Conductors to Watch: Erik Tan

Having picked up the trumpet at age 10, Erik Tan graduated from the Yong Siew Toh (YST) Conservatory of Music with both Bachelor and Master of Music in Trumpet Performance.

While he was at school, he would often spend some of his non practice time doing assistant conductor work.

“Becoming a conductor for school bands wasn’t part of the deal when I pursued music. Yet by chance, it has become my greatest passion today not just as a conductor, but also a music educator in general.”

Erik is currently the conductor of Jurong Secondary School Symphonic Band and Peicai Secondary School Concert Band. He still keeps in touch with his trumpet as a freelance performer in both local and overseas professional orchestras gigs.

In his weekly band rehearsals, Erik focuses mostly on the basics. He also ensures that his students complete their music assignments at home so that they are prepared for each practice.

“As a instrumentalist myself, I feel that fundamental training is paramount to inclined musicianship. Therefore in my 2.5 hour rehearsals, I will split the time among long tones (scales), articulation exercises, basic harmony training exercises, and required pieces for performances. If time permits, I love to throw in new works for sight-reading as well.”

“Modelled upon the academic structure in the school curriculum, I will get my students to bring home their music homework which usually take less than 20 minutes to complete.”

“With consistency and proper time management, I have had students who excelled both academically and musically, and thus they are able to focus better in rehearsals without having to worry too much about teachers pulling them away for extra classes. They will also be equipped with the necessary skills needed for music enjoyment during rehearsals which makes it very efficient.”

To date, Erik does not regret his decision to become a school band conductor. He still enjoys every moment he spend teaching his students, even if met with some challenges.

“As cliche as it sounds, I always look forward to my rehearsals so that I can impart new knowledge to my students, and reinforce concepts to help them grow musically.”

“For each performance they put up – even if it’s conducted by my student conductor, it is a reflection of the hard work they put in, so there really isn’t any definitive moment when every moment is self-sufficiently at best.”

As Erik continues to follow his passion in teaching, he hopes that every student is offered an equal chance to learn and grow in their own bands.

“My personal hope is for every band to become equal, in all sense of the word. It is inevitable in our scene that each school band has a different start out point; with some lacking in manpower and/or resources, which may discourage students who are passionate about band. I am heartened to know that this is improving in recent years, where we see many bands holding exchanges or organizing outdoor performances to share their music.”

“Most importantly, thanks to the hard work of various organisations such as the Band Directors’ Association of Singapore (BDAS) and Wind Bands Association of Singapore (WBAS), I hope all band students can benefit from such platforms and use them as a window to see and reach out to the community even after they graduate and step into the society.”

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