siti Maziah Masramli
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