Apivut (Junt) Minalai is a young Thai conductor who has achieved the All Japan Marching Band Champion title 4 times with the Aimachi Marching Band from Nagoya, Japan. He is also the resident conductor of the award winning Suranaree Marching Band, which was crowned Champions in the 2009 World Music Contest (WMC) World Divison, and second place in 2013 for the same category.
The Suranaree Girls’ Wind Symphony also made the headlines in recent years as it came in first place in Division 2B of the Singapore International Band Festival (SIBF) 2014, and also the Top Prize from Concert Band Class A of the 2015 Thailand International Royal Trophy Band Competition.
Apart the achievements with his bands, Junt also collected his personal accolades, such as being a volunteer staff position with The Phantom Regiment in 2003, being a visual staff for the DCI World Class ‘The Troopers’ in 2007, and getting himself “Drum Corps Europe” (DCE) certified in 2009 by the Drum Corps Europe Judges College in Dadizele, Belgium, making him the first Asian to become a DCE Cerified judge.
The Band Post speaks to Junt about his career and his outstanding achievements.
It must be an incredible feeling to have conducted many marching bands in the world, especially winning the All Japan Marching Band Champion title with Aimachi Marching Band.
What do you feel about your marching band career achievements so far? What have you learnt from the experience?
I am having the greatest time of my life being a conductor with Aimachi and other marching bands. I have learnt a lot from knowing and working with other people within this marching band family, allowing me to think about them more than myself and to enjoy the results of working hard together.
In Japan, I am very impressed with the management skills of Mr. Kiyokatsu Sakine. Apart from being a good manager, he is also great at motivating us with ideas of what it means to have a strong band spirit in everything we do, and not just “play music to win medals”.
We are always tightening on our standards, our rehearsal etiquette, but he also ensured that we are having FUN, and not leaving any musicians out of it. This learning journey has allowed me to bring back some of the ideas back to Thailand to develop my marching band programme.
Some of your arrangements and compositions have won trophies in many world marching band competitions. What was your most memorable show?
I did not major in composition but I love to write music for marching band shows. I believe that if I put my heart into writing music, and that I love what I wrote, the work will always be successful in my opinion.
The ‘Firebird’ show in Kerkrade, Netherlands with Suranaree Girls’ Marching Band at the World Music Contest (WMC) 2009 was the most memorable for me when we were awarded World Champion with a high score of 95.30. It was also the highest score that a Thailand Band ever achieved in that international platform.
Under your conducting, the Suranaree Girls Wind Symphony and Marching Band have won many awards in Thailand and International competitions such as WMC 2013, and the recent SIBF 2014 in Singapore. What do you feel about their achievements?
I am so proud of them, as we will not be able to achieve the awards without the dedication of the members. We worked hard together and believed in the practices.
Sometimes, I let them decide the repertoire for our competition program or marching show music, and then work with them to see what we can do to let the audience to enjoy our performances.
I have also made new conductor friends from SIBF, and I consistently share our band experiences with them. I think it is wonderful to go to band contests to learn more about other cultures and foster friendship through music.
You will be taking Suranaree Girls Wind Symphony to Denmark in July this year. What will the band be doing there?
We are going to the Concert Contest in Rasterder, Germany, and then cross the country to Denmark to participate in the WAMSB concert contest. We are looking forward for the music exchanges to perform our music by The King of Thailand, and wind band arrangements of Thai music.
Is there anyone who have inspired and motivated you in this band director career?
My childhood inspirations are my band conductors Mr. Surapol Tanyawiboon, and Mr. Nipath Kanchanahut, where I have enjoyed playing the Clarinet under their hands. I hope that my teachings now continue to inspire and motivate my band students.
Do you have something to say to your current and past students?
I am sure that my students will grow up and be stronger in their life skills after graduating from my band program. I would like to wish my students the very best in their lives, and also hope that they can come back and support our band in their concerts or marching bands shows.
What do you feel about music in general?
For me, there is no life without music. Knowledge makes the world go round, but music allows us to live happily. I believe that if you enjoy the arts, go for it and be passionate about it. If you keep doing it, you will eventually enjoy what you do.