Known as the long serving bandmaster of the St. Patrick’s School Military Band (SPSMB) since 1984, David Anthony Glosz has been greatly involved with the band scene for over 30 years. The Band Post speaks to David about his extensive career, his personal beliefs and his views about the band scene.
For a start, what is your teaching style like?
I have no particular teaching style. Each band is different and I adapt accordingly.
The theory and practical elements are common to all; there is really no magic formula for the success of a band program. Only common sense and practice, practice, practice. Learning to manipulate a machine (musical instrument) takes repetitive practice, just like driving a car or flying a plane. The more you do it the better you become.
I believe in personal responsibility of the student and the self-discipline that accompanies this responsibility. A band is only as good as the weakest player in the band. Teach (inspire) the weakest and you will have a great band.
How do you define a good sound in the wind band context?
All bands should work to have a generic band sound that complies with established practices. What changes that sound is the composer. The greater the inspiration of the composer to combine sounds makes wind band sound different.
Generally composers and arrangers know the generic tones which they use to make new sounds in different combinations. These balances and blends in harmonic tones make the “WOW” in the band.
Having good instruments helps but even a band with intermediate instruments can make a good sound just as long as the students know what the instrument should sound like. Tonal memory allows students to know if the sound they make is correct. Students should listen more to classical or wind band tones to establish this tonal memory.
Is there anyone in particular that constantly influence and aspire you?
I was greatly influenced by the early band scene in Singapore. Those were great times, especially the marching bands.
There were outstanding bands like Raffles Institution, Raffles Girls, Crescent Girls, Anglo Chinese School, St. Joseph’s Institution, Buona Vista Secondary, Tanjong Katong Technical, Tanjong Katong Girls and Victoria School. What they displayed on the field was amazing for its time.
The people who directed those bands influenced me, among them, Mr. Lee Seck Chiang, Mr. Harold Rozario, Mr. Chan Tong Ser, Mr. Arthur Tan, Ms. Irene Joseph and Mr.Nasir Ibrahim. These people are the legends and the keepers of the band history in Singapore. If not for them, bands now would not have reached the current standards today.
What advice do you have for anyone thinking of pursuing a career as a conductor?
A conductor must have all the necessary knowledge and skills to convince the musicians he leads that he is the person to follow. A conductor is an inspiration and a role model. He has to create an air of confidence, be honest with the people he leads and have integrity.
For anyone pursuing this, my advice is study your music, know your world and the people who live in it. A great friend once told me that the pinnacle of the conducting experience is to know how to “feel”. Good character and knowledge is fundamental.
I have 42 years of experience in school bands in Singapore and made many students who are now friends. There had been many weddings, births and unfortunately deaths as well; comradeship in the band is forever.
You have been to other countries and observe their band situation. What are some of the differences compared to the scene here?
I am familiar with band programs in Australia and North America. In Singapore, band is treated as an after school activity, here lies the first difference.
I was fortunate to participate (in a US High School) in a classroom based band rehearsal which was conducted in the first period of the school day. The school band was rehearsing a program of music and each student earns course credits for their involvement in the band program. There lies the second difference.
Thirdly, instrumental music is not offered as an examinable subject in main stream education. Musicals are the current trend in Australia. Schools put on “High School Musicals” where everyone gets involved, including the parents, and parents play a very supportive role in music.
I am fortunate that with the schools I teach, my student’s parents are very supportive.
Considering the attitudes and mindsets of the current generation of students (most commonly termed as “Strawberry” generation), how do you deal with them?
The term “Strawberry Generation” is made in reference to the strawberry fruit which bruises easily when ripe and has to be picked by hand so that we can enjoy the fruit when purchased.
The fruit is picked by hand because there is no automation that is able to tell the difference between a ripe or unripen fruit as the fruit can only be harvested when ripe. Only the human hand can discern this at this point in time.
I make reference to this process as I believe that the same attention should be given to individuals who have not gained enough experiences that help build resilience. The encouragement to “try” should be supported with programs designed to slowly extend self-imposed boundaries of accomplishment.
I have encountered students who have had difficulties and I have found that through encouragement, understanding, and the human touch, these students become better at facing challenges. In relation to music and the challenges it brings, I have found that the “one step at a time” approach seems to work well with the students I work with.
How does it feel to be seeing your own students become conductors who have also contributed greatly to the band scene?
I am very proud of them. I am proud of the way they have found their own musical personalities. They all come from one source, and have grown beyond their point of origin to create their own musical niche.
I like the way they face challenges and solve problems and how they communicate with each other, advising and helping when needed. They are a community amongst themselves.
In modesty, I know that I am leaving a legacy.
Do you have any word of encouragements for all your students from the past and present?
For my current students, I say practice, practice, practice. Playing in a fantastic band is one of the greatest experiences you can ever have and it will only happen while you are in school. This is your one opportunity to see the world through your involvement in band. For my past students, please come to your alumni concerts.
To conclude, what do you expect in the local band scene in 10 years’ time?
I think the band standards will remain the same however time is the thing to conquer. If we want to gain greater heights, greater efforts must be put in. I see that we will face many new challenges ahead and we have to be prepared for this. I hope that as a community we can work together for the betterment of our students. With good leadership and character the band movement will continue.
Remember NO pain, No gain. If you want it, work for it.