Ilyasa’ Bin Paishar

Band Major
Seng Kang Secondary Symphonic Band

In 2018, the Seng Kang Secondary Symphonic Band, also known as SKY Band, participated in the 6th Singapore International Band Festival and received a Silver award in the Division 2B competition. We were disappointed as we wanted to achieve the Gold award. The disappointment made us more determined to make a breakthrough for SYF 2019.

We decided to take up a challenge to conquer a Grade Four piece, “Flight Of The Piasa” composed by Robert Sheldon, as our choice piece for SYF 2019. This piece was much more challenging than the pieces that we had been playing. Nonetheless, we were confident that we would be able to master the piece and achieve a breakthrough performance.

Day after day, practice after practice, SKY Band worked hard to get all the technicalities right. As band leaders, we did our research and tried to find exercises to complement our standard warm-up routines, so that the band would be better equipped to perform both the set piece, “Festival on Earth” composed by Lee jin Jun, and our choice piece.

However, our journey to SYF 2019 was not smooth-sailing. On one particular band practice a few weeks before our SYF presentation, our band was on the verge of breaking down. Everyone was demoralised and stressed as we realised that our progress had remained stagnant for months. We were making little to no improvements, and doubts began to creep in as our hard work appeared to have gone to waste. The band was unmotivated and members were also struggling with their personal and academic commitments. Some of us even wondered if our choice piece was simply too difficult for our band’s standard.

It was at the point that the leaders realised that we had to take time to reflect as a band and talk to one another. We had to take a step back to communicate honestly with one another, and learn how to manage our individual issues. This was the most trying and depressing time for me as a leader, as I was feeling that I had failed as a senior in the band, that I had failed to guide my band juniors to the best of my ability.

During this critical juncture, our conductress, Ms Jacintha Tan, and band teachers spoke to the band honestly and encouraged us to persevere. With their support and guidance, the band members and I managed to get back on our feet. We resolved to push on as we wanted to prove that even a neighbourhood school can break through and achieve the prestigious Certificate of Distinction for SYF.

During our next band practice, I could see in the band members’ eyes the determination and desire to push on without giving up. I was surprised by the band’s resilience and I was proud that we were all focusing and determined to do our best. From that day on, we put in more effort to analyse and work on our individual mistakes. We started to improve tremendously. We were back on track.

But we had one more obstacle to face as a band. While we had indeed got our technicalities right, we were still not performing our choice piece well due to a lack of confidence. Our conductress, Ms Tan, encouraged us to not only get our parts correct, but also to start performing. She reminded us that being in a band means that we would have to make music together, and that we have to bring the composers’ printed notes to life. We came up with stories for both our choice and set pieces to help us express out the emotions better. For example, we invented a storyline for “Festival On Earth” about a little boy having a fun day at a carnival. By doing so, we were able to visualise the storyline in our heads to help us play the piece better.

The band got back on its feet and continued marching forward. On the day of our SYF Presentation, we were naturally nervous and doubts began to creep in once again. Ms Tan told us that it was time for us to do our best and stop worrying about getting the notes right. We had to express our emotions and show our very best. As we walked up the stage for our turn to showcase our performance, we knew that there was no turning back. We were ready to give it our all. Those few minutes on stage felt like an eternity. When we finished our presentation, a sense of satisfaction enveloped us and we were over the moon. All our hard work did not go to waste after all. We went back to school with our heads held high.

The results were out the next day. We were thunderstruck when we realised that we had attained the Certificate of Distinction. All of us were on cloud nine and we could barely contain our happiness. It was the very first time in our history that SKY band had attained distinction at the SYF and we were the batch to make this breakthrough. I cannot be more proud of my band members as we were resilient and we did not give up. We managed to overcome our tough times and improved tremendously to put up a performance that we were proud of.

A band can run on its own without any regular tutors and our band has proven this. We did not have tutors to train each and every section. We only had our conductress, band leaders and section leaders to guide the band members. We could not have achieved our success without the endless support of our beloved teachers and conductress. The most important lesson we learnt from this journey is that a quality band is not made up of technical ability alone, emotions play a huge part too.

SKY Band is able to excel because of our love for music and for one another. I hope that our journey can inspire others.