Dr. Chong Pek Lin began her career as a Chemistry teacher, then, realizing that her passion lay in music, switched fields, serving as music lecturer at Institute of Teacher Education Batu Lintang, Kuching and Institute of Teacher Education Sarawak, Miri for a total of 26 years until she retired in August 2015.Since 1995, she has conducted research in Sarawak ethnic music, winning international recognition in the process.
Her interest in ethnic music began from her frustration in finding transcribed local folk songs for her choir to sing and as teaching materials in applying the Kodaly approach. Thus she began her sojourns into upriver Sarawak, singling out the Kenyah (an ethnic group in Borneo) as a likely source. Fieldwork involved complicated journeys by river, traversing hazardous rapids and rough logging roads to remote settlements in the Baram and Belaga districts. Over the years, she observed their rich music and dance tradition and document over eighty songs, many of which are dance-songs in pentatonic scales. Eager to share this treasure-trove of songs with music educators, she has transcribed and translated many of these songs, which are featured in the three books she has written : Songs From the Kenyah Community (1998), Songs From the Baram: Kenyah songs from Upriver Longhouses (2006), and Introduction to Selected Instrumental.
Ensembles and Folk Songs of East Malaysia (2011), the last in collaboration with Anne Anthony Lajinga.
From 2004 to 2006, she was the chief researcher for the project From Upriver longhouses to the modern classroom, funded by the United States Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. In July 2006, she was a recipient of the inaugural ISME-Gibson award for outstanding music educators, presented at the ISME 27th World Conference.
Apart from documenting the observed music and dance genres, she has also been actively involved in dissemination, incorporating them into both academic and extra-curricular activities during her tenure as a music lecturer at ITE Batu Lintang. Through her efforts, East Malaysian folk songs and instrumental music were infused into lectures and featured prominently in choir performances and musical dramas based on local legends. She has presented papers on Sarawak and Sabah folksongs and musical instruments and their applications to music education at various international seminars, and written articles in academic journals. In 2010 she was awarded the Pingat Perkhidmatan Bakti by the Sarawak government, and in October 2016, she was featured as one of the 42 personalities in the book Sarawak Women in Education. In July 2018 she was named Tokoh Guru Sarawak (Teacher of the Year) in conjunction with the state-level Teacher’s Day celebrations.