Finding joy in music making

Shania Lee Yi Xuan

Trombone Section Leader & Vice President
Temasek Junior College (IP) Symphonic Band

2020 brought about a swarm of difficulties none of us was ready to face.

The transition to online practices came with a lot of problems. No one knew how to conduct online sectionals. To make matters worse, this occurred so early on in the year that the year ones have insufficient experiences in band to be able to practice on their own, and it was difficult trying to teach them the proper fundamentals and give appropriate feedback online.

That was a rough period, as all section leaders started to step up and find ways to cope and make the best use of the time that they had to ensure the players do not become rusty over the long “break”.

While it cannot be said that online practices were 100% productive, we tried our best. Thankfully, we do not need to go through that anymore with real-life practices resuming.

Having to step up as the EXCO during this time of uncertainty was a challenge for all of the members. We had to adapt and work around all of the new restrictions that were constantly changing.

Many times, it was hard for even the exco to keep up on all the various updates and regulations in regards to how practices can be conducted. It was difficult for ourselves, and the band members, to find a reason and motivation to come for practices when there were no concerts to work towards and a lot of doubts about SYF the next year.

Needless to say, keeping morale up was one of the biggest issues we faced.

As SYF drew closer, the problems we had to face only grew. In terms of morale, the juniors did not feel the pressure and urgency of the upcoming SYF, while the seniors grew increasingly paranoid about performing badly and being unable to make up for their shortcomings during their year two SYF performance.

In March, we were barely performance-ready during the SYF recording. Players did not have faith in their ability. We did not trust in the band capabilities. Frankly, many players started to believe that they will always sound “horrible” and that it is impossible to improve in such a short amount of time.

But we did it.

It was incredible to watch and experience. It was like the mood of the band had changed. We all came into every practice with passion, purpose and drive. We were determined to do our best. Yes, it got tough.

We struggled to improve, to juggle our schoolwork while keeping up with the intensive practices. But we were there for each other. My support system grew stronger within these short few months as I sweat blood sweat and tears with my fellow band members as we continued to charge forward with all the energy that we had.

We started to grow together as the TJIP band family.

This did not come easy. It took a lot of optimism and perseverance, as well as trust in each other. In this process, we learnt to take a step back and celebrate the small achievements, to find and highlight the small improvements we are making every practice rather than dwelling on the negative thoughts.

For some of us, this was more difficult than others, considering we had many expectations and hopes for the band due to our past experiences. Seeing the band progress slowly was difficult to accept. This is when a strong support system is important to constantly remind each other about all the small successes.

Maybe a player is finally playing louder and you can hear their lines in the piece; or the band is finally playing together at a certain section of the piece; or even just managing to get through a run without having to stop because players got lost. This is probably my biggest takeaway from this whole SYF experience.

We may have a lot of goals and ideals for what we want our band to sound like, and inevitably we will be disappointed if the band fails to meet our expectations. However, we must understand that sometimes the circumstances are just not in our favour, and we should not ignore the small improvements we have been making despite the imperfections.

What’s most important is that we keep pushing forward and giving our all until the very end.

As I played my final note on the SYF stage, it hit me there and then. This was our band.

The last four years have been nothing short of tiring, but it was this exhilaration you felt playing on stage together with all the friends whom I’ve forged strong bonds with that kept me going. It is a shame that in my last performance as a part of TJIP band, I was not able to play together with all of the other wonderful players in our band.

I am so incredibly proud of what we managed to accomplish. To all my band members, I love all of you dearly. I am so proud of all the progress each of us has made individually and as a band.

I hope we continue to find joy in making music together no matter what life chooses to throw at us.

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