An active educator for young wind instrumentalists, Wong Yin Xuan has been teaching bands in Primary and Secondary schools for 15 years.
His music interest was sparked by his parents who would always sing karaoke at home, which led him to pick up the passion for singing, and eventually the Tuba in Ngee Ann Secondary School Band at the age of 14.
“I would often complain to my parents that the songs they sing are too old and so they brought me to buy the VCR tape of my favourite singer and that got me into singing at home together with my brothers. When I was in primary school, I watched my school band performed during a school event and one of the pieces that I remember was Shanghai Bund (上海滩). That was the first time I heard a band perform and I fell in love with band because there are so many different instruments with different kind of sound. However, I did not join the band after that because I was in another CCA.”
“In Secondary School during the Secondary one orientation, I fell in love with another performing arts group which is the Chinese Orchestra. It blew me away because they were so good! They were the best performing art group in my school and they had more than 300 members at that time. After discussion with my good friends, we decided to join the band. I was chosen to play the tuba because of my height and size but I was happy to learn any instrument allocated. I totally enjoyed my life in my Secondary School band and have no regrets because there were so much joy playing together with my friends.”
Yin Xuan’s passion for music did not stop after his secondary band life and that got him to enrol into the Diploma in Music program at the Nanyang Academy Of Fine Arts (NAFA). He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor in Tuba Performance under the NAFA Joint Degree Program with the University of Wales in 2009. During his time in NAFA, he was under the tutelage of Jacomo Bairos and Hidehiro Fuijita.
“My first conducting teacher was Volker Hartung who is the current principal conductor of the Cologne New Philharmonic. He was the conducting teacher at NAFA and he was so strict that my classmates and I were so afraid of him. It was a pity that I did not learn enough from him as the conducting module was only for one year.”
“After graduating from NAFA, I continue to learn from the conductors of the bands that I play in, such as Mdm Tan Soh Hwa for Mus’art Wind Orchestra and later, Dr Leonard Tan, for the Philharmonic Wind Orchestra. Both of them inspired me greatly with their philosophy of music and I cannot thank them enough. Whenever I have problems or questions with conducting, I would also look for ME5 Ignitaus Wang who is the current Music Director of the SAF Central Band, who always helps me genuinely and patiently.”
“Finally, my lifetime idol in conducting has always been Gustavo Dudamel. I love his energy and admire his charisma!”
Presently, Yin Xuan is the Band Director of Fairfield Methodist School (Secondary), Fairfield Methodist School (Primary), St Stephen’s School, and Assistant Band Director at Queenstown Secondary School. Despite having taught in many schools in his career, Yin Xuan still feels he is at the beginning of his conducting journey and there are so much more things for him to explore and improve on.
“I always feel that the preparation for band practices take as much time (or even longer) than the actual practice session. As practice time is very limited, I will waste a lot of time thinking about what to do during the sessions if there is no proper planning.”
“Firstly, I will analyse the scores and learn to sing every instruments’ part so that when needed, I will be able to sing for the band. I will also listen to as many recordings available as possible and decide on my own version. At the end of every practice, I will record the runthough so that I can listen and write down which bars to work on. The list is usually very long so I have to prioritise and fix the most important parts. If there are technical problems that I am unable to address, I will ask my friends who specialise in the instruments and I’m grateful that they are always very willing to share with me the knowledge.”
“During practices, I will usually do warm ups with long tones, scales, technical exercises and have my students play on their mouthpieces. During the rehearsing of the pieces, I will often get the students to sing their parts. I will also sing different versions and have them decide which version they like the most. After we play a section of the pieces, I will have them comment on their own playing and ask them to suggest improvements. My rehearsals with the bands are usually filled with laughter and good communication.”
With his instrumental background as a tubist, it has allowed him to better understand the difficulties that students may face. By working with the young students in school, they have taught him many things from their perspectives.
“I would often encourage them because I know everyone wants to play well; and if given enough guidance, they will achieve it eventually. As a player, I know that sometimes I need cues, encouragement or confidence from the conductor. As a conductor, I will often think of how I can help the players to play more confidently.”
“It is the best career that I can wish for. I love working with them because they have no hidden agenda – they are pure and innocent and they make me feel young.”
“My expectations from them are simple. I just want them to enjoy their time in the band and also enjoy making music and make lifelong friends in the band. If they enjoy making music, hard work will come because they want to excel. I always tell them that working hard for something that they like is not called stress, but passion!”
Yin Xuan believes that he will continue to work with young students for as long as he can because he feel that he can connect with them. He also aims to become a better conductor and educator through lifelong learning from masterclasses, and other established conductors so that he can help students to achieve their maximum potential.
“I hope to inspire and motivate as many students as possible to fall in love with music.”
“My greatest sense of satisfaction is seeing students doing that, and try their very best to improve as a musician. I have seen many players who struggle at first but worked so hard and eventually improved tremendously and are able to play with confidence. Music is not only for the talented – everyone deserves to make music.”
“To all my students, never give up in anything you do. With passion and hard work, everything is possible. Do continue to make and enjoy music for the rest of your life!”