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Arts administrator, advocate, author and women’s cause campaigner, Hong Kong-born Tisa Ho is well-known in Singapore for her time as the former general manager of Singapore Symphony Orchestra (1990–1999) and for her service at the Singapore Arts Festival. Ho was also instrumental in the development of many arts schemes in Singapore and in the development of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. Schooled in France and the UK, the dynamic Ho now heads up the Hong Kong Arts Festival as CEO and executive director. A keen follower of arts policies and lifelong lover of the arts, Ho’s arts manager role is marked by its commercial and critical success, often extending the reach of the arts to greater audiences.
Not many have a multi-faceted appreciation of the arts, but multi-hyphenate Tisa Ho is one of them. Ho was hooked on the arts at a very young age when she experienced her first stage production in kindergarten. She found that she loved to make things happen, and gradually building on her talent for management, she has since had a wide-ranging career in the arts, traversing the fields of choir and musical performance in her childhood days and, later, as arts administrator, civil activist, author and her current role as arts impresario.
After graduating from City University in London, UK with a Diploma in Arts Administration, Ho spent some time working with the London Film Festival before returning to Hong Kong to join the Hong Kong Arts Festival, working as its arts and public relations consultant.
In 1984, she moved to Singapore with her family. The following year, she joined the Singapore Arts Centre team as the Secretary of the steering committee, assisting in the conceptualisation and development of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. Here, she would draft the first Cabinet Memorandum to the Singapore government regarding the construction of the arts centre. In 1986, she joined the Cultural Services Division of the Ministry of Culture, helping to develop various arts initiatives, including the Arts Housing Scheme and the Annual Grant Scheme. At the same time, she also published the Arts Diary.
She went on to serve as artistic coordinator for the Singapore Arts Festival before beginning her near decade-long career as general manager of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Like her time with the Hong Kong Arts Festival, Ho’s tenure with the orchestra grew the Singapore Symphony Orchestra into an arts organisation of international stature, and increased audience numbers at the orchestra’s performances.
A strong believer and advocate of the arts to the masses, Ho places importance on arts outreach and education. During her time there with the orchestra, she initiated the International Piano Festival, which has become an important annual event. She also led the construction of an open-air performing space in the Botanic Gardens and launched a series of free concerts by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra at the very same space, creating what has now become a popular event in Singapore’s cultural calendar.
Ho has also served in advisory roles in various arts organisations including the Singapore Youth Orchestra, The Necessary Stage, The Substation, and LASALLE College of the Arts.
Ho’s calling to reach out to the wider audience is also evidenced in her time as president of the women’s rights group AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research), and as author of newspaper articles and books. Her experiences while in Singapore have also led her to pen several guidebooks on the island. But Ho’s pertinence in the cultural landscape of Singapore lies in the rare position she holds—as an “overseer” who manages, appreciates and bridges the stakeholders—from the public, artists, to policy makers—that make up the arts.
In 2006, Ho returned to the Hong Kong Arts Festival, this time as its CEO and executive director. Under her helm, the festival’s profile was raised both commercially and critically. And continuing her belief in bringing the arts to the public, she brought the Hong Kong Arts Festival out of conventional theatres into unlikely venues where the public can encounter the arts.
Ho currently serves as the CEO and executive director of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, and contributes her time on the boards of various arts organisations in Hong Kong.
Born in China.
Graduated from University of Hong Kong with Bachelor of Arts (Hons).
Graduated from University of Hong Kong with MA in Literature.
Graduated from University of Bordeaux, France with Second Degree French Studies.
Graduated from City University London with Diploma in Arts Administration.
Festival assistant, London Film Festival.
Coordinator, East West Activities, Hong Kong Arts Festival.
Head of Information and Publicity, Hong Kong Arts Centre.
Arts/PR consultant, Hong Kong Arts Festival.
Freelance producer/presenter, Radio Television Hong Kong.
Freelance writer/reviewer, South China Morning Post, TV & Entertainment Times and The Straits Times.
Anchorwoman, Sunday Morning Singapore, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.
Host, VisQuiz, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.
Moved to Singapore.
Secretary, Singapore Arts Centre Steering Committee.
Assistant Director, Cultural Services Division, Ministry of Culture, contributing to the following initiatives:
- Arts Housing Scheme
- Semi-residential Theatre in Residence Scheme (STRITS)
- Annual Grant Scheme
- Arts and heritage in old buildings
- Arts management courses
- Arts research programme
Published the Arts Diary.
Artistic Coordinator, Singapore Arts Festival.
English Programme Manager, NTUC Radio Heart 91.3.
General Manager, Singapore Symphonia, which manages the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and Victoria Concert Hall.
Member, Singapore Youth Orchestra Board.
Helped conceptualise and launch the annual Singapore International Piano Festival.
Chairperson, Board of Directors, The Necessary Stage.
Board member, The Substation.
Helped establish the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Region Orchestras (AAPRO) during her time as manager for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
Project team member, UNIFEM Singapore. Helped launch the UOB UNIFEM Global Fund in Asia.
Marketing consultant, GK Goh Stockbrokers, bowtieasia.com and itsfair.com.
Published Growing Up: Getting Along in the Sixties.
Published Building Social Space in Singapore.
President, Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE).
Board member, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore.
Board member, LASALLE College of the Arts.
President, Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO).
Member, Executive Committee, the International Women’s Forum, Hong Kong.
Member, Disciplinary Committee, The Law Society of Singapore.
Published Ask Not – The Necessary Stage in Singapore Theatre.
Published Wish I Knew – caring for the sick at home (co-written with Susie Kong).
Published Her Story.
Published Shanghai Sisters.
Published Ong Teng Cheong – Planner, Politician, President.
CEO and Executive Director, Hong Kong Arts Festival.
Board member, Association of Asia Pacific Arts Festivals.
Chairperson, Hong Kong Arts Administrators Association.
Board member, Hong Kong International Literary Festival.
Panelist, Audience Development Symposium – New Audiences, New Approaches, British Council (Hong Kong).
Founder, Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully (WINGS), Hong Kong.
Panelist, Open Forum, Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum.
Invited speaker, International Polylogue on Arts Education World Summit, Hong Kong Institute of Education.
Faculty member, Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Leaders, Salzburg Global Seminar.
Board member, Hong Kong International Young Readers Festival 2012.
Board member, Hong Kong Arts Administrators’ Association.
Chairperson, Honorary Advisory Committee, Tong Yeong International Music Centre.
TributeSG celebrates the arts community’s most senior members, and those who have made a lifetime of contribution to the arts. These artists, administrators, educators, patrons, and champions include many Singapore arts pioneers who laid the foundations of the vibrant arts and cultural scene we enjoy today. The many profiles in TributeSG let us into the minds and worlds of these pioneers, and help us understand our shared arts heritage. When we revisit their works and rediscover their journeys, we learn where we came from and how we came to be. Collectively, their stories tell the tale of the making of a nation’s artistic identity.
In putting together this collection, the TributeSG team consulted an external advisory panel, consisting of Arun Mahiznan, Choo Thiam Siew, J. P. Nathan, K. K. Seet, Kwok Kian Chow, and Iskandar Ismail. Those selected to be profiled in TributeSG met one of the following criteria: they were at least 60 years of age as of 12 Oct 2016, or deceased, or had received national recognition in the form of the Cultural Medallion. This journey of arts archival officially came to a close on 12 Oct 2016, after four years of extensive research, interviews and collation of information graciously provided by the TributeSG pioneers, their families and peers. TributeSG also benefited from enthusiastic help from like-minded friends and organisations who supported Esplanade’s cause—to remember, honour and celebrate Singapore’s arts pioneers.