Conductors to Watch: Joseph Teo

A Euphonium postgraduate of Kunitachi College of Music in Japan, Joseph Teo studied under the tutelage of world renowned Euphonium Professor Toru Miura of the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra (TKWO).

Prior to his studies, Joseph was the Principal Euphonium in Philharmonic Winds, and also a military musician in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Central Band where he was Section Leader and Principal Euphonium.

Joseph also obtained his Licentiate Diploma in Euphonium awarded by Trinity Guildhall in 2011.

“Playing Euphonium over the years definitely played an important role towards my development in music.”

“I am sure I can speak the same for my fellow band director colleagues that aour interests began with playing an instrument back in our school days. It was then that I already knew I wanted to do music professionally and subsequently set my sights to join the SAF Central Band. At the same time, I was also fortunate to be accepted into Philharmonic Youth Winds and then shortly after, the Philharmonic Winds where I shared fond memories with fellow Euphonium players Ms Lau Lifeng and Mr Adrian Chiang. Incidentally, we all ended up as conductors!”

“In those days, resources were limited, but I was extremely fortunate to be introduced and exposed to the famed TKWO. Through multiple CD recordings, Toru Miura sensei became someone I looked up and go-to when I needed a reference on how good euphonium playing should sound like. I was truly blessed when I got to study under his tutelage at Kunitachi College, and it was an eye opening experience which shaped the way I perceive band training.”

Today, Joseph is the Band Director of Novo Winds (Band of Toa Payoh South Community Club), Bendemeer Secondary School Band, Tampines Secondary School Band and Maris Stella High School (Primary) Band. He is also the Assistant Conductor for the Maris Stella Symphonic Band.

“I am constantly counting my blessings to have received so much help and assistance from my teachers, friends and fellow colleagues. I am grateful to all the opportunities offered to me and I hope to pay it forward to the next generation of musicians. To be able to share the joy of music-making and to touch people’s life through music is one of life’s greatest pleasures.”

Be it in Novo Winds or his school bands, Joseph takes it upon himself to help maintain their passion and interest in music.

“Everyone joins band voluntarily and we try to make the most out of their time. With school students, I adopt a more hands-on role in honing their technical proficiencies whereas with community band musicians, they are usually technically competent and what I share with them is the musical process and thought processes of the music we are working on.”

“Of course with their heightened level of understanding and musicianship, the repertoire is more challenging and much more can be done within a shorter period of time. At the end of the day, what I wish for all musicians under my care is to do justice to the music and hopefully enjoy themselves in the midst of doing so.”

To Joseph, it is his privilege as a conductor to be standing in front of any group of musicians and conducting them, and he sincerely cherishes every single moment be it during rehearsals or actual performances.

“The podium holds many notable firsts for me such as my first time taking my own Alma Mater for Esplanade’s limelight series; first SYF Arts Presentation with a primary school band; and first performance with an adult community group.”

“If I really have to pick an especially memorable one, it would have to be Novo Winds’ Esplanade band weekend at the outdoor theatre. We were performing with our guest singer Natasha, and the fireworks just went off behind us unexpectedly. The entire scene was surreal especially at times when the fireworks went in sync with the music. Talk about being at the right place at the right time.”

By believing that all musicians are entertainers, Joseph thrives to ensure his bands cater to different audiences.

“Mr John Boyd once told the musicians in Philharmonic Winds that sometimes we just don’t get to play music that we enjoy as much but as entertainers, we just have to do it. Different genres of music serve different purposes and crowd, and I believe in presenting a wider range of music in hopes that more people can be entertained.”

“My greatest satisfaction in conducting bands is seeing how music can positively change a person. It is not measured by how well an individual plays, but the growth observed in individuals pushing their limits from time to time.”

“Practicing fervently just to get a passage right, sounding better than before but still not perfecting it at the end day. Does this sit with me? You can bet it does! That is a display of grit and resilience and which brings me satisfaction and inspiration to do better myself.”

Joseph will be conducting Novo Winds in its full house concert ‘Lost Moon’ this Saturday evening.

The band will then perform for the Beautiful Sunday series with the theme ‘Heroes’ featuring tunes from blockbusters Avengers and Superman, before preparing for their 10th anniversary concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 4 July 2020.

“Everyone at Novo Winds is thrilled that the concert is sold out a month before. It feels good to be able to perform to a full house and it motivates the musicians to practice even harder to deliver their best. For many of them, performing to a full house is a first for them. Of course, this would not have been possible without the tremendous support from the foundation of the group – the musicians themselves.”

“Over the years, the band has proven to be very versatile. Apart from usual outdoor and concert performances, Novo Winds also has smaller ensembles which performs regularly for community events. On top of that, we have also staged two flash mobs for the community of Toa Payoh. For these to happen, the musicians need to be accommodating and open to new ideas to perform out of their comfort zone.”

Like many passionate conductors, Joseph hopes that his students, past or present, continue their love and interest in music making.

“Share this joy with people in your lives such as your family, seniors, juniors and eventually their own children. Most importantly, hold dear to not only the memories of making music together but also the lovely people; some of whom will become your best friends for life.”

Joseph also hopes that more people can pick up an instrument to learn, and perhaps join a band in future.

“Band is one inclusive activity where musicians come together regardless of age, ethnicity, religion and background, and communicate through music as a universal language. Such values of coming together as a group based on such an interest should be preserved as an important social block. While band activities do take up substantial time, I hope non-musicians can see the value behind such a craft and understand that there is more to just spending numerous hours at band practices. With the existence of groups like the Band Directors’ Association Singapore, it has definitely become increasingly easier for students to be exposed to quality band programmes.”

“Like how my mum and dad used to say – always band band band! I am very thankful that my family understood the importance of music in my life and how playing an instrument in a band has helped changed my life and moulded my character and values.”

“I remain positive that the band scene will continue to flourish in years to come.”

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