Gabrielle Goh En Xi
Secretary and Flute Section Leader
Victoria Junior College Symphonic Band
After all this time, it’s baffling for me to even begin to fathom how 6 years in this CCA have come to their inevitable end.
3 SYFs, 2 bands and uncountable pieces later, I couldn’t do less than remember every last moment. Call it an obsession, cliché or eccentric, sure, but I’d never be able to put into words all that I feel towards band.
Interestingly, before I wound up playing the piccolo & flute in VJCSB, I started out playing the double bass in my secondary school band, TKGSSB!
From the whiff of the pages of Essential Elements, to learning how to read scores for the first time and struggling to play an instrument taller than my entire being, it’s crazy to think that all those sensations now feel like a lifetime away. However, even years later, I’ll never forget the ache of my Secondary 1 arms harbouring their atrocious inability to carry their own instrument.
In a blink of an eye, I’d finished 4 years of band, but found myself yearning for more.
Post-band graduation, I picked up the courage to apply for Direct School Admission (DSA) into the Victoria Junior College Symphonic Band with the flute, an instrument I’d taught myself at the end of Secondary 1 due to the unexpected gift of an old, beginner flute which had belonged to one of my late family members in their youth. Even up till now, I’ll never forget the disbelief on my face when I received my acceptance offer in the middle of English class, which thus began the journey of a lifetime.
When I first stepped into the VJCSB, I wasn’t off to the best start. I’d never played flute in an ensemble before, never experienced sitting in the front row before, heck, I couldn’t even read in treble clef. Furthermore, I had to learn the piccolo, which at the time I couldn’t appreciate due to it’s infamously noisy reputation and my own struggle to play it. On top of all of these, our beloved conductor, Mr Adrian Chiang, had just sent us the scores to Paul Hart’s Cartoon! Overwhelmed by the meeting of dozens of new people, having to learn a new instrument and playing such difficult repertoire on it, it wasn’t surprising that I was a little more than worried that I’d never keep up with the pace of JC band.
However, after countless hours of practice, VJCSB put up an unforgettable show at my batch’s first concert: Revenite. As tear-jerking as watching (especially my flute) seniors leaving band after Revenite was, it was clear that it was my batch’s turn to run VJCSB. After the heart-wrenching departure of out seniors, our batch went forth and stepped up with much enthusiasm and gusto.
In our batch, we put up performances for our school during College Day, National Day, Homecoming and Open house. On top of all of that, we even had a combined concert (Sonix Sounds!) with the other 2 of Mr Chiang’s JC bands, ASRSB and EJCSB! Even after all those performances, nothing could’ve prepared us for what was about to hit us during SYF and Limelight.
On April Fool’s Day, the band EXCO played a prank on the band which consisted of us announcing that there’d be band practice every day! Little did we know, what started as an innocent prank was about to just about become a reality.
As band practices turned from Tuesdays and Saturdays to roping in Wednesdays and Thursdays in the weeks leading up to SYF, it was unclear whether our band possessed the stamina to ever-so-relentlessly spam Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and Bertram Wee’s Kinderszenen over and over again. Regardless, we pushed on, grinding our SYF pieces into our brains and hearts.
On SYF day, I remember nothing less than the flute section taking the huge percussion bus with only 6 people on it, my sectionmate playing Kinderszenen’s recorder solo through his nose and being absolutely enchanted by the way we played West Side Story. Alas, VJCSB obtained the Certificate of Distinction. After braving through that plethora of trials and tribulations, we’d finally reached salvation— but this wasn’t the end yet.
Limelight was VJCSB’s big performance at the renowned Esplanade, our first one after a 3-year pandemic-motivated hiatus and my batch’s much anticipated yet dreaded swan song. Needless to say, we put in our best to learn our insane yet epic lineup of a repertoire, coming for band 4 times a week and leaning on one another for support when things got tough. Be it having to learn a full page of semiquavers for my favourite piece, How to Train Your Dragon’s piccolo part or having to manage an honestly impressive extent of administrative matters pertaining to alumni & internal members, all these challenges culminated taught me nothing less than to push on in face of adversity.
On the note of adversity, after 1 and a half years of playing the piccolo, despite my initial pseudo-vendetta against it, I finally fell in love with it in the second half of J1 and even more so in J2. What many had perceived as a mere auxiliary instrument destined to play nothing but embellishments turned out to be a beautiful muse with a unique sound and timbre. When the time came for me to return it, I did so with much anguish in my heart, only wishing to be able to cross paths with it again in future.
In the end, what could be more fitting to end off my 6 year school band journey in the Esplanade, playing with the Victorians I loved the most? Through the scramble to give out rose gold ties and ribbons, tying braids in our hair and gluing heels back together, Limelight turned out to be a night indelible in my heart. As the whole hall lit up with phone lights during the Japanese Graffiti XIV piccolo solo, lumps formed in my throat as I fought every last urge in me to keep my tears behind their dams.
But alas, all good things must come to an end, and my batch’s time for step down had finally caught up to us.
Looking back on our band beach days, Saturdays, barbecues, chalets, camps, dinners, busrides, bubble tea runs and Cheers lunches, I knew I’d never be able to forget the people I’d learnt to call family.
Thank you to our conductors, Mr Adrian Chiang and Mr Daniel Yiau, our flute tutor, Mr Jasper Goh, my VJCSB bandmates, my EXCO and most importantly, to my flute sectionmates over the past 2 years, Jillian, Yusof, Bernice, Zhicheng, Ern Kye and Owen for making VJCSB the journey of a lifetime.
After all this time, it feels me with extreme pride to now be a VJCSB alumna. It may not be the end of my band journey, but it fills me with joy to pridefully proclaim: I love band.
In the end, there’s only one thing left to say.
“NO REST, NO GAP.”
The band journey is undoubtedly tough. But tough times make tough people, and I’m tremendously grateful that I took the rocky path.