Band Major Music and Euphonium Section Leader
St. Andrews School Military Band (SASMB)
Without a doubt, my 4 years spent in SASMB has completely changed who I am, and my path in life. All the memories I had made and shared with my Bandmates make me really thankful for being a part of SASMB. Although there were of course many challenges and many stresses to be had with SASMB, I can say that ultimately all the effort was worth it.
When the leadership of BMM (Band Major Music) was first handed over to me and the other Council roles (Band Major Admin and Drum Major) to my friends (Marcus and Reuben), we were all collectively concerned from the onset of how to get this band up to standards. When we first took over, the band was not in a good shape. The musical capabilities of our musicians were weak, and most worryingly of all, the band culture and the defining trait of SASMB, the strong fighting spirit of the bandsmen, was missing.
We were still recovering from COVID-19. A lot of the band culture had been lost in the bandsmen. Traditions of SASMB were also being forgotten.
We were not sure if we were capable of bringing SASMB back up to our standards. The first thing we had to tackle was to find a way to get the band to want to work actively and hard for the band. At the time, it felt as though there were only a handful of Bandsmen who really wanted the best for the band. It really was as though the majority of the band did not care about it. It was a very long struggle in keeping the band together and united, and in reigniting their flaming fervour.
Months after we first took over, the band was a completely different band. We actively tried to encourage the band throughout their journey, individually and as a whole. There were times I was disappointed in them no doubt, but I always made sure that I, if not me then someone else, would be there for the Bandsmen to motivate them.
We were very thankful to have such a supportive team of conductors – Mr Tarun Jayaram, Mr Joseph Chong, Mr Sebastian Koh, and Mr Benjamin Yeo – and teachers – Mrs Carmen Ong, Mr Caleb Cheong, Mr Muhd Zulhaqqim, Ms Sarah Chan, Mr Chua Hock Seng, Mr Terence Chee, behind us at all times. Always there to keep an eye on us and to give us a kick on the butt if we were lacking in our duties.
Besides our teachers and conductors, another really special group of people instrumental in keeping this band alive are the Alumni – the SAB (Saints’ Alumni Band). SASMB is special in its dedicated group of Alumni. They often come down to our practices to help out in teaching our bandsmen. Their presence reassures us of the love and support they are more than willing to give to us.
Closer to SYF, I could see the dedication they were putting into the Band. And most importantly to me, I could see them enjoying the music, putting their heart and voice into their music. I was immensely proud of them, of seeing how they changed so much after all the struggles and pains we had all been put through.
Although we had made great improvements as a band, the week before SYF week was terrifying to me. Inexplicably, it seemed like the spirit of the band was dying away, the unity that had been built upon felt weakened just for that one week alone. People were blaming each other for failing to do their part in the band, and their focus during full band time was not there. It was a very dark and grim time, and I was frustrated as to why all our efforts were seemingly being undone so close to SYF.
If there’s one thing my time in SASMB has taught me, it’s the absolute need to encourage and reassure those around us. At the time I was frustrated with the band and as a result I had neglected this need. After the last practice of the week, I knew we had to really motivate the band. I sent out messages to the band group chat and to some of the Sec 3 leaders in hopes my message would get to them even if I was not able to speak it to them face to face.
The next week, the week of SYF started out much better. The bandsmen were much more enthusiastic and enlivened and music was being made.
When we got our SYF result, we were undeniably disappointed in ourselves. We could have done better and we know it. But we also know that this isn’t the end of SASMB just because we didn’t get that Distinction. We also know that the result of SYF is ultimately meaningless, in the end it is all about the music we make and the joy to be had in the process.
For my Sec 3s, this is where their journey as a Bandsmen truly begins, as they take over from us to bring this band to even greater heights. No matter the challenges and stresses and I’m very sure they will be faced with, I have no doubt that they will succeed in the end and will do well for SASMB.
Although I have not yet stepped down, with one last step (POP) to take, I already feel an immense dread and sense of loss awaiting me when that day comes. My time in SASMB has transformed me. It has helped me discover my insatiable love of music and passion for the euphonium, taught me how to be a better person and musician, and gifted me with innumerable precious memories with my Bandsmen to take home and to look on years after stepping down.
I urge all current bandsmen to give your best to your band, and to look forward to doing your best for your band. I can very positively say that all the effort you put in will be worth it in the end. Please cherish your time in Band and your time with your fellow Bandsmen, conductors, teachers, and tutors!
I love my band, SASMB, and I thank everyone who played a role in it for my life-changing 4 years in SASMB!
Up and On!