Jolene Seetoh

Helping people (re)connect thanks to piano and Pilates

In a confined and polarised world, Jolene turned to her two passions - music and movement - to share energy, joy and empathy with people around her in Singapore. A journey fuelled by endless curiosity and a sense of community belonging.

Jolene's musical path draws on various influences. Born in Asia, she learned European classical music as a child and moved to the US to study Economics and Public Policy at the University of Chicago. "It was the hotbed for jazz music, a fascinating genre because it's a melting pot of classical music and African American rhythms". She started playing in a jazz band six years ago, practising improvisation and learning about teamwork. "In improv, you have to listen to your fellow musicians before you listen to yourself. It's a conversation in which every musician has a role and a voice that needs to be heard at some point." An electrifying experience for anyone visiting a jazz club.

Confinement in 2020 was no excuse to quit her active musical practice. Instead, Jolene and her friends started learning about recording equipment and software. "Music technology was a whole new challenge, I would record the piano track, and others would do the same with their instruments, then we would put together the final track." On weekends and Christmas Eve, the closed cultural and entertainment venues turned homes into tiny concert halls with small audiences. "Even in a tiny group, music became a beacon of hope. It's important to hang on to this form of communication, no matter what life throws at us. Music is a universal language that transcends geographical and generational boundaries." 

While Jolene found a joyful way to spend confinement, for many, the time lead to acute physical pain for those sitting at kitchen tables hunched over small laptop screens. During the pandemic, she built a small studio in her home to share her Pilates practice with friends and families. “I’d never thought to become an instructor but the mind body connection motivated me.” Jolene took a 2-year course to practice and understand the foundations, the history and the philosophy of the movement.“Pilates helps people remain flexible, strong and balanced. It's a fundamental set of skills to have, especially when ageing. It's about building core strength, starting from your feet, your foundation." Beyond healing pain and stiffness, Pilates helps people become more self-aware. It is also good conditioning for other activities, from running and swimming to strength training.

For Jolene, the pandemic highlighted the importance of emotional and mental wellbeing and showed that we should not take our physical health for granted. “There’s a lot of anxiety out there, but my piano and Pilates practices ground me and bring me purpose outside of work.”

”Piano and Pilates are complementary. Together, they foster mind and body connections. Also, my family is into both sports and music." Jolene's mother is a qualified yoga teacher, and her father is a former Ironman triathlete still cycling at 74. Her sister, niece and nephew are into music. "They're progressing very quickly and will be better than me soon. Passion is infectious!"

Today, Jolene balances working at Pictet with a desire to expand her knowledge and skills as a health practitioner and musician. "For me, passing the exam and becoming a teacher was just the beginning. There's a lot more I want to do, whether delving into anatomy or learning how to work with patients who are injured or have special physical needs. And I’m learning the violin.” But even with all the will in the world, time is scarce. “I make sure I practice Pilates and music at least once a week. And I’m grateful to have a supportive family and like-minded friends. Sharing my passions with loved ones is what keeps me going.”

When she’s not playing piano or practising Pilates, Jolene is bringing harmony to Pictet as a Senior Portfolio Manager at Pictet Wealth Management in Singapore. 

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