Conductor Yeo Jieyuan first touched music when he joined the Maha Bodhi School Symphonic Band (MBSSB) in primary two, with the persuasion of his mother.
As a trombonist, his passion for music grew further through his school days and it eventually convinced him to become a band director during his National Service days. He then pursued a Specialist Diploma in Band Directing at the National Institute of Education – National Technological University under the tutelage of Associate Prof. Ho Hwee Long.
“Thinking back, I have my mother to thank for my music journey. I almost wanted to quit band after spending two years in it, but she insisted that I stayed on as she did not want me to give up halfway.”
Presently, Jieyuan is the conductor of Broadrick Concert Band, Manjusri Concert Band and Maha Bodhi School Alumni Band (MBSAB). He is extremely grateful for the influences in his career so far, namely his primary school band conductor, Mr Quek Boon Hui, and Mr Lester Lim.
“They have watched me grow up and taught me so much life values that I hope to pass on to my own students.”
A strong believer in music education, Jieyuan hopes to develop the personal responsibility of his students and the concept of teamwork through band. He is most motivated when he is able to see his students grow up and become mature in their thought processes.
“I always believe that through the cultivation of character, band members will take ownership in their music playing. It is only through the building of strong fundamentals that members would be able to play their instruments better and with more music expressions.”
“In order to achieve this, I regularly set homework for my students to work on so that they can better prepare for an efficient rehearsal. I will ask them to send me video recordings on a weekly basis, or set little goals for them to complete from time to time. It can be as simple as recording a set of scale studies but the idea is to let them know that practicing with goal is more important than practicing aimlessly.”
Like how his students put in their efforts to prepare for a rehearsal, Jieyuan believes that the conductor’s preparation is equally important.
“Score study and preparation are all part of a lesson plan.”
“My band rehearsals consist of several components, such as mouthpiece training, long tones, tonguing practices, harmony practices and tuning practices, and these are usually planned in accordance to the pieces that I will work on with my students. With score preparation, the rehearsals would be less mundane and more effective.”
Apart from teaching his own bands, Jieyuan also spends his time assisting Mr Quek in his primary school bands.
“I am very lucky to be able to learn from Mr Quek whom I would say is a master in teaching primary school students. We have to learn to manage the students individually and adjust our expectations on a daily lesson basis. The way we teach is also dependent on their growth, but we always take one step at time, such as helping them to learn a new note each week.”
“The most important thing however, is to maintain good relationships with the parents by communicating to them through the teachers. I am glad that they have shown strong support for the bands in Maha Bodhi School and Bendemeer Primary School!”
Having been with each of his bands for at least five years, Jieyuan recalls some of his best memories with his students.
“My first performance with MBSAB was in 2010 when I first conducted them at Singapore Conference Hall. It was an exciting opportunity as we saw the formation of the alumni band with the blessing of Maha Bodhi School then Principal Mrs Lim and the band director of MBSSB, Mr Quek.”
“Another memorable one would be in 2013 when I brought Broadrick Concert Band to SYF. It was a very tough journey as it was mostly made up of Secondary two students and with a size of 31 members. It was also my first SYF as a band director, and the enriching experience will truly stay with me for the rest of my career.”
Jieyuan will be featured in various upcoming band projects, such as running the Band Directors’ Association (BDAS) Adventure Band Camp for students between ages 8 to 13 during the September holidays where he is the chairperson. He will also conduct Broadrick Concert Band in their annual concert in November, and Manjusri Concert Band in BDAS’ Schools in Concert series.
From 9 to 15 December, he will also feature as a junior band conductor in the Youth Band Festival organized by the Wind Bands Association of Singapore (WBAS).
Going forward, Jieyuan hopes that his band students continue to grow and step out of their comfort zones.
“Challenge yourself and seize the moment! Always remember that nothing is impossible as long as you set your heart into it.”
A contributing editor at TBP.