Jonathan Chu Jun Zhe

Secretary and Percussionist
Anderson Serangoon Symphonic Band

In a flash, the gruelling journey of around one and a half years in Anderson Serangoon Symphonic Band (ASRSB) has concluded for 33 graduating JC2 members of 2023. Within such a short span of time, this batch has put up a grand total of 10 performances — a truly incredible and applaudable achievement in my opinion. Despite our heavy academic workload, busy schedules and many unforeseen setbacks, we persevered and successfully accomplished much more than we could imagine. For that, I am tremendously proud of each and every member of ASRSB.

My time in ASRSB has been eye-opening. I had been a brass player for 9 years, mainly playing the cornet in primary school and the euphonium in secondary school. However, I decided to make a switch in hope of learning something new, and became a percussionist in ASRSB.

I quickly realised that being in percussion is far less easy than I thought it would be. One of the biggest challenges I faced was having to be a “soloist” almost all the time — as each of our parts is typically played by only one percussionist, unlike how wind instrument players generally share similar parts within their sections. This forced me to be more independent as I could not rely on my sectionmates to back me up while playing, yet I also had to be more aware of the rest of the band’s parts, so as to not upset the balance of things.

I often reminisce about my first few sectional practices in percussion. Back then, the band was amidst preparations for the second Vivezza, ASRSB’s biennial concert. I vividly remember struggling to do a thumb-roll on the tambourine, and feeling awkward holding a pair of drumsticks. Our section tutor, Mr Jeremy Ng, patiently forked out time to inculcate some basic percussion skills in newbies like me. Mr Jeremy frequently shares his personal tips and tricks to improve our playing, and often lightens the mood with his wacky sense of humour.

Adjusting to being in percussion has helped me develop the mindset that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. In order to quickly play up to standard despite being unfamiliar, I had to look past the difficulties I faced and find the most efficient way to learn. With good guidance and unwavering support from my sectionmates and our two percussion tutors, Mr Jeremy and Mr Marcus Teo, I quickly got used to being a percussionist. This made me realise that with the right attitude and support, nothing in life is too difficult to achieve.

Vivezza II in 2022 was the first occasion on which my batch got to perform in ASRSB, but also the last time we could play with our seniors back then. After bittersweet moments of bidding our seniors goodbye, we were left with a steep learning curve — having to improve ourselves to play numerous tough pieces without direct help from our seniors. Full band practices under our conductors, Mr Adrian Chiang and Mr Daniel Yiau, were certainly no walk in the park. They often fine-tuned our playing, picking out the slightest mistakes we had with rhythm and intonation to ensure we got the details right. We were pushed to up our game and prepare pieces more challenging than anything we have played prior to joining ASRSB. Practice hours were long and intense, making us feel enervated by the time we ended each practice after the sky turned dark.

Nevertheless, we got to savour the fruits of our efforts. In August 2022 alone, we performed twice — first at our school’s National Day celebrations, followed by a Xinyao-themed repertoire at the inaugural ‘Musical Escapades’ event at Jewel Cloud9 Piazza. By the end of the year, we learnt 8 more songs for a combined concert with Victoria Junior College Symphonic Band and Eunoia Symphonic Band, titled ‘Sonix Sounds’. We were uplifted with an invigorating sense of accomplishment as the performances were successful and well-received.

Fast forward to 2023, we performed at several more school events. As we recruited the next batch of JC1 members, we were hard at work again, practising for the year’s Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) Arts Presentation. We prepared Kinderszenen by Bertram Wee, as well as “Mambo”, “Cha-Cha”, “Rumble” and “Finale” of Symphonic Dances From West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein. The latter, our choice piece, was particularly challenging.

We would not have been able to overcome such adversity without the constant encouragement and guidance from our conductors, tutors and peers. After persevering through what seemed like the unthinkable, I am confident that we gave the SYF Presentation our best shot. Our performance on stage was a testament to our dedicated efforts and sheer potential. Although we received the Certificate of Accomplishment, I think the resilience and passion that ASRSB members have displayed is invaluable and no certificate would do it justice. The experience of playing in a band and the camaraderie among bandsmen cannot be traded for anything else in the world.

To bring this extraordinary journey to an end for my batch, several alumni members joined the band to put up a lighthearted performance at our college’s Homecoming 2023 event. As crazy as it may seem, it took place the very day after our SYF! Looking back, I am still awestruck by how much we have grown and achieved as a band.

Words are unable to adequately express how thankful I am for the chance to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I have thoroughly enjoyed being in percussion, and would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr Jeremy and Mr Marcus for helping to kick start this chapter of my band life. I would also like to thank Mr Chiang and Mr Yiau, as well as our teachers-in-charge, Ms Wang, Ms Neo, Mrs Wong, Mr Anuar and Ms Kat, for their heartwarming efforts to support us and shape the band. Lastly, I would like to congratulate all members of ASRSB for tirelessly contributing to the band’s growth and success in some way or another.

I will definitely miss fiddling with various percussion instruments every week, and my frequent interactions with friends I made throughout this journey. To all current and future members of ASRSB, I hope you deeply cherish your time in the band, and never give up no matter how tough the going gets. You will always be showered with endless love and support from the conductors, tutors and alumni!

Band has been an indispensable part of my life. Being in band as my co-curricular activity for the past 11 years has brightened my life with innumerable priceless experiences. I have surely learnt a lot more than just music — band has been a platform for me to broaden my horizon and mature as a person. These experiences really make one’s school life way more meaningful and memorable. To me, bandsmen are a community of people who come together to celebrate their genuine love for music, whilst exchanging invaluable knowledge and ethics. I am eternally grateful for being a part of this community, and I look forward to more band opportunities in the near future.