Seize every opportunity

Mohammad Danial Lutfi B M S

Euphonist & President
Tampines Meridian Junior College Symphonic Band

Just like how our choice piece, ‘Journey to Zipang’, progressed, our SYF journey in TMJCSB was one that took us on a rollercoaster ride too.

Upon resuming physical band practices in December 2020, a sizeable portion of us had either been transferred to a new instrument, or had just joined band in Junior College. Some of us had even joined band without any prior musical experience or knowledge. It seemed like an insurmountable task – how then could we possibly be ready, let alone perform well, in just 4 months time?

Fast forward 4 months, and I’m proud to say that yes, we were ready and we performed well on the stage. Yes, it seemed like an uphill battle, but we did it, and it was all thanks to their hard work and unwavering commitment to band. On that note, I’d like to give a special mention to this group of people for not succumbing to the challenges that faced them, and instead, said, “I will not give up. I will put in the effort. I will do my best.”

Of course, the safe management measures implemented posed a challenge for us too, notably the guidelines regarding a reduced band size, called a ‘flexible’ band of just 20 unmasked players and 10 masked players including the conductor.

This presented us with a rather unique dilemma – we had enough players to form one flexi band, but not two flexi bands. As such, the decision was ultimately taken to send a flexi band and a percussion ensemble. This definitely came with a cost – a handful of wind players would have to forgo their chance of playing in the flexi band to join the percussion ensemble instead.

It is safe to say that this decision did not come with sadness or anger. Yet, for those who had just joined the percussion ensemble a mere 2 months before the actual day, just like those who were new to band, they too decided not to succumb to the challenges and pressed on. On the 6th of May, they stood proudly to give an amazing performance of Scott Harding’s ‘Taiko’. To me, that mattered so much more than the results.

All in all, it’s this spirit of never giving up and persevering that really lead us to our endpoint – the performances on the 4th and 6th of May. This applied to me as well. Being in a position where I had never been before, in all honesty – I had absolutely no idea how to lead a band towards success.

I was never in an EXCO position, let alone the head of an entire operation, how do I do this? When our teachers informed us of the new EXCO members on the 15th of November, I fully understood that it was unlikely for me to get the top job.

Yet, here I am, wondering, how do I go about doing this? Luckily, with the guidance of my fellow EXCO members as well as our teachers and conductor, I learned along the way and strived to improve every step of the way. Thus, I would like to personally thank them for helping me throughout. It was certainly tough, but together, we did it.

As my band journey wraps up in TMJCSB, one thing that I will miss the most is, well, just the opportunity to play. To me, this is the lesson that defined my time in TMJCSB.

In a time where national guidelines are tightening amidst the COVID-19 situation, it’s this period of time where we realise we took for granted the opportunities we had. Who would have fathomed that one day, the usual band routines we’ve become all so accustomed to would one day be taken away from us? Who knew that we wouldn’t get to play for our school’s open house, or during our CCA Fair? Who would have imagined the restrictions surrounding SYF 2021 just two years ago?

As such, I am extremely grateful that during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still able to put out a performance for people to listen to and enjoy. At the time I am writing this, I still listen to our SYF performance every night, with a smile on my face each time knowing that we made the best use of the opportunities given to us. At a time when band is once again moving online, I reminisce about the journey that all of us went through, feeling grateful.

As the saying goes, “Opportunities don’t often come along. So when they do, you have to grab them.” This quote has become ever so relevant in the face of COVID-19, and I urge everyone who is reading this to also do the same. Not just in band, but beyond that too.

Seize the opportunities that come your way, for you may never know when you’ll be able to do it again.

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