Bringing fresh perspectives, ideas and direction to the Singapore Wind Symphony (SWS) is the appointment of Daniel Yiau as its Music Director, who will lead the group in their “In the Spring” concert this Sunday, which also features the debut of the SWS Youth Band.

Daniel is no stranger to the SWS, having served as the Assistant Conductor prior to his new position. He was also the guest conductor to SWS’s concert in 2016.

“With this new appointment, we begin a new musical and collaborative chapter with Daniel. As a huge wind band advocate himself, Daniel revisits the wind band classics in the concert while introducing new repertoire to the band. SWS has also decided to bring back the youth band as we see great potential in the young musicians that will contribute back to the music community,” said Gabriel Song, SWS chairman.

“This change can invigorate the ensemble, inspire musicians to excel, and we hope to attract new audiences with exciting musical interpretations and experiences,” he continued.

Celebrating a New Beginning

The spring themed concert was inspired by the rejuvenating spirit of the season, symbolising new beginnings, growth, and vibrant energy. The idea was to capture the essence of spring through music and SWS’s new beginning with their Music Director and the SWS Youth Band. 

“As a band geek since my youth (a long time ago!) it has always been a dream to be able to have a band to play the works on my bucket list, I see myself checking pieces off the list gradually in the next years with SWS, playing as many important wind band works from the past, present, and the future, with a strictly no orchestral transcriptions policy,” said Daniel Yiau.

“Being an advocate for performing new music and discovering hidden talents, we also want to work with composers and performers, collaborating with the wind band medium, looking into possible commissions and performance opportunities in the near future,” he continued. 

In the next 3 to 5 years, it is in Daniel’s hopes to bring the two SWS bands overseas, participating in either festivals, competitions, or exchanges with wind bands in other parts of the world.

“Building our audience and fan base, especially within our band community, we have been diluting concert programming over the past years to attract the general public, but it is detrimental to the ensembles in the long run. We try to ensure that every performance is a good music making experience, and in doing so, pique interest and raise some eyebrows,” he explained.

The concert features four pieces that draw inspiration from his days old and past. Since his return to Singapore in 2018, Daniel has been an advocate of wind band repertory that is almost always in the back of his mind, sort of like a memory or nostalgia, but also fresh.

“These music are rarely performed pieces, which are of huge importance in the ever growing catalogue filled with concert marches, contest pieces, orchestral transcriptions, and arrangements of pop or soundtrack music; which are played more often than substantial music but arguably more challenging to put together. It is often a huge pity given time constraints and other limitations that every ensemble faces.”

‘In the Spring’ by Holsinger, draws inspiration from the Bible; Reed’s ‘Music for Hamlet’, comes from Shakespeare; Appermont’s Egmont depicts the 16th century Spanish Inquisition; and ‘Divertimento’ by Oliver Waespi, a grand work containing four contrasting movements.

“Divertimento serves for me a great memory and nostalgia, as it was the first work I heard the Amsterdamse Tramharmonie perform when I was studying in Amsterdam. By programming this work, it is definitely a tribute and thanks to the wonderful times I spent during my formative training then,” Daniel concluded. 

Reviving the SWS Youth Band

“Some time ago, I was approached by a group of enthusiastic youths to see if I can conduct a band that they could play in. I was then the assistant conductor of the SWS, but did not want to scare anyone off by suddenly bringing in a huge number of youths into the adult band. I only suggested the idea to the committee, and since the youth band had been on a long hiatus, it seemed like a good time to start since there was interest. I am extremely excited for everyone to hear their guest appearance during the concert,” Daniel said.

The SWS Youth Band not only prepares for the concert, but also reads music towards the end of every rehearsal. This ensures that its members read important wind band literature, play pieces that they may not get an opportunity to do so in their bands, and check them off their ‘wish list’ or simply because these are good music. 

Additionally, the SWS Youth Band today is established with a system where members who reach the age of 21 years will ‘graduate’ and enter the SWS adult band if they choose to. 

“I strongly believe in creating a safe environment for developing wind band players to be exposed to high quality wind band music, being guided and pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, learning and daring to take risks and make mistakes, becoming confident wind players, taking flight into the world when the time comes,” Daniel highlighted.

Heading the SWS Youth Band is clarinetist Jamie Liaw, who is the chairperson of the committee. She and her young committee found it exciting to be able to start and lead a youth band like SWS Youth, which gives students like herself a space to grow musically. 

“When we initially started this project, we had many things to consider since so many things were uncertain, and there was a fear of not having enough players as well. Thankfully, we’ve met so many like-minded individuals who enjoyed music to a similar degree to us and were willing to make this possible! I’m eternally grateful for my wonderful friends who are in committee with me, who stayed by each other’s sides through adversity during the planning and execution process, and also to Daniel Yiau for his advisory and mentoring role from the start!” she highlighted.

In the long run, SWS Youth Band aims to follow the main band’s mission in showcasing local composers and musicians, but with a special focus in growing its youth players’ talents. It is hoped that the young musicians can continue to push their limits and capabilities, learn invaluable skills from each other that will enhance their band experience.

“Current band repertoire can get repetitive, with bands often reusing the same few pieces from various composers. We want to introduce the seldom performed music to our fellow youth musicians, and set a standard for our band and encourage more like minded musicians to join us,” said Genia Tan, saxophonist and vice chairperson of SWS Youth Band. 

“In the near future, we have reopened our auditions early to prepare for the upcoming SIBF competition. If you are interested, feel free to contact us on Instagram (@swsyouthband), or support us at our concert debut with Bert Appermont’s Egmont overture!”

In The Spring

Sundaty, 24 March 2024
NAFA Lee Foundation Theatre, 3pm


SWSxPWO Band Geek Package
Enjoy a 10% discount when you purchase tickets to both When Nations Meet and In the Spring using this link


Written By Editor

A contributing editor at TBP.