Lee Guan Yi

Drum Major and Percussonist
Sembawang Secondary School Band

Hi all, I am Lee Guan Yi, Drum Major of Sembawang Secondary School Band from 2022 – 2023.

I had my eyes on playing with the band as I experienced the live performance of the band during the open house of Sembawang Secondary School in 2020. From there, the story of my band life in secondary school had begun to grow.

During Secondary 1, I began learning the basic music theories taught by my conductor, Mr Loo Zhen Yang. During the instrument tryouts I had the hopes of playing the saxophone, but due to the lack of experience of playing any instrument, I was appointed to the clarinet section.

Some time later, COVID had soon started and we had to move everything online. While continuing to learn what music is about through zoom and practicing my instrument, I still managed to find joy and laughter during online band sessions and between my bandmates.

After having some COVID restrictions to be lifted, I managed to come back to school in Secondary 2 and have band sessions again. However, I could only have practices with the Lower Secondary level due to the size restrictions. That did not stop me from continuing working on my playing skills.

One day, the band was told that SYF would resume and had to work on a piece of song, and that everyone in the band could finally play together. Mr Loo also selected some juniors to participate in the SYF 2021 to play with the seniors. As shocked as I was when I heard my name being mentioned, I went on to practice the song soon after.

However, after a few months of practice, it was clear to me that I did not learn anything over the course of my time in band as I was not familiar with the scale and could not even play the clarinet at all; I couldn’t even follow the band in terms of tempo or read score. It was a disappointing time for me. It was then where I almost made a choice that I believe I would regret now, I was prepared to quit the band. However, the news was passed onto my conductor who called me at night and told me not to worry or give up first as he believed in me and wanted me to try again, this time with something different.

I was then introduced to the percussion section next practice, where I was trained as a new percussionist by my percussion tutor, Mr Faidhi. Everything seems to be on track again ever since. And with a blink of an eye, I had learnt and played with the band in SYF 2021 as a percussionist and after we received the results of COA for the performance, I found joy knowing that I have switched to percussion. It was also then where it was revealed to me that I will be leading the band as the new Drum Major.

There, my journey continued when our Conductor, Mr Loo and Percussion Tutor, Mr Faidhi suggested that the percussion section should participate in the Singapore International Band Festival (SIBF) in the year 2022. And so with the support of the school and band teachers, I had experienced months of hard work with the percussion section and the other leaders who helped play a part in the competition. Although we had entered only for comments for the SIBF, when we finally received the comments by the adjudicators, it only encouraged us to achieve higher. It was then, the motivation of SemPer began to rise to the sky.

Immediately after the SIBF results came out, together with SemPer, we had our focus on getting the taste of distinction in the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) in 2023. We were introduced to the grade 4 piece for percussion ensemble, Shock Factor by Nathan Daughtrey. Having to play a hard piece for the first time, I had difficulty in playing the toms part where I was later switched to the cowbell and chimes part.

With months of stress, tiredness and pain from leading the band for other events such as open house, band exchange, the extra practices as well as juggling with the main band SYF pieces, and not to mention the additional work given for the preparations this year. AP Secondary Band SYF was finally here where I had the opportunity to play the crash cymbals to my heart’s content, and where we achieved COA. I was then able to redirect the focus after the school speech day performance, to the Percussion Ensemble SYF 2023.

On the week of the Percussion Ensemble SYF performance, SemPer had more or less played the best we can, and it is without a doubt that all of us had made significant improvement in terms of playing skills, as well as character wise. The day of the performance, I was sure everyone stepped out of our comfort zone, as nervous as we were, we managed to pull off a spectacular and eye-catching show. And the day after, we were all overjoyed to know that we had achieved a Certificate of Distinction, and that our hard work had paid off, for both the students and the teachers.

To come up from nothing, it has been a dream come true for Sembawang Secondary School’s Percussion Section SemPer, and myself, to achieve Certificate of Distinction, knowing we have the support from our Conductor, Mr Loo Zhen Yang, our Percussion Tutor, Mr Faidhi Yusmal, and our band mates from Sembwinds.