Organised by the Singapore Wind Symphony (SWS), and with the support of the National Arts Council (NAC) through the NAC Major Grant, the SWS Young Composers Challenge 2015 is a platform for emerging composers below the age of 24 to write a ‘March’ for submission, in hopes of winning the cash prize of $500 for each age category.

Apart from the monetary awards, the winning composition of each category and other submissions of merit will receive public performances by either the Singapore Wind Symphony, the SWS Youth Winds or the Audio Image Wind Ensemble. Such opportunity to have an original work performed can be considered rare for most of the 16 young participants, who are mostly students in music schools, school leavers awaiting university education and those doing National Service.

The Band Post covered the recent workshop on 17 May, where key speakers Johnson Lee, Terrence Wong and Benjamin Yeo were invited to present their topics such as ‘What is a March / Marches of Singapore’, ‘Composing and Arranging for Symphonic Band’ and ‘How to Write a March’, to the attendees.

“I hope that the participants can appreciate the different styles of marches from the different countries. They can also get more musical ideas and create their own brand of music,” said Johnson, who introduced marches from various countries during his session to allow participants hear the diverse styles across cultures.

As part of the regulations, submitted compositions must be approximately 3-6 minutes in length and scored for Symphonic Band. The deadline for submission is 3rd July 2015, and the results will be announced by 3rd August 2015.

“It is certainly a wonderful thing to have 16 young men and women sign up for the workshop – the youngest being 16 years old! It is certainly a good sign for the future of our music scene – more young people are no longer content to just perform music, but to create their own to express themselves too,” said Terrence, who was excited at the young composer prospects who have signed up for the challenge.

“When our musicians go overseas to perform, they are often asked, what music have you brought from your home country? And they are usually at a loss for an answer, simply because they haven’t brought any, and certainly can’t think of any to bring! Well, not anymore today, and definitely not in the future,” he continued.

Well-known band composer, Benjamin Yeo, also shared his similar thoughts about the opportunity of the challenge to develop more young composers, citing that the scene has provided more exposure for Singaporean music over the years.

“I think the opportunities for local works to be heard have increased for sure. As far as our band scene is concerned, band directors have given more trust in music written by Singaporeans. In time to come, it will be a ‘norm’ and not a ‘feature’. I feel that modeling to the younger generation of composers is important. When they witness a performance of works by their fellow composer-friends, it affirms their own craft and also future possibilities for their music to be performed.

The composition challenge “March On!” is a great idea. To put it simply and practically – if you do not provide opportunities, people will not write. This is of course in a more generic sense; there are many who will still write music whenever they like. However, when there is a purpose to write for, there will be more drive in them to pen something on their paper immediately. This challenge provides an avenue for interested young individuals to write a March, something structurally straightforward yet difficult to be musically convincing. The main challenge I believe will be for them to develop their musical materials coherently with an appropriate structural framework of a march. The most exciting part of this composition challenge is probably the performance of their final ‘product’ – something that all of them will be looking forward to as composers. Hopefully, this positive experience will encourage them to write more music in future.”

“My wish is that, one day (more of) our school bands can finally play local marches for their school National Day Parades and/or Celebrations!” he added.

To see more photos from the workshop, go to our Facebook page here!