Band, closer than ever

Dionisio Harry Colyns Malicdem

Trumpeter & Band Major
Naval Base Secondary School Symphonic Band

Our journey down the road to the Singapore Youth Festival 2021 has been fruitful and amazing.

So many things have happened in this process. In the past year alone, we experienced a global pandemic which has forced us to adapt to meeting in new ways online through software like Zoom. It was tough but we persevered.

I would like to congratulate every single member of the Naval Base Symphonic Band for being always there for each other. During the practices we had online, our Concert Mistresses (CMs) had to work very hard to ensure that every member was in tiptop shape in both their theory and music skills.

One thing that I was very grateful for is that our CMs assigned each member a task to do based on what they had to work on. I believe that this strategy really helped our members to improve their playing!

Moreover, our Band Leaders – both Band and Drum Major – alternated between the junior and senior bands to keep up with what both bands were being taught. This really helped us think of what each band can learn from each lesson with our Instructors, Mr Eric Chong and Mr Lester Lim.

Even when the band was not physically present, meetings online felt no different. Every member still had the calibre to work hard and that helped to push us to work towards our goals.

Many lessons were learned when we were adhering to government-implemented measures to keep us safe. For example, we learned to always be attentive and curious. In every practice, whether online or physical, every member always had to pay attention to what was being taught to them.

During this time, we could not talk without our masks, and it was very hard for us to communicate with each other, but we have been taught the skill of ‘Signaling’ where we use physical gestures when playing to communicate with each player of the band, which helped us in overcoming this obstacle.

As we practiced our SYF songs, ‘Thunderbolt’ for Band A & ‘Legend of The Eagles’ for Band B, our CMs made the whole band send recordings for their parts to check if their melody and rhythm were correct. Using this method to follow-up on each member, it has taught us that learning never stops and that there will always be room for improvement.

Every rehearsal in our Multi-Purpose Hall in-school was challenging yet fulfilling. We constantly had to adjust our sound to best fit the acoustics of the Singapore Conference Hall, as well as go through how we were going to enter the stage for each band.

While all of these were very important, what we were truly focusing on was each players’ technique. To do this, I arranged for sectionals to test each section. To make it feel like the actual SYF Arts Presentation (AP), our CMs and leaders also posed as ‘adjudicators’ and assess each section using the AP assessment rubrics.

Through this vigorous training, we were able to help improve each section despite the time limit that was always set for every sectional day.

On the day of Band B’s SYF AP, our Sec 3 leaders stepped up to lead the band. All administrative and logistic-related tasks were completed successfully by our to-be Drum Major. As I watched the livestream online, I felt really happy and proud for them. I could see that they truly enjoyed being onstage and that they gave their best through their playing.

With all the challenges and obstacles we have faced together, we have learned that it is important to stick together to always be ready for whatever challenges we may face unknowingly.

Every single person in this band has learned how to be committed, confident, respectful, caring and responsible. I have always thought in my mind that every member has to take ownership of their playing and their skills because it is so fundamental that a musician is teachable. I can proudly say that I see that in my band.

Finally, I would like to thank every instructor, member and teacher-in-charge for always being supportive about everything the band does. Without you, Naval Base Symphonic band would not be where we are today. And without your help, we would never be the people we are today.

From this year’s SYF, what was most important were the experiences on our journey. It is never about the results we get that determines the strength of our band. Our band should never be divided but should be heard playing one gratifying sound, a sound that will leave a gracious mark on every person’s heart for all the years they live on earth.

From band, we can find pure and everlasting joy – feelings that are as rare as a diamond in a mine. Our band is built on the friendships we have.

This band will always have a special place in my heart.

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