I had my 11th visit to Singapore in March and April 2016, and visited bands of different schools. During my stay, I taught some bands from primary and secondary schools, junior colleges and universities, and also went to listen to some concerts.
In my observations, I found some problems which can be solved among bands, and would like to propose certain measures that may contribute to the growing development of the Singapore band scene.
Why are there band activities in school, a place for education?
The reason is that band activities are one of the tools that can stimulate students’ human character cultivation. In other words, students need to learn important elements as human beings through band activities. This is why the time and place are provided in schools.
As band instructors, we need to understand that the students’ learning in band is as important as, or more important than, practical learning such as mathematics. It means band instructors must be responsible for the growth of students into adults who will in turn guide the younger students.
Below is a list of the problems that I have noted during my trip.
- Not studying new teaching methods, but also neglectful to cultivate their own sensitivities
- Lack of conducting backgrounds or studies
- Not using the metronome in the band programme (Must be used all the time)
- Taking no notice of students’ personalities, and not understanding their thoughts
- Breathing is too little, hence the overall resonance of the band sound is weak
- Woodwinds’ breathing and embouchure methods are not proper, hence the total balance of the band is difficult to control; or that the band sound has become diminished as there is neither a change in tone colour nor expression
- Wrong percussion technique and poor treatment for percussion instruments (storage, maintenance and care)
- Percussion is often too loud
Aside from the problems above, I will explain below what students can learn through band activities:
- Recognition of the importance of each player’s tone; a good band sound will be affected even by a single player’s difference in timing or pitch / interval
— Students will learn the importance of each member’s responsibility in a band
- Cooperative attitude by all members in an ensemble setting, which is necessary to achieve a high standard of music together
— Students will learn the spirit of teamwork, which is needed for their lives in society
- Common aim to provide impressive music to audience
— Students will learn their responsibility as performers since audience members spend their time and money to listen to their concerts
- Realization that band activities cannot carry on without the support of many people
— Students will learn to be thoughtful and appreciative to the people around them
Apart from the students’ understanding, band instructors also have to play a part in guiding the students to achieve the above learning aspects through band activities. Music is just a tool to achieve the human cultivation of students but a good band programme will definitely assist the instructor in this aspect.
In conclusion, I do hope that some of these suggestions can be adapted and assist in the band programmes. I generally hope that the Singapore band culture will improve in the near future.
Mr Kasaoka Tsuneyoshi played the violin, joined the choir at the age of 9, and started playing the clarinet at the age of 11. He was in the Wind Band and Choir in Junior High and Senior High Schools, before graduating with top honours from Musashino Academica Musicae, Tokyo, where he majored in Clarinet and was also the concert master of the Wind Ensemble.
Mr Kasaoka has taught junior high school for 11 years and senior high school for 28 years as a music teacher. He has brought his bands to Florida (USA) for 6 times and Singapore for 3 times, mostly for home-staying programmes and combined concerts. His band has also hosted bands from Germany, United States and Singapore with similar programmes.
Presently, he is the conductor of Hiroshima City Harmony, a community band which he has led for the past 12 years.