Tribute to Luk Hoi Yui

Affectionately known to many as “老师 Laoshi”, Mr Luk Hoi Yui passed away on 20 February, leaving behind the Singapore Band Movement that he and other founding members fostered over the last 40 years.

“新加坡的管乐社团痛失了一位杰出的导师和指挥。他不仅向我们展示了表演音乐的新维度,而且还灌输了许多音乐理论,促进了我们更深刻理解许多音乐演奏技巧,教学和指导,并从中受益不浅。我们今天也因为有您的指导而成功。我们亏欠您的不仅仅是感谢,还有感恩。您的离开是管乐界的巨大损失。我们将永远记住您,感谢您为音乐做出的贡献,为新加坡的乐团和无数的音乐爱好者和演奏家,带来您心中的音乐。陆老师,一路走好.
We received the sad news of the passing of a well-respected teacher and conductor Mr Luk Hoi Yu. In the course of his music career, he has inspired and touched the hearts of many musicians. We, from BDA(S), are all extremely thankful for his contributions to the wind band scene in Singapore. You will be sorely missed. Thank you, Mr Luk.”
Band Directors’ Association (Singapore)

Mr Luk Hoi Yui graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1960, and took up the Teacher of Horn in the same institution. He was a professional horn player with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and served as a lecturer in Brass at the Hong Kong Baptist College. He then joined the Singapore Symphony Orchestra as Sub-Principal Horn Player and later became the Acting Principal Horn Player.

In 1980, he was appointed the Music Director of the National Theatre Symphony Band (NTSB), now known as the Singapore Wind Symphony (SWS). He then led NTSB to the 1989 World Music Contest (WMC) in Holland, and SWS to achieve First Prize (Distinction) in the 2nd Division of 1993 WMC, and First Prize at the Janitsjarfestivalen held in Hamar, Norway, in the same year.

“I knew Mr Luk (I call him Luk San 陆生) in 1981 when I first joined National Theatre Symphonic Band. As a conductor, he is demanding and creative, knowledgeable and engaging. But inside him, there’s a warm and friendly man who will bring himself to your level and listen to you and your thoughts on music. I cannot remember the number of concerts (too many!) I have played under his baton but I guess the most memorable one should be the first ever participation in WMC (Kerkrade, Netherlands) when he brought NTSB to participate for the first time as a band from Singapore in 1989. 陆生,一路走好. I am thankful for all your musical guidance, both directing and interpreting, but most of all, your wonderful friendship for more than 30 years. Rest In Peace, my Senior, and a friend. You shall always be remembered.”
Richard Png (NTSB clarinetist and current member of SWS)
“I believe one of Mr Luk’s greatest moments was when he led the NTSB to the WMC in 1989. This is a significant moment for Singapore band scene as NTSB made the first appearance on international stage. Mr Luk brought his interpretation of the music and impressed everyone. That was when the composer of the set piece, Mr Hardy Mertens, first met Mr Luk and became friends since. He will always be remembered for his dedication and commitment in music making”
Willy Tan (NTSB percussionist and current member of SWS)

In 1985, Mr Luk became the resident conductor of Nanyang Technological University Symphonic Band (NTUSB). Under his guidance, the band won First Prize in the 2nd Division of 1997 WMC, and First Prize in the 1st Division of 2001 WMC. During his stay till 2000, he also helped to setup the NTU Band Alumni in 1994.

“My earliest memory of Mr Luk was back in 1983, when I was a secondary 2 student in Chinese High. A few members of the band were asked to join the string ensemble to put up a concert, and Mr Luk was the conductor. I don’t remember much about that concert now, but I remembered his singing during the rehearsals. Over the next few years, I have played under a number of conductors, but none had the same level of passion for music than Mr Luk.
When I went to study in NTU, there was no doubt about joining the band because he was the conductor there. I learned a lot from him in my years in NTU. He taught musicality and expression through interesting analogies, he insisted on lengthy warm-ups for stamina and stable airflow, and he liked to start all over again after we had finished the last bar. ‘好, 我们从头再来一遍!’ – this was a dreaded phrase for many musicians!
After my graduation, he was instrumental in getting me a job as a band instructor, as I had expressed to him an interest in this. I will forever be grateful to Mr Luk for giving me the opportunity to pursue my interests, and I regret that I had never verbally expressed my gratitude to him. Mr Luk’s passion for music, and love for his students was tremendous. It’s no wonder that ex-students still celebrated his birthdays, and visited him every Chinese New Year. And I bet he never forgot the names of each and every student he ever had. He was a true teacher who had touched many lives, and if it is possible, I am sure he will 从头再来!”
Lim Lip Hua (NTUSB Alumni 1991-1995)
“What stood out for Laoshi was how he could feel the music, and could translate that feeling to us, and through the music to the audience. He went for the soul of the music first, before working out the technical aspects with us. It was amazing how he could describe explicitly how he wanted us to express the feelings. The most inspiring aspect is that he believed in us more than we believed in ourselves, e.g. our ability to express the music feel, and always encouraging us to try it. He was not a man who held anything back, teaching all he could, expecting the best from us, and at the same time expressing his care for us.
It was inspiring to be under him all these years. He saw us beyond the state of the band was in at that time, and ventured to bring the band out for overseas performances and competitions. When we were apprehensive, he kept encouraging us, and at the same time, expecting the best from us. He saw what we could be and stretched us to reach that reality. Laoshi was always caring, like a fatherly figure. He opened his doors to students beyond band practice time, thereby building relationships beyond the school years spanning more than 20 years.
Laoshi has been always a fatherly figure to us. Our bond is strong and lasting as he always welcome us with open arms. He is a charming speaker, always willing to share his interesting past. We were also amazed by his life experiences and small stories during his childhood and during the cultural revolution in China. CNY visits and his birthday celebrations were a yearly affair. Our kids called him 师公 – no barriers. We chatted and we laughed. We talked about almost everything. Less and less about music; more and more about our lives, and updates about those who did not turn up that year.
I played the French Horn in NTU, and my playing was transformed under his guidance. I had the range and could run notes, but my sound used to be thin. He got me to open up in my sound. I remember we had to play Shostakovich Symphony No.5 in year 2 or 3, and our section had to learn to blast at maximum full sound for passages in that piece. He assigned the horn solo to me and I was surprised at this opportunity. It was his trust in my hidden potential and believing that I can do it, that made it one of the most memorable solos I had.”
Ong Chee Lim (NTUSB Alumni 1993-1997)
“那些年,在南大,您带领我们一同出演了N多场,也到了国际大舞台荣获两届金奖.
毕业后,我也在不同的乐团跟您表演了许多金典代表作。Shostakovich No.5, Miss Saigon, El Camino Real, Fantasy Variation etc. 每次演出,都让我在得到许多音乐上的成长,也起了鸡皮疙瘩 🙂
没想到去年音乐会是我们最后一次一起同台演出了。感谢您多年来的教导, 把搞音乐的精神与热忱传给了一群呆板的理工大学生。
老师,一路好走.”
Sean Tan (NTUSB Alumni 1996-2000)

In 1994, Mr Luk became the resident conductor of Raffles Girls School Symphonic Band (RGSSB). He led the band to achieve Gold in both SYF 1997 and 1999, achieving a 2nd place in SYF presentation for the latter year.

“I think more so than awards or accolades – RGSSB received many compliments then. What Mr Luk achieved was to instill a love for music, a love for band and playing music together among the RGSSB students then and even long after we all graduated from school. He patiently taught, encouraged, and motivated each one of us to improve and also learn to appreciate music more. When he was the RGSSB conductor, it was in the days when many who joined band had no music background whatsoever and playing an instrument was particularly daunting; not to mention having to go through foot drills. His passion and enthusiasm must have rubbed off on us and also made us believe we had what it took – it was a common sight to see and hear RGSSB players practicing immediately after school till late at night and oftentimes on entire Saturdays too. I don’t think this would be the case if anyone else but Laoshi was our conductor.
I only realized many years after we graduated that our batch in RGSSB was one of the few batches that he took from start to end (Secondary 1 to 4). And what a precious experience we had to have him as our music mentor and conductor. While I don’t speak for myself, many players in my batch were known to be very good in the band scene then – even my juniors remember us and our concerts for our music. I think what made a difference was that Laoshi always found ways and opportunities to encourage and challenge us individually. He would find time to give us personal coaching or tips to improve. Even for mediocre players like myself, I remember practicing and playing with Moulmein Winds for a concert at his invitation. Some of my batchmates played with NTUSB, SWS amongst many others… and we were only in secondary school. These were such rare opportunities and he must also have had faith that we could match up to the rest.
All that being said, Laoshi’s personal touch is what I miss most. He remembered each of us by name and what instrument we played. Even long after RGS, this was still true. When he met us again, he always called us by name even though some of us had rarely turned up for band practice in secondary school and others had not met him for more than a decade (some almost two decades). When we formed our alumni band Raffles Winds, he took time and effort to support us and watch our concerts. At each concert he attended, he would encourage us to keep the band spirit alive and to keep the RGSSB players that he knew playing together for many more years to come.”
Melissa Ong (RGSSB Alumni)

In 2000, he became the resident conductor of Nanyang Polytechnic Wind Orchestra (NYPWO). Mr Luk took NYPWO to Australia in 2004 to participate in the 15th Australian International Music Festival, and also achieved First Prize in the 2nd Division of the 2005 WMC.

“一个, 一个来… That was the dreaded phrase for any musician under Laoshi’s tutelage, especially for me coming from a neighbourhood school band. You can imagine the horror I faced being assigned 1st Cornet part for James Barnes’ Third Symphony on my first practice with NTUSB in 2002.
And that was what made his musicians resilient, it was the discipline he instilled for us to make sure we did our sectionals before practice. Laoshi also had the gift of identifying the potential his musicians had, no matter what your ability was. He was always early for practice and worked with you individually. Language was definitely never a barrier. He always worked on the basics. His warm-ups consisted a lot of breathing, slurs and intervals. His choice of repertoire certainly pushed us further. I had learnt a lot from him. From self-discipline to interpreting a music piece. When he trusts you as a musician, magic happens. My favourite times with him were many, too many… I miss you already, Laoshi!”
Mohd Salleh (NYP Alumni Winds)
“老师, the last time we talked over the phone was about my wedding and it lasted close to an hour. You always showered me with love, encouragement, gave me words of wisdom about life and music. 谢谢老师!❤️ I am so thankful, grateful and fortunate to have experienced your passion and love for music! The way you express music is super inspirational! Your conducting gesture and the melodies you sang during our gatherings really touch my heart and will always be remembered.
老师, 您真的很棒! 是您点燃了我对音乐的热爱! 真的很感谢, 很感恩! 我会记住您教导我的一切. 一路好走. 😘😍❤️”
Lim Hui Min (NYP Alumni Winds)

As a pivotal and well-respected figure in the Singapore band community, Mr Luk has spent his entire career conducting and educating young musicians, many of whom have continued to make a difference to the Singapore wind music scene.

During his illustrious career, he has also conducted and influenced many bands, including Yuan Ching Secondary School Band, Victoria Junior College Symphonic Band and The Philharmonic Winds.

He conducted his last two concerts with the NYP Alumni Winds on 14 January 2017, performing one of his favourite works, ‘El Camino Real‘ by Alfred Reed, and with the Nanyang Symphonic Winds (NTUSB Alumni) on 23 June 2018 for ‘Fantasy Variations’ and ‘A Slavic Farewell’.

“I feel so sad to have heard the passing on of Maestro Luk. He was a fine musician and a great band conductor who had inspired so many young generation in the music making for more than 40 years. Mr Luk was knowledgeable, unassuming and showed high passion in shaping the landscape of Singapore band scene. We have lost a wonderful person who had devoted his 40 years of life contributing so much to the band movement in Singapore.”
A.P Ho Hwee Long
陆老师,一路走好.

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