Cheok An Yee

Alto Saxophonist & Drum Major
Ang Mo Kio Symphonic Band

I am sure that for most of us, the year 2020 was a relatively tough year due to the pandemic that struck us.

What I struggled with the most was having to adapt to Co-curricular activities being shifted online (E-CCA) as they were not allowed to be carried out in person due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

As I was appointed the role of the Drum Major, I was often worried about how band would continue and how the future of the band would be like, but yet I was determined to not let Covid-19 affect the band’s passion for music.

Initially E-CCA was tough for us as it was something we were new to and unfamiliar with. It was especially tough for my juniors as we as seniors had to carry out the teaching online over zoom calls. It was difficult to spot the errors that they made and the learning process was much slower compared to before.

This eventually made many of the juniors lose interest in band as they found it boring and often unable to see the small improvements that they are making. The leaders of the band would then assure the juniors that they are making progress and encourage them to work harder as things would definitely get better as time passes.

However in general, the band lacked the motivation and endurance to sit down and play their instruments in-front of the screen as we had nothing to work towards to due to the uncertainty we faced and our annual concert being cancelled due to the pandemic. Luckily we were given the opportunity to showcase an online performance through a video recording of us playing the song titled ‘I want it that way’. This definitely encouraged us as this was the closest thing we could do to performing as a band.

When we were informed that SYF 2021 was resuming in late 2020, I was delighted but yet worried at the same time as we had to significantly reduce our band size and even sit two meters apart while playing our instruments. This meant that we would have a hard time listening out for one another and might defeat the purpose of playing in the band. However things were not as bad as I thought it would be after experiencing band in real life for the first time in a long time. Though we were sitting relatively further apart from each other, we were still be able to hear each other.

As compared to the previous SYF 2019, we would only have to perform one choice piece for SYF 2021. Though many people would think that things would be easier but we still faced our fair share of struggles in the preparation for SYF 2021.

We had to adhere by strict safety measures and were also not allowed to have sectionals which were in turn replaced by individual practices whereby we had to practice by our own without the help from our section mates. This was tough for us as we would often need to practice as a section so as to be able to spot each other’s mistakes and correct them by the next full band session.

Despite our difficulties, our conductors Mr Sebastian Koh and Mr Desmond Chow were very patient towards us by helping to correct our mistakes and giving us advices on how to improve along the way. I am thankful for the teachers, conductors and the band for always being there to provide emotional support for one and other. Without them, we would not have achieved what we have today

I would also like to say that I am privileged to be given the opportunity to perform as a saxophonist in SYF 2019 and SYF 2021, but also as a percussionist in the SYF 2021 percussion ensemble. This was definitely an enjoyable experience as it helped me to discover my interest in percussion.

I started my band journey in Ang Mo Kio Symphonic Band as an alto saxophonist. I made a scary decision to join the band with zero music background as I was impressed by the performance the band had put up in my Secondary one orientation camp.

Although band is a CCA with high commitment, I can proudly say that I do not regret this decision at all. I enjoyed the journey and it taught me many values such as resilience, teamwork and responsibility which would help me throughout my life.

Now that I’m graduating, I am able to look back on many of the memories I have made and leave with many lasting friendships.

Thank You Ang Mo Kio Symphonic Band!