Conductors to Watch: Jacintha Tan

Intrigued by the piano at church, Jacintha Tan attended her first piano and music lesson in Kindergarten 1, with the support of her parents.

Her music journey started in Temasek Secondary School, when she joined the band and was assigned to play the clarinet. She then continued to pursue her ‘Specialist Diploma in Band Directing’ at the National Institute of Education (NIE), and subsequently completing her ‘Bachelors of Music Education with Management’ at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).

“I have always enjoyed playing the clarinet and being in the band. I joined the Philharmonic Youth Winds after leaving secondary school, where I met and learned from many inspiring conductors. Thanks to other opportunities presented to me at that time, I started to help and teach part-time in school bands.”

“Somehow, things and time moved on very quickly when I am doing what I love, and I ended up doing further studies in music education while continuing to teach bands.”

Jacintha fondly remembers her conducting debut at the 2007 Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) which particularly stands out as a treasured memory.

“It wasn’t about the award received but the strong bonds forged. We cried and celebrated together; like a family.”

Presently, she is the conductor of Cedar Primary School Band, Beatty Secondary School Military Band and Seng Kang Secondary School Band.

“I am very blessed to meet many people (both musicians and non-musicians) who have influenced and played very crucial roles in this journey. To name a few; my secondary school conductors, Mr Wong Yew Hon and Mr David Glosz; my NIE and SUSS Professors A.P Ho Hwee Long, Dr Kelly Tang, Dr Eddie Chong and Eric James Watson; fellow colleague and mentor, Mr Patrick Wong; my current band teachers in-charge, and my family and close friends.”

“They have been generously sharing their vast experiences and knowledge – patiently guiding me to improve myself!”

Jacintha enjoys conducting wind band pieces that are slightly more challenging and of various genres to help push her students further. While expanding their repertoire, she expects her students to put in their best and to strive for excellence.

“Although every student is unique in their attitude towards learning, abilities, circumstances, I believe it is still important for them to give their utmost best at what they do.”

“One of the challenges I often face is working with limited resources, with time being the most obvious. I however view it as a helpful challenge – since I often do not have the luxury of time in schools, it simply means that I have to be more efficient with my rehearsal sessions.”

Jacintha makes regular efforts to ensure that her students are prepared before each rehearsal by informing them on the piece(s) that she will be working on in advance so that they can do some basic score study.

“For more difficult pieces or when it is nearing competition, I will be more precise in my instructions, such as telling them the specific bars or music components that they need to work or improve on.”

Besides using warm ups, fundamentals, sectionals and ensemble training, Jacintha also believes that non-music activities such as games or foot-drills are essential in building and developing a band.

“I believe in empowering my students; keeping them engaged and then encouraging them to take ownership of their own learning. For this reason, besides emphasizing on self-practice, I put my band and section leaders in charge of their members’ progress. They play a critical role in assisting me to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.”

“I also use a combination of formal and informal assessments to ensure that my students have learned what was taught during my rehearsals. Keeping in mind that one method might work for Band A but not Band B, it is important that I have a variety of methods and approaches to help my students learn better.”

Jacintha hopes that her students can apply what they have learned in band to many areas of their lives like in family, friends and work.

The greatest sense of satisfaction for her is knowing that her students have grown up positively as a person and musician, living their lives to the fullest, and they still remember her.

“To my students, continue to do what you love most (be it music or not) and do them at your best. If you were once my student, you’re always my student. I will be there for you, if you ever need me!”

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