Dr Leonard Tan, a well-established conductor both locally and overseas, will be conducting Singapore Symphony Orchestra for the upcoming SSO Demonstration Concert for School Bands on 7 March, for the third time! Having conducted multiple bands of varying aptitudes, ranging from youth bands to professional bands, his wealth of experience provides a great learning opportunity for young musicians attending the SSO showcase. 

The Band Post interviews Dr Tan on the concert, and his experiences, both as a musician and a conductor. 

With the many years of experience under your belt, what is your current philosophy as a musician and conductor, and how has it changed overtime? 

I recall Band Fusion asking me something similar more than ten years ago, and I remember my answer being something that goes along the lines of “Music gives me the reason to wake up each and every single day!” I still love music, I still love conducting, and I still love sharing that love with orchestras I conduct and the audience!

Do you have a band music playlist? What pieces would you recommend our younger audiences to listen to? 

My “playlist” is whatever I am preparing for an upcoming concert!

That said, the older I grow (I wished I were still in my 20s!), the less a “playlist” matters to me. I think it’s more important to be able to “hear music” in one’s head and be able to imagine creative possibilities just by looking through the score and thinking about the music. This of course, takes time to develop. As we grow towards that process, I highly recommend younger audiences to listen to as wide variety of music as possible, and to keep an open mind. The musical world is so rich and there’s so much to experience and explore!

Any tips on improving music and sound, especially for our young musicians, of whom may not have much experience in playing wind instruments?

Listen, listen, and listen!

Once you have a great concept of sound in your head, you produce it naturally… it’s so important to have great role models!

Having worked with youth and professional bands, the experience must be quite different. What is it like and how is it different conducting such vastly different bands, with SSO in particular? 

I am humbled by the opportunity to work with such a diverse range of ensembles! Whether they are youths or professionals, several fundamentals remain the same for me: be prepared, know the scores well, rehearse efficiently, and project the image of the music through gestures.

This is the third time I am working with the SSO for the SYF Demonstration Concert; the first two were wonderful experiences, and I am definitely looking forward tremendously to this upcoming one!

What can audiences expect from the SSO showcase? Anything special to look out for?

In each SSO showcase, there is something new… we shall keep that element of surprise for the audience 🙂

Can you describe the pieces that SSO would be performing for our audiences? 

Like previous years, other than the SYF pieces, we take this opportunity to introduce high quality orchestral wind music to the audience. For example, in 2019, we took the audience through a 400-year history of wind music! This year, we still introduce great wind music to the audience (Mozart and Ives!); at the same time, there are some instantly recognizable “hits” that will surely strike the chord with all… there’s something for everyone!

What will our young musicians learn from this experience and what do you hope they will take away from this?

I fondly remember listening to the SSO as a young boy. When I was in Secondary school, former SSO tuba player, the late Mr Gao Yue, was my role model, and I aspired to play the tuba like him. Through this SSO SYF Demonstration Concert, students will hear some of the finest musicians in the world play the music they play. It is my hope that they will be inspired not just for the SYF, but also towards a lifelong love and passion for music, just as I was inspired by Mr Gao 30 years ago!

How often does one get to hear the winds and percussion of a major professional symphony orchestra perform music that school bands play? I think this is an incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity for our band students in Singapore!

Written By Mandy