Jessie Phay

Band Major 2018-2019
Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School Concert Band

My journey with AI Concert Band started in 2016, a few months later than my peers, as I had transferred from another CCA. I was quite nervous, because everything was so new and unfamiliar to me. Initially, band practices were quite daunting; everyone seemed so comfortable with their instruments, while I was struggling to learn the basics of playing the saxophone. However, as time passed, I slowly but surely learnt more about my instrument and my passion for band grew from there.

In 2018, we welcomed our new conductors, Mr. Ho Law Wei and Mr. Faizal Othman. It was rather uncomfortable having to adapt to a brand new system. I still recall my shock when we spent our first practice cleaning up and reorganising our band room and store. Our conductors joined us in the sweat inducing labour, from refitting cabinets to clearing all sorts of paraphernalia. It was difficult to deal with so many different changes that were extremely foreign to most of the band members.

Firstly, drills and other forms of regimentation were implemented, to the dismay of many members. We were extremely resistant towards the need to fall-in and out for every practice, as well as address our conductors, teachers, and majors by “Sir/Ma’am”. However, having spent more time together with our conductors, everyone began to understand how and why such processes were crucial to instill discipline and respect within the band’s culture. Once we were able to exercise self-discipline in our behaviour and interactions with others, such a mindset would naturally be transferred over to our approach towards our musical craft.

Secondly, we started to have more band exchanges with other schools. In particular, we have had the privilege of working closely alongside our sister bands from Yuying Secondary School and Pasir Ris Secondary School, respectively. In the beginning, many band members were puzzled as to why we had so many exchanges and were frustrated that the exchanges were taking up much of our free time on certain Saturdays. However, we slowly realised that the exchanges were beneficial to us, as we could learn from our sister bands and benefit in many different ways – from working on our musicianship to gaining more friends and exposure to more pieces of band literature.

Over the past few months of preparation for the SYF Arts Presentation, our band has truly experienced what it means to strive for music excellence, because this is a process riddled with numerous personal and collective challenges, that can only be overcome with self-discipline, dedication, humility, patience, perseverance, respect, and teamwork. We had to learn how to respect each other’s opinions, our new conductors’ ideas and processes, as well as accept harsh but constructive criticism from others. We learnt the true meaning of dedication and patience when we put in countless hours of practice to work on our pieces. We also had the privilege to have masterclasses with renowned band pedagogues like Mr. Surapol Thanyawibool and Mr. Masanori Fukuda. From these masterclasses, we developed as a band, learning that music is far more than just playing the correct pitches and rhythms. We learnt more about good tone production, the importance of shaping our musical phrases, and conveying all sorts of colours and emotions through our instruments and imagination.

As a band, we’ve been very blessed and inspired by our team of conductors, teachers, tutors, and peers, who have collectively put in our best efforts for the SYF Arts Presentation. We are extremely grateful and thankful for all the contributions and sacrifices that everyone has made for the band. Consequently, we were inspired to push hard to achieve our desired outcome. Personally, it was extremely heartwarming to witness many members sacrificing their recess time and leisure time on non-practice days to put in extra hours of practice. While we have managed to clinch our school’s first ever Distinction award, the memories and life lessons that we’ve taken away from our band programme are far more valuable than the award itself.

Because of the faith that our conductors and teachers have placed in us, the encouragement they have given us, and the support they have provided, we have managed to experience a breakthrough in our pursuit of music excellence. We’ve also learnt to appreciate the importance of believing in ourselves. As our conductor Mr. Faizal told us: “There can be miracles when you believe. Who knows what miracles you can achieve?” If we do not believe in ourselves, if we do not enjoy our music, and if we do not express our feelings through our pieces, we will not be able to achieve what we are capable of, no matter how much we practice.

Through all the ups and downs that we have been through, I can firmly say that as a band, we have become a family. A family that stays strong together, pushes each other beyond our limits, and knows that at the end of the day, we are a band, and we will never be alone, because we have each other.