Choo Su Ann, Lim En Qi Hannah

B♭ Clarinetist, Alto Saxophonist
Singapore Chinese Girls’ School Band

Subsequent to the overwhelming amount of effort put in and the tiring practices we endured, the long awaited Singapore Youth Festival has finally come to an end. Despite encountering the augean task of the pandemic, we managed to push through and overcome a multitude of obstacles, allowing us to have the opportunity to participate during SYF this year and obtain the accomplishment award.

Attending SYF was a unanimous decision made by our conductor, Mr Marvin Khoo, and our batch, the Secondary 2 batch of The SCGS Band 2021. We took part in it with great pride and it was undoubtedly the best experience we’ve had in the band so far. Despite the fact that our musical abilities were not the best, everyone of us had a fighting spirit and were determined to work hard to succeed. With grit and determination, and the mindset to try and give our best, we persevered through it all.

Despite knowing the fact that sending our batch to perform meant that we might break the ‘distinction streak’ SCGS held in our conductor’s time of leading the band, our conductor looked past that and saw what was truly important – allowing everyone to have a chance to perform. Thus, we were able to embark on the journey of preparing for SYF.

Due to the unforeseen circumstances of the pandemic, physical band practices were cancelled in the middle of March 2020 and had to be switched to virtual meeting sessions. This made learning the fundamentals of playing our instruments even tougher as we had barely even started playing them. We had to pay extra attention to grasp minute but important details, leading to additional pressure being placed on us.

Furthermore, learning online was really complicated as during our weekly eCCA, it was mandatory to be muted due to the inevitable lags. It was onerous since it was tedious for our conductor to teach and help us individually without being able to hear us. Since he was unable to correct our mistakes on the spot, it was possible that we practiced the exercises with the wrong techniques or embouchure without knowing.

Moreover, since the band had to be split up into different groups for better monitored practices, we had specified timings that we had to follow for our sessions. This thus meant that the time we spent with our conductor was minimal as there was insufficient time since there were other groups he needed to teach as well.

On top of our weekly online band practices, we also submitted recordings of ourselves playing exercises assigned by our conductor to our seniors and batch mates to track our progress and allow one another to give constructive feedback on each other’s playing so we could find areas of improvement. While these exercises may have been short and simple, we were inexperienced and thus had our fair share of difficulties running through the exercises.

Personally, as a beginner clarinet player, I found it a struggle to hit the higher octave and at the same time maintain the right tune. I remember being extremely irritated with myself as I kept on squeaking whenever I tried to reach the high notes. However, I persevered, and with the help of my encouraging seniors, when eCCA ended, not only was I finally able to reach the higher octave, but I was also able to hold the notes steadily. By SYF this year, I was able to play the higher octave in tune! There were definitely many moments of frustration as we would spend hours tiresomely recording, but with tenacity, we slowly gained progress and became better players over time.

Another hurdle we had to overcome was abiding by the safe management measures when face to face practices were able to be resumed, in late October 2020. With the rules in place, we were only allowed to practice in our various sections, preventing us from fully experiencing what playing in an actual band was like. Thus, when we started practicing as a band in February 2021, it took longer for us to coordinate the tempo we played at. We then developed the skill of listening to our peers playing and following them as it was instinctive to play according to the tempos we practiced at.

Additionally, since we had to comply with the regulations, we also had to adjust to many changes such as the volume of our playing. As we had to be distanced two metres apart from one another, and it became harder to hear each other. Hence, we had to play louder. This was a tedious process as we had to get used to unfamiliarities, nevertheless, we tried our best and eventually managed to adapt to these challenges.

Preparing for our first performance together as a batch was no easy feat, we faced dozens of obstacles along the way which we grew to overcome. Even though we faced several challenges along our journey towards SYF, such as this pandemic – which has had a serious impact on our course of learning, the problems we had to cope with also allowed us to grow in maturity as we combatted them.

Not only did we have to take initiative to practice hard on our own, but we also had to courageously approach our seniors to acquire necessary skills from them to enhance our playing abilities which allowed us to grow better musically. Under the heedful guidance of our conductor as well as our seniors, we managed to push through and resiliently overcame many hurdles obstructing our way.

Through this fruitful past one and a half year experience we had in band, we have definitely gained many skills which could not have been taught to us in school curriculum! Attending the weekly band practices in preparation of SYF, spending time with our CCA mates, we certainly formed many strong bonds – between our batchmates and section mates, and we are deeply grateful for this!

On behalf of the SCBand, we would like to thank all of our seniors, teachers, parents and especially our conductor, Mr Khoo, to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude to, thank your all for your unwavering support and guidance!