By Linus Chen (17S03A), Librarian & Leon Tan (17S07D), Band Major
“Why do so many of us try to explain the beauty of music, thus depriving it of its mystery?”
– Leonard Bernstein
What is the meaning of life?
Whatever your answer to that question may be, one thing everyone can agree on is that we need to find our own meaning. Yet, as JC life deteriorates into a seemingly endless sequence of boring lectures and tutorials, it is easy for us to lose track of our direction in life.
For us at Raffles Symphonic Band (RSB), music gives us this direction. Every spare hour spent in front our scores with our instrument and metronome by our side, tirelessly working towards technical perfection, is worth it when we hear ourselves improving noticeably day by day.
And while the work you put in alone is certainly important, it is the work we do together that makes band truly meaningful for us – listening out to each other and helping each other improve as much as possible. As retired Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard didn’t quite say, “you’ll never practice alone”, because you will be surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals equally enthusiastic and passionate about music-making as you are.
Located on the opposite side of the school campus in the Y1-4 side, the band room may seem like an inconvenient place to get to at first glance. However, this is actually a blessing in disguise – far away from the stress of a hectic JC life, the band room is a safe haven for us music lovers, where we are free to immerse ourselves in our music playing. Fully equipped with lights, fans and even a cozy corner in the storeroom, the band room is more than just a practice venue for us. It’s a place where we will always feel at home, surrounded by our friends, free to study, sleep or even just chill out whenever we want.
Besides weekly sectionals with professional music tutors, we have combined rehearsals with our resident conductor, Mr Lim Yean Hwee, twice a week. During these combined sessions, Mr Lim works together with us to capture and express the essence of every piece we present, while grooming us to be the best musicians we can be with his extensive experience in the world of band music.
With his many idiosyncrasies and unique sense of humour, Mr Lim ensures that there is never a dull moment during combined practices. Mr Lim also relies on meticulously crafted analogies to help us easily grasp even the most advanced of musical concepts. Our friendly and approachable teachers-in-charge, Mr Derek Lim and Mr Wong Chee Choy, are also ever present to take care of us and make band as meaningful an experience as possible.
We hold two concerts annually. A Tempo, held in the middle of the year at Victoria Concert Hall is a grueling but incredibly rewarding experience. 2016’s A Tempo featured iconic standards from concert band literature such as Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Highlights from “Chess” by Jan van der Roost. Highly demanding technically and conceptually, these pieces help us to unlock our potential as musicians, pushing us past the boundaries of what we previously thought we were capable of. Our year-end concert, Bandemonium, is more light-hearted in nature, featuring exciting pieces enjoyable for performers and audience alike, such as Adam Gorb’s A Little Tango Music.
Other than concerts, we also organise Tune-In, an event where we invite Secondary 4 students from bands all over the country to join us in a day of fun and music-making. This allows us to share the joy of music with even more like-minded individuals, while also giving juniors a taste of what life in RSB is like. Additionally, we participate in community involvement programmes such as the Silver Homes project, where we cleaned the homes of seniors living in rental units.
All in all, what makes RSB so special? It’s the bonds we’ve forged with each other through thick and thin, through the good times and the bad, in pursuit of the common goal of making beautiful music. It’s the late nights spent practicing together, the light-hearted banter and the deep conversations over 9pm dinners. It’s the feeling of being in a CCA that’s more than just a collection of individuals with similar interests, but a family of musicians, people that appreciate you for who you are and will always be by your side.
“Without music, life would be a mistake.” A band member’s life is not easy by any means, but that’s what makes it a fulfilling and enriching one. In your one and a half years in RSB, you’ll grow so much not just as a musician, but as a person, and you’ll forge friendships that will stay with you for life. Whether you’re an experienced band member looking for a new challenge in music or just looking to pick up a new instrument, RSB welcomes you with open arms.