Leaving band without regrets

Reuben Ziv Tay

Percussionist & President
Victoria Junior College Symphonic Band

Something I believe in, is to leave the stage with no regrets. To me, this doesn’t mean playing everything perfectly, but rather to have done my best such that no matter what happens on stage, I can say that I have given my all and have no second thoughts. Looking back on my band and SYF journey, I can confidently say that the band has done that.

I think I speak for more than just myself when I say that I had expected much more when I joined band in JC. Coming from a secondary school band, VJCSB was the band that we had looked up to, the one we knew to put on great performances while also having fun at the same time, and I wanted that too.

However, these hopes were all dashed when the pandemic struck. We went from expecting a concert at Esplanade, to having online music theory lessons through Zoom calls. My bandmates and I were disappointed, to say the least, and we wondered if we would ever get the chance to play together as a band, let alone put on a concert.

In December, we tried something new. We made a virtual band video with a skit, and this posed many different challenges from preparing a piece in real life. Firstly, since everyone could only play their instruments at home and not in school, it took a lot of effort on everyone’s part to learn the piece well on their own.

We also had to make a click track for the piece, which was an entirely different beast altogether. When it came to actually recording and piecing everyone’s individual parts together to form the virtual band, it took hours and hours of work, but it soon sounded like an actual band was playing. In addition to this, we also collaborated with another CCA in our school in order to film a beautiful skit for our final video, which was finally shown to the school.

In 2021, we resumed practices, and though it was just sectionals at first, you could feel the band’s excitement to be back in school and making music, even if it was just as a section. While we didn’t exactly have a particular performance to work towards yet, this provided us with the opportunity to once again train our musicality and skill in playing with others, and was a welcome change from just practising alone at home.

Soon after this, we started preparing for the SYF 2021 AP. Unlike previous years, we had to split into 3 groups: Flexi Band, Brass Ensemble and Woodwind Ensemble. It was a challenge splitting the band into the 3 groups to ensure that each group would be strong, and also making sure we had the correct instrumentation.

Additionally, each piece had its own challenges. The Brass ensemble was extremely technically challenging, while the Woodwind Ensemble piece had many busy interlocking rhythms, and these difficulties cast doubt in our minds on whether all 3 groups would be able to get the Certificate of Distinction.

However, the band members helped each other by familiarising themselves with the other pieces so that they could help those in other groups, as well as constantly offering encouragement and support to each other as we pushed through all the way to the end.

All this hard work soon paid off when all 3 of our groups put up an amazing performance on stage and clinched the Certificate of Distinction, and I couldn’t be prouder of all of them for all the effort they’ve put in, and the dedication they’ve shown despite the circumstances.

Looking back on my band journey in VJCSB, I would say that while it was filled with many difficulties in planning and playing as a band due to COVID, I have absolutely no regrets.

While we didn’t have the chance to perform as a full band in the end, or the chance to put on a concert at the Esplanade, we still found ways to make music in the face of adversity.

Whether it was sight-reading pieces as a group of 20, taking part in an online virtual band video, or even holding a solo recital for our members to showcase their individual talent, we still found ways to make music together, even if we couldn’t all be together physically. I think that to me, this is what I treasure most about VJCSB, that everyone is so passionate about making music and everything else they do.

Even with all the circumstances, everyone still persevered and found joy in the hardship. As the President, nothing motivates me to keep going like seeing my friends giving their all, and I have definitely seen that in these past few months.

On the 2 days of our SYF judging, all 3 groups entered the stage with a certain resolve and determination to give their utmost, and left with nothing but joy and anticipation on their faces. I think this is why I can confidently say that we have left this stage with no regrets.

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