When Emily koh, 25, decided she wanted to be a composer with the Singapore Lyric Opera, the road wasn’t smooth.

“Many (including my family, friends and teachers) were sceptical that one could make a living as a musician. The hardest challenge is convincing yourself that your dream is worth pursuing, despite what everyone else says and believes.”

Income for composers come mostly in the form of commissions, royalties, grants, and fellowships. Most composers teach part-time or help run organizations or ensembles.

But it was worth it. Emily counts spending two weeks on a mountain in Bali in 2008, picking up the Balinese gamelan (an Indonesian musical ensemble) from the local masters, as one of the most gratifying experiences she has had. “It was there that I realized that music is truly a universal language.”

Best bit: “The flexible schedules, constant travelling and the fact that your music is heard.”

Be prepared for: “Deadlines. Lots of it!”

Pearls of wisdom: ” Performers are your best friends. Try to get every piece of work performed because music on paper is not yet music.”