Enjoy the process of playing for others

Cheryl Hui

Tenor Saxophonist & Drum Major
CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent Band

I still remember my first experience with band was during my primary school’s visit to St Theresa’s Convent (STC) where the school band performed for us. Looking back, the performance was not exceptional or special in any way but it was very engaging because they performed as one, and hearing all the different instruments blend together was interesting. Despite not knowing a single thing about band or what a good one should sound like, I still enjoyed the performance!

A year later I joined that band and it has become a huge part of who I am now. Prior to joining STC band, I only played the piano and music was a solitary activity for me. Now I’ve learnt the joy of creating music with others and the value of teamwork. Joining band has not only broadened my musical abilities but has also enabled me to create meaningful friendships. The people I’ve met in band are now unexpectedly people that I will miss a lot.

Our time together in band had really brought us closer together – from withstanding the long debriefs from our teacher-in-charge to carrying that 65kg marimba up and down the stairs, I am really grateful to have met this group of people and have zero regrets about joining band. My band experience couldn’t have been better with them around.

I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to lead and serve the band twice, as assistant student conductor and drum major. Being handed the role of drum major was daunting and scary even though I had experience as an assistant student conductor, I was not sure on how I should be with the band – whether I should be strict or friendly – and found it hard to balance those two.

I am really thankful to have had my exco and section leaders there to support me and help the band as things would have been much harder without them. Things weren’t smooth sailing at first because I could not really get my exco together but eventually we figured out how best to work together and get things done.

However soon after, circuit breaker was implemented. We could not practice together in the music room and could only see each other through the computer screen. This period of time was tough for everyone especially for our conductor. It really was tough conducting CCA sessions over zoom calls and he went out of his way to make our sessions creative and interesting.

From performing using only kitchen appliances to body percussion, it was fun doing it alongside my bandmates. There was once where I had to conduct a bonding session over zoom and it was really difficult for me, I was not sure if I could make things engaging for everyone and could not think of much ideas that would involve everyone when we could only see each other through those small rectangular boxes. In the end it turned out well and everyone had some fun. It was tough for the group of us to plan this one zoom call and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for conductors to do this for those few months. It is through all these experiences that I grew more confident and more adaptable.

In a flash, I had my last official performance in STC Band and now it was time for myself and the rest of the graduating seniors to step down. Those 7 minutes on stage passed too fast for me to process that the performance was really over, signaling the end of my band journey at STC.

Although we did not attain a distinction, I felt that this was one of our best performances. We have come a long way from when we first started this piece and held steadfast through all the hurdles that came our way. Considering all the limitations of Covid-19 and how the Sec 4s had to balance their studies together with our practice sessions, I’ll say that we have done our absolute best and I am proud of our performance.

One important thing about band that I came to realise late is that the music we create is for people and not just for certificates or awards. I feel that it is often overlooked that the basic purpose of music is for the enjoyment of both the performer and the audience.

We often get too carried away by the mechanical routine of CCA and worry too much about our mistakes during performances. We should instead enjoy the process of playing for the people who are there to listen and appreciate the music, people who can be inspired and share a love for the band with so that they could feel the same way as I did 4 years ago.

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