Days as a student
A university is where students learn, grow and leave to further their careers, but memories of their alma mater remains. UCSI University (UCSI) graduates are no different.
For the award-winning composer of the silver screen smash hit Ola Bola San Weng Onn, famously known as Onn San, his affection for UCSI continued long after his commencement in 2002 when he earned his Bachelor of Classical Music (Hons) in the University’s Institute of Music (IMus).
The 32-year-old was invited to attend UCSI’s recent forum session titled, “You Will Believe Again”, organised by UCSI’s Scholars Circle (U-Schos).
Held on campus grounds, the forum saw team members of Ola Bola share with students their take on leadership and personal values gained during filming. Notably, the film depicts a pivotal moment in Malaysian football history, which saw the country qualify for the 1980 Olympics.
Notably, the event also brought together film director Chiu Keng Guan and Ola Bola cast members Muhd Luqman Hafidz bin Mohd Fauzi and Lim Jian Wen who played Ahmad Ali and Ong Tiam Cai, respectively.
During the forum, he described his creative process in scoring the film and said, “When I was brought into the project, the visuals were almost 90% done and I had less than a month to work on the score. It was a very tight deadline. But to keep myself inspired, I listened to uplifting music.”
It was at this event that he recalled the time spent at UCSI and Onn San took the opportunity to share his musical journey with the audience.
Even when he was a student, Onn San knew that he was going to be a musician. But the place that helped him discover his capabilities and potential was UCSI.
“At 18, I was not fully aware of the music world and I was still exploring my options. It was here in UCSI that I found people who did music for a living and as a career,” he said.
“Many of my lecturers here are now seasoned performers. When I was here, they were always very supportive and that is always a good environment to be in.”
When asked about who inspired him in his musical journey, aside from American composer John Williams, Onn San attributed his success to his dedicated lecturers whom he claimed were his inspiration and pillars of strength.
The list is extensive, but among them, IMus director Dr P’ng Tean Hwa and Shin Lai Kuan stood out the most.
The learning experience and words of wisdom from the two lecturers left him a strong impression – one that serves as motivation for him to pursue his dream.
“I’m thankful to my lecturers here. They saw the potential in me and motivated me to reach for the stars. Miss Lai Kuan really believed in me,” he said. “Not only did she help me hone my skills but she also encouraged me to pursue music at another level. And here I am today.”
Moving on to bigger things
UCSI has always been a strong advocate of excellence in learning and Onn San is a strong testament to that.
Whilst exploring options in his early 20s, Onn San hoped to put local music on the world map. One of his goals is to write Malaysian musicals that tap into our rich musical heritage. With his talent and confidence, the composer, who has been in the industry for 14 years, certainly did achieve his goal.
His work has made an impact in the vast landscape of local musical theatre. This includes Mimpi Artila – a musical theatre piece directed by award-winning director Adlin Aman Ramlie, whom he composed for in 2013.
In regards to his work on the international stage, Onn San shared that one of his best experience was orchestrating a regional production of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat that was staged at the Miracle Theater, Tennessee in 2010.
His works are testimonies of one who has grown wings and hearing about the university’s recent achievements, Onn San marvelled at how his alma mater had done the same.
“I'm certainly proud to be an alumnus of UCSI and what the university has done for me. From a humble beginning, it has now grown into a full-fledged university,” he said.
“(In this), I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations to (its founder) Dato’ Peter Ng. Thank you for providing us with the most amazing education platform. You have helped us achieve our goals and dreams.”
But Onn San was not content to just achieve his dream; he wanted to nurture a young talent and help her do the same.
Lim Yuet Kim, a talented young lady who currently reads the Bachelor of Contemporary Music (Hons) programme, was taken under Onn San’s wing and helped him in scoring Ola Bola.
Lim, who previously assisted Onn San in Mimpi Artila, said that every project provides unique learning experiences and she feels very honoured to just be part of Onn San’s great work.
“Everything we work on is a learning experience for me. I certainly look forward to working on more projects with him,” said Lim.
Days as a student