With just a few months into the year, 2020 has already distinguished itself as a historic anomaly.

The Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) has affected many lives globally, and Singapore initiated the Circuit Breaker in April 2020 to tackle the spread of the disease. Home-based learning, otherwise known as HBL, is the terminology of this season, where students learn from home.

The transition to HBL has had its own share of difficulties for teachers and students alike. However, it is the suspension of group activities such as CCAs that has proved to be an even more emotionally trying time for students. For band students in particular, it is not just the playing of music that is missed, but more so the part of connecting with others in person. One of my students shared how much she missed staying past sunset in band with her friends.

Last week, American conductor Alan Gilbert hosted a Zoom session with Karina Canellakis, Daniel Harding and Simon Rattle on Facebook, expressing the profound difficulty of the current situation. They described an interesting phenomenon, where live streaming videos are actually preferred over recorded videos right now. Perhaps there is something emotionally special about being together with people in real-time now, which cannot be described in words.

As the May holidays begin, we can likewise consider some activities to help us connect within our band community. Below are some possible activities for the season:

Set up a band discussion forum

Using platforms like Google classroom or Padlet, talk about the band piece that changed your impression of band. Talk about your favourite band video. Challenge people with your etude or scale this week. If you are of the older generation, you can share your favourite CD albums that changed your musical tastes on Facebook.

Record your playing

Film yourself playing for a minute and post it on social media. Get a friend and/or an enemy to comment on your playing. Give a band review and grade it out of 5 marks. If your playing is out of this world, record a video of your performance and put it in “Favourites”. Who knows, it may become useful for future video auditions and could even make you the next viral sensation.

Be a one-man-orchestra

We all love harmonies. Create your own harmony by using apps like Acapella. Record yourself on melody, accompaniment and bass, and mix it together. Voila, you are now a one-man-orchestra. For more info, stalk the account of your favourite Instrumental tutor in town.

Watch an anime about band

If you love anime and have not watched Hibike! Euphonium, shame on you. Time to stay connected with the band trend. The anime kono oto tomare is also an enjoyable anime that parallels to why students join the koto club. It parallels nicely with Band.

Learn through videos from your friendly Singapore instructors

The Band Directors’ Association of Singapore (BDAS) has uploaded interviews of various Singapore band instrumentalists on its YouTube channel, called “Online with the Pros”. The channel has videos that discuss the different types of skills for playing various instruments, including conducting. Use this resource to master your instrument or even learn a new one.

For the more visionary and the adventurous band members, you can try these below:

Make a historical memoir of your band

If you want to do something larger than life, why not make a memoir of your band? Go to your publicity officer or your teacher in charge and request for old footages of videos and pictures. Proceed to make a beautiful memoir of the glorious history of your school band. After all, Newton said “if I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Find the giant.

Programme your next concert

I am not referring to the software programmer. It is an art to make a living by programming repertoires. You can be a young programmer by listening to many band pieces, selecting the pieces according to a theme, and putting them up for the next concert. Your conductor will gladly assist you (I hope). For more information, you can start by searching on YouTube some of the composers mentioned in my other article.

Design your unique band accessory

Most, if not all adventurers have a piece of memorabilia that holds special meaning for them. Being in band is an adventure in itself and certainly not for the faint-hearted. Why not make an accessory for your fellow adventurers? It could be a logo on a jacket, shirt, string bag, folder, cap, etc. For those with a flair for design, create with others a band item that is distinctive to your band. Just don’t forget to give the end product to your conductors.

Compose a band song

For the musically gifted, you can compose a song for your band friends. Make sure your song gives them hope. If you wish to start small, consider writing a song for the Junior band. Pick a rhythm, take some notes from the B-flat scale, and you are ready to write a piece. Upon completion, seek out our friendly local composers, Benjamin Yeo and Lee Jinjun, on Instagram for their feedback.

Retreat for band leaders

Tis the season to be pensive. Band student leaders, organize Zoom sessions with your teachers and conductors to plan for the future by re-looking at the vision, core values, and activities of the past and current times. Redo a band handbook, a music guidebook, or an instrument log, so that it can better frame your ideas for the future.

This list is hardly exhaustive. Continue your own great ideas for this May holiday.

Nonetheless, let us start somewhere by connecting with people. Use the internet safely, watch out for party hackers and we will have lots of wonderful time spent together.

Seow Yibin

Written By Seow Yibin

Yibin Seow is a Singaporean-born oboist and conductor, and currently conducts the Junior National Junior College Symphonic Band. His previous appointments include the conductor of the Junior Royal Northern College of Music, Principal Guest Conductor of North Cheshire Wind Orchestra, UK and Conductor of Musikgesellschaft Harmonie Büsserach, Switzerland. He was awarded the Brierley/Kershaw Conducting Prize by Royal Northern College of Music. Yibin studied the Oboe at the YST Conservatory of Music, Singapore, before furthering his studies with Emanuel Abbühl. Following that, he studied Wind Band Conducting with Felix Hauswirth and Orchestral Conducting with Clark Rundell and Mark Heron.