Claris Teo Chen Lin

Drum Major and Horn Player
Anderson Military Band

It has been an arduous journey for this year’s graduating batch — the batch that has persevered through the pandemic and the lack of usual band experiences. Yet, we have emerged stronger at this year’s SYF and I would like to congratulate all participants for making it this far. It truly is heartwarming to see how each band was able to finally perform without restrictions, and were able to interact with each other freely.

Despite the pandemic’s disruption of regular band practices, I am still grateful for my journey I have had in band, especially as someone with no prior experience. From the days when I struggled to play a B flat tuning note on the trumpet in Secondary 1, to leading the band to this year’s SYF, it was definitely a journey and I’m delighted to share some of my personal experiences here.

Half of my time in band consisted of online sessions, where we discussed the fundamentals of playing our instruments as well as the values that our band strongly upholds. It was disappointing that we couldn’t really do much as a band and when we had the opportunity to come together for band practices, there was no doubt that the band’s technicality was not up to standard. Nevertheless, we all knew we had to do better in order to give our best for our SYF.

Just less than two months ago, we had the opportunity to have an exchange with Fudooka Wind Orchestra from Japan. Never would I have imagined that I could experience such an exchange, considering the disruption that we faced since 2020. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have listened, interacted, and learned from them.

You could imagine the looks on our faces the moment we heard them perform the set and choice pieces, Tanah di bawah angin and Songs of the Whalemen. The quality of sound they produced was refreshing to say the least. With the guidance of Mr Kaneko, Mr Kurokawa and Ms Hana, an alumna of Fudooka High School, we were able to delve into the finer details of tour SYF repertoire – from the dynamics, to pulsing, to having a sound image. Fudooka members would play a portion of the piece and we would try to replicate how they played along with feedback afterwards. The same process continued for the rest of the practice sessions.

This exchange was crucial and beneficial before SYF as we were able to get a good reference of how nice our instrument can sound, get corrections, and still enjoy the process of learning.

Our conductor, Mr Lester Lim, spent a lot of time teaching us about our use of air, an aspect that most of the us are lacking in the absence of proper band training over time. The training required us to sing our parts, and play the same note throughout both pieces to get a better sense of the music in our minds. This helped us to visualise how the melodies from different parts should come together. Closer to our arts presentation, Mr. Lim told us stories about Songs of the Whalemen, to paint a picture on how we should express the feelings throughout the piece. The band enjoyed the stories that Mr Lim shared with us and it made practice sessions more interesting.

When we performed for SYF, it was evident that the exchange with Fudooka and the amount of time we spent on understanding the nuances behind the pieces were pivotal in our improvements. We all left the stage with radiant smiles, all knowing that we did our best up on stage, and that’s what mattered most.

SYF more or less marked the end of my journey in AMB. I have made tons of memories in Band, and took away many valuable lessons as well. Like many of us, Band has taught me to always have fun in expressing ourselves. I mean really… looking back at our band on stage. All of us love to move when playing and we really felt the music whenever we’re performing. This is all thanks to Mr Lim for always emphasising the importance of being alive and relaxed. Our culture of having open discussions during band practices also encourages each and every one of us to share our thoughts with one another and develop confidence by articulating them clearly.

Band has also taught me the importance of efficiency. Especially in AMB, we aim to work fast and get the best results without wasting any time and effort. I have learnt that giving clear instructions, knowing exactly what to do and working together are all things that contribute to how fast the band can achieve what we want. Without being efficient, our progress will be affected and it will decrease our productivity in the limited time we have together. Our band has been running on such a momentum since day one, and I do believe we are one of the most orderly CCAs in the school.

My experience as a leader in AMB has influenced the way I go about my daily life. I can comfortably share my ideas even to unfamiliar people and although I shouldn’t, I do get frustrated by others for being inefficient sometimes but I’ve learned to mentor my peers as a leader and direct change in the mindset of others to be more efficient in the way they work

Three years have passed by in a blink of an eye and there will be many things that I will miss about AMB. One of which will be the different music that we get to perform for every event. I’m grateful to be able to experience many foreign and local wind band pieces, and it was always exciting to start playing a new song each time. I will miss the sense of satisfaction after every performance, and seeing how hyped up the audience were after listening to us perform. Seeing the determination and drive that my members and I had in putting up our best performance will also be something that I will miss dearly.

Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Lim and Mr Yea for structuring AMB as a family that has made me who I am today. I have picked up many skills, developed many values, and learnt many different life lessons in their teachings. I am greatly thankful to have them widen my perspective on what music and band is all about, and to have grown under their guidance as a person and as a leader.

I would also like to thank my teachers in-charge, Mr Goh, Mdm Aw and Mdm Meenal, who have supported my journey as a leader. They have always trusted me and created a safe space for me to share my concerns. Without them, I would not have been able to lead the band effectively and continue pushing on. Not to forget AMB’s alumni, who have always been there for us whenever we needed help, and have always come down to support us at every concert and competition.

AMB has become my second home. I will forever be grateful for the plethora of experiences it has given me.