10 most memorable stuffs about being an untalented bandsman in a band during secondary school that only untalented people from there will understand[1]

The rehearsal time is largely occupied by rehearsing you. Your name is mentioned when music goes bad, whether or not you were the cause. You are stuck at bar 1 when everyone finished learning the first section. Welcome to the club.

Get to bring your instrument home for free
Cheapest music schools charge about $30 per loan (depending on instrument), yet school bands are radical enough to let you bring back your instrument for free. Some schools even give new reeds you broke out of carelessness or anger – free of charge. Wow.

Getting affirmation from the conductor
It is no longer embarrassing reprimanded by the conductor for your abysmal playing; it’s no longer hurting that he gets angry; but it is the most satisfying thing when he praises you for improvement. So annoying.

Fearing the individual assessment
Every year, there will be some form of individual assessment, held by the instructor or the conductor himself. The most frightening thing is to realise that you have not improved at all after spending so much time on it – like a broken relationship.

Having to replay a section over and over again
American Novelist, Ernest Hemingway rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms 39 times before he was satisfied, just to get the words right[2]. You only get to play about 10 times or less on the same passage of music, to get the sound, intonation, articulation, balance, tempo, rhythm, interpretation, sometimes vibrato… plain unfair.

Staring wide-eyed at another section
There could be many reasons. The first is when the conductor dresses in appalling sense of fashion. Otherwise, it is when the conductor says something silly or rhetorical. Sometimes it is amusing to see the conductor getting angry over the extreme trivialities. Occasionally, the conductor forgets to zip his pants. Unfortunately for you, smiling is not an option.

Opting to be selected as a section leader
One, it means having the chance to teach better than you play. Two, you get to be helpful in non-music stuffs when your conductor and teacher doesn’t do well (which often happens).

Full practice when the conductor is absent
Usually, a student conductor or a secondary conductor will take over. No matter what, it’s just amusing and shocking to see a fellow-peer (or adult) waving his hands aimlessly. Then you regret not running for the conducting post last year. And you will regret this year again…and next year…

SYF period
This is probably the busiest and the most dreaded period, with endless rehearsals and higher-than-the-sky expectations over one insignificant bar of music. Rehearsals existed for you – exactly like the way lovers fret over one insignificant error of their partner. Can’t be more realistic than life.

Freezing temperatures
The practises are usually in air-conditioned room, and you confirm plus chop will turn into an ice-cube. No wonder you became good in designing great pullovers.

Dropping your instrument
Bad playing + drop instrument = This is the end of the world. In worse case scenarios, it is $5000 worth of damage with a single drop. Deep shame from within, reproach showered upon you by teachers, conductors and sometimes the repairman. You learn for the first time in your life, that you are holding on to something so valuable, but definitely not the last time… and in some cases, money can’t buy what you break, ever.


Who has ever guessed: These events became your treasured memories.

I like to end off with a true story. There was once a girl who could not reproduce a single of bar of music correctly for years and finally decided to leave the band. So she wrote me a letter, with words I cannot quite comprehend till today. But I thought it sums up this article perfectly. She said,

“…I struggled a lot [in playing][3] and in turn it frustrated me…[yet] I feel very happy to be able to read notes (a little), and learn more about music. Indeed, I have experienced many memories that I will cherish forever. Truly, they will remain in my hearts forever. I feel very grateful to be in band. This has been like family to me and I really feel sad writing this.”

[1] A response to two articles from Goodyfeed (10 realest shit about being in a Music CCA & 10 fond memories about Secondary School Concert Bands)
[2] Interview from Paris Review, 1958
[3] is context added by the writer

Seow Yibin

Written By Seow Yibin

Yibin Seow is a Singaporean-born oboist and conductor, and currently conducts the Junior National Junior College Symphonic Band. His previous appointments include the conductor of the Junior Royal Northern College of Music, Principal Guest Conductor of North Cheshire Wind Orchestra, UK and Conductor of Musikgesellschaft Harmonie Büsserach, Switzerland. He was awarded the Brierley/Kershaw Conducting Prize by Royal Northern College of Music. Yibin studied the Oboe at the YST Conservatory of Music, Singapore, before furthering his studies with Emanuel Abbühl. Following that, he studied Wind Band Conducting with Felix Hauswirth and Orchestral Conducting with Clark Rundell and Mark Heron.