An eye-opening band journey

Loh Yin Heng

Flautist & President
Anderson Serangoon Junior College Symphonic Band

When I first set foot in Singapore in January 2020, I was really looking forward to making music here, not knowing it was going to be an extraordinary year ahead. I have long heard about Mr Adrian Chiang since I was a young flautist in Malaysia, and having the opportunity to work with him was truly an honour. Not only that, I am very proud of Anderson Serangoon Symphonic Band (ASRSB) for their splendid performance (Distinction for both teams) for SYF2021 – my first and my last SYF. 

My band journey in Singapore started with an audition, followed by an EXCOs interview, and eventually the Circuit Breaker. That’s when the challenges really came in for our band. Having no prior experience playing with the seniors, we were all starting afresh, it really felt like a whole new band for us, and it was only us – the Year 1s of 2020.

However, that was just the beginning, and the challenges only kept intensifying. Face-to-face sessions were replaced with online theory classes, blasting of instruments was replaced with ‘naruto-like’ solfege hand signs, Ling Ling 40 hours of practice had turned into 40 hours of theory papers per week and the list goes on; it was definitely a very different band experience that some may not even consider as band.

As the president of ASRSB, I couldn’t feel any more helpless, watching my members’ passion waning, music standards going downhill, bonds loosening, and yet there was not much I could do – no one knew what to do. The EXCOs tried everything to heighten the morale: skribbl.io, Cards against Humanity online, Zoom movie nights… you name it, we tried it. I was very fortunate to have my fellow EXCOs racking their brains along with me, but nothing really seemed to work.

It was towards the end of Phase 2 that the light at the end of the tunnel began to show, and we finally got to hold our instruments again! However, soon enough, we realised it was not entirely the same. We were not allowed to have any full band sessions, and it really didn’t feel much like a band, but regardless, it was better than nothing.

In order to spark some enthusiasm, we held a Solo Recital – albeit with very, very strict safe management measures (SMMs) – towards the end of 2020. It definitely helped, as it had been quite a while since we held our instruments and had something to practice for, but it still felt wrong somewhere – there was still something missing. 

Not long after, hope came. It was announced that SYF would continue in 2021, and we were all elated. Finally, melodies became symphony, we were all holding up our instruments side by side at last, in that familiar setting, once again playing in sync, and that feeling was beyond what words can describe. 

It’s the same drill for SYF all over again – practice, practice and practice. We were lucky to have world renowned conductors, namely Mr Adrian Chiang, Mr Daniel Yiau and many other professional tutors. It was without a doubt that the band would pick up their skills very quickly, atop our carefully picked instruments and talented musicians – it was just a matter of time. 

It was grind day, everyday, leading up to SYF. We were able to keep our rehearsals short and sweet — with every session being a fully-focused one. We made every practice count and went for the quality instead. 

Before we knew it, it was D-Day. It was no surprise that most of us weren’t even nervous, because we came prepared, with dedication and perseverance, and we knew we were ready. That definitely gave us an advantage as all of us were able to unleash our potential on stage, let it all out, show the details, and prove that ASRSB is unlike any other. It was definitely a proud moment when we finished the piece and we all stood up in pride, and I believe that was what kept us going. Eventually, we secured the Distinction for both Band A and Band B, which was indeed impressive. 

This has definitely been an eye-opening journey, having to react and adapt to changes, and lead such a powerful band. At the same time, I was able to witness how music is a magical common language that brought all of us together, in spite of the tough times. 

I would like to thank my conductors – Mr Adrian Chiang, Mr Daniel Yiau, my tutor – Ms Leong Tjar Ngee, my teachers IC – Mrs Agnes Wong, Ms Mabel Wang, Ms Sabrina Neo and Ms Kat Kar Hwee, my seniors – Ding Yao and Keith, my top 4s – Sherlyn, Sherwin and Khairul, all my EXCOs, and members that made all of this possible, and last but not least, my first music teacher back in Malaysia – Maestro Woon Wen Kin.

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