Friend Music School Takes on Challenges to Elevate Music Education

Since 2018, FMS has been honing the next generation of musicians despite a series of obstacles, such as a shortage of teaching materials, expensive instruments and limited teachers
Friend Music School (FMS) students perform at a mall in Phnom Penh, 2023. Kiripost/supplied
Friend Music School (FMS) students perform at a mall in Phnom Penh, 2023. Kiripost/supplied

Friend Music School (FMS) has been championing art and music classes, with the aim of nurturing the next generation of young Cambodian musicians. However, the school faces challenges.

Keat Sokim, the 35-year-old founder of FMS, graduated from Phnom Penh International University in 2009 with a Bachelor's degree in English.

Sokim told Kiripost that FMS has been in operation since 2018. Currently, it has branches behind Toul Kork Primary School, in Orussey, Tuol Sleng, and Sansam Kosal Sansom Kosal in Phnom Penh. The next branch will be in Siem Reap and is in the process of being launched.

Sokim stated, “The main reason that I started this school is because I want to provide all children with education and art or music classes, especially the next generation of youth, while helping children understand Cambodian art.”

FMS teaches more than 40 classical instruments, as well as classical and contemporary songs, smot songs, and classical and contemporary painting. Currently, more than 300 students attend the four locations in Phnom Penh.

Sokim said that the school's ultimate goal is to provide job opportunities for artists and art experts to transfer knowledge to those who want to learn and are interested in music. Ultimately, the school's vision has created more resources and opportunities regarding art and music for the Cambodian nation.

Keat Sokim, founder of FMS
Keat Sokim, founder of FMS

FMS’ Challenges

Sokim said there have been many challenges since the school launched in 2018​​​. One of the biggest is that musicians and music teachers have skills but do not have any documents or materials regarding art or music to teach to students. So, the question arises about expertise and how to teach with insufficient documents, Sokim told Kiripost.

He added, “If we compare students from before and now, there are many differences; therefore, documents related to art need to be enhanced. In addition, equipment for Khmer music remains expensive.”

This is the reason behind the school cooperating with a music shop to offer affordable prices for students to purchase equipment to practice while studying. As a result, the shop has agreed to cooperate, but only regarding a select few instruments.

Sokim emphasized that a lack of music teachers is also a challenge for FMS. However, to overcome this he designed a training course, 'foundation music for teaching', to sharpen music teacher and trainers' skills by seeking students who have talent, are outstanding, have high commitment, and enjoy studying new things.

He added that students who graduate will become teachers at FMS. “We still lack teachers who cannot share this resource with other places and institutions,” he said. “And most of them are already employed, such as private employees, civil servants, and students.”

Sophea David, was a student at FMS in 2019 and currently works as a trainer there. He said, “I feel happy and proud of myself that I can become a trainer. It’s because I put effort into learning step-by-step to get results. It is similar to a knife-like quality that always needs sharpening”.

Sokim added, “In my opinion, the general view in the art field regarding music in Cambodia is good because it has produced more new achievements, such as original songs and contemporary music from different sections.

“However, we still need more, especially resources due to the current lack of technical art resources. This includes audio engineers and music organizers. The music room does not have specific space available for an art program either.”

Sokim told Kiripost that next year, he plans to recruit students to play in a classical music band and a contemporary music band. The school is also organizing music education classes at the new generation school at Preah Sisowath High School.

Sokim’s Recommendations

“Please don`t think that learning music is only for those who have talent,” he said. “That is completely wrong. You just need to have a high level of commitment and effort, and a love for music so that you can learn it”.


Contact author of the article