School Bands in Singapore
School Bands in Singapore- General Information
A Co-Curriculum Activity
The school band is made up of student musicians who perform music together. In
Singapore, the school band is a Co-Curriculum Activity (CCA) that can typically be found in Primary Schools, Secondary Schools, and Junior Colleges. Being outside classroom school activities, CCAs act as an integral part of the students’ holistic, well-rounded education, and are aimed at nurturing student qualities, and preparing them to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world “Ministry of Education, Singapore: Education System: Secondary Education: Co-Curriculum Activities.” At: http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/secondary/cca/ Accessed 7th April 2008] . As with other CCAs, the programmes in Singapore school bands follow the Ministry of Education (MOE)’s CCAs guiding principles of building team spirit and responsibility, being broad based with opportunities to specialize, being responsive to inculcating national values and skills, as well as promoting social integration. “CCA Guidelines and Grading Scheme for Secondary Schools Revised – MOE Press Release 11 Jan 2003.” At: http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/press/2003/pr20030111a.htm#ANNEX Accessed 9th April 2008] .
Generally, there are no admission criteria into Primary and Secondary school bands, although bands in Junior Colleges may prefer experienced players. The relaxed admission criteria allow students who were not given the opportunity for an education in music, or whose families could not afford musical instruments a chance to pick up a new skill.
Generally, the average size of school bands is around 60 members strong. Some bands may even go up to 100 to 160 members Dr. Tay Eng Soon, Senior Minister of State for Education. Speech at the opening of the First School Band Directors’ Convention. 29th August 1990.] .
School bands are usually a sight at ceremonial events within the school or at public performances outside the school as they provide the music for different occasions. In addition, school bands also participate in competitions at both local and international music festivals. As students undergo the process of rehearsing in the band, either for foot drills or music drills, the disciplined routines allow them to learn the values of discipline, teamwork, responsibility and commitment. As they participate in competitions, students also learn to celebrate their achievements while maintaining humility or even to accept defeat in good graceMr. Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary-Delegate. Ministry of Education & Ministry of Manpower. Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the 4th Band Directors’ Convention. 11th August 2004. ] . These are experiences that members of the school bands gain through the programme.
As such, school bands act as platforms that develop potential young musicians, among which a significant number of whom would have gone on to pursue a professional music career. There are amateur and semi-professional bands and orchestras, national bodies such as the Singapore Youth Orchestra (SYO), or even professional organizations as the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) in Singapore that students can go on to involve themselves in. The number of students who continue to pursue professional music careers after their experience in the school bands can perhaps be an indicator of development in the area of culture and arts scene of Singapore.
The musical standard that Singapore school bands have reached today can be exemplified in the recognized international competitions and events that some school bands have been invited to participate in. One example would be the Sydney Olympics Games Opening Ceremony held in Australia in 2000, when six school band members were selected to participate in the international band display item Mr. Mohamad Maidin Packer Mohd, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education. Speech at the official opening of the 3rd Band Convention. 1st August 2001.] .
School bands in Singapore are coordinated by the professional association, the Band Directors’ Association (Singapore) (BDAS). The first School Band Directors Convention was held on 29th August 1990, and subsequently in the years 1995, 2001, and 2004. The BDAS lays out a set of objectives for the band directors, primary for the purpose of developing and improving the band programme, curriculum, supervision and instruction “Constitution of the Band Directors’ Association (Singapore).” At: http://www.bdas.org.sg/files/docs/BDAS_Constitution.pdf Accessed 8th April 2008] .
History of School Bands
In 1965, the Ministry of Education first launched the Band Project as part of the Extra-Curriculum Activity Programme (ECA) (renamed as Co-Curriculum Activity or CCA in 1999) in both Primary and Secondary Schools Singapore Youth Festival ’67 – ’76 10th Anniversary. Singapore Youth Festival Steering Committee 1976.] . It was aided by the directive given by the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who instructed that the formation of school bands should be considered a “high priority” Mr. Sidek Saniff, Minister of State (Education). Speech at the official opening of The Second School Band Directors’ Convention. 29th August 1995] . At its beginning, the project began with only 4 brass bands in aided secondary schools, and 9 Bugle and Fife bands in Primary Schools that were mainly functioning under the banners of the Boys’ Brigade and Boy Scouts. Within six years, the number of school bands rapidly increased to 77 brass bands in secondary schools and 78 Bugle and Fife bands in primary schools in 1971 Inche Mohd. Ghazali Ismail, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education. Speech at the 5th Anniversary Dinner of School Band Project at Hotel Equatorial. 6th February 1971] . As of the year 2000, 44 primary schools, 132 secondary schools and 14 junior colleges have their own school bands, and in that year, 12,000 students were in the band movement. This number translated to around 27.5% of students taking part in the CCA music in the year 2000 being in the bandsMr. Mohamad Maidin Packer Mohd, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education. Speech at the official opening of the 3rd Band Convention. 1st August 2001. ] . Thus, the school band movement has been evolving since its inception in 1965, with an increase in both the number and quality of school bands over the years.
The government then started school bands with the original purpose of developing group discipline, esprit de corps and a sense of national identity among the students who joined the band as their ECA. Schools bands would also contribute to school spirit and enhance the school programme on ceremonial occasions. In addition, the government took the general musical poverty of most citizens in the 1960s into account, and wanted to establish school bands so as to give schooling children a start in musical interest .
Challenges faced in the early beginnings of the Band Project included the shortage of band instructors and teachers for the school bands. Such challenges were overcome with in-service training and scholarships to encourage those who were interested to go into music teaching .
Despite the challenges, in 1990, 25 years after the Band Project in Singapore was launched, the ECA centre estimated that about 20,000 students would have once been members of school bands, and would have benefited from the school band movement .
Singapore Youth Festival & its History
Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) is an annual event organized by Singapore’s Ministry of Education to celebrate the achievements of youth in their Co-Curriculum Activities (CCAs)“History of SYF.” At: http://www.singaporeyouthfestival.sg/Introduction/HistoryofSYF/tabid/55/Default.aspx Accessed 8th April 2008] . It serves to highlight all activities that take place in every school and that contribute in one way or another to the total development of the students. The annual event engages students from schools across Singapore, who are involved in all performing arts, sports and uniformed group CCAs. It is an event that usually starts in April and culminates in a month long celebration in July.
SYF was first launched in 1966. The opening ceremony was held at the Jalan Besar Stadium in 1967 . Initial activities in the early festivals only included music and dance, but it gradually extended to field sports, art forms, and later, mass displays.
The SYF Central Judging was later introduced in 1968. It continues to be an annual event during which most schools' performing arts groups compete at their respective levels. In 1968, three years shortly after the Band Project was launched, school bands started to compete at the SYF Central Judging. Till today, the CCA Branch of the Ministry of Education organises the Central Judging of Concert Bands (Primary Schools, Secondary Schools and Junior Colleges), Central Judging of Display Bands (Secondary Schools) and the Assessment of Marching Bands (Secondary Schools) in alternate years “Co-Curriculum Branch- Band.” At: http://www3.moe.edu.sg/ccab/musicdance/Webpages/Band/Band%20home.htm Accessed 8th April 2008] . The involvement of school bands in the annual SYF is evident, as 117 secondary school bands and 14 junior college bands with 7,709 participants were involved in the SYF Central Judging of Concert Bands in 2001 .
Anderson Military Band
One of the school bands in Singapore with a history of almost 40 years (as of 2008) would be the school band of Anderson Secondary School, also known as Anderson Military Band (AMB).
AMB is a marching band in Anderson Secondary School, categorized as a Performing Arts CCA group “Anderson Secondary School.” At: http://schools.moe.edu.sg/andersonss/ Accessed 7th April 2008] . The members of the band are involved in activities that include participating in competitions and performances, both within and without the school, organising their annual concerts, participating in exchange programs with other bands, and engaging in various school functions, such as the Annual Speech and Prize-Giving Day. The band also has a tradition of playing the National Anthem for the school’s morning flag-raising ceremony since 1986. These events and performances provide its members the chance to hone their musicality skills and act as showcases for the skills that they have gained in the band. As such, the Anderson Military Band is a platform that provides opportunities for its young members not only to learn about, but also to appreciate and develop a passion for band music. In fact, this school band has also produced a significant number of members who have gone on further to pursue their passion in music beyond their secondary school band experience.
The band believes in character building. It is an apt demonstration of fulfilling the greater objectives of CCAs as set out by the Ministry of Education. The school band aims to develop each and every bandsman’s character and personality, and to provide opportunities for them to stretch their limits, fulfill their fullest potential, and attain goals that once seemed impossible. In addition, the band also aims to nurture its young members into great leaders and thus makes sure that ample opportunities are provided for them to develop their leadership skills. These are skills that its bandsmen carry with them throughout their lives, beyond the four or five years spent with the band.
As a military band, the band holds weekly drill practices which are aimed to build the discipline, resilience, tenacity and perseverance in its members. However, as set out by the CCA branch of MOE, not only marching bands, but concert bands are also required to incorporate a 30 hours marching component into their programmes to ensure that the mental resilience they gain through musical drills is complemented by the physical resilience of doing foot drill .
As of 2008, the band has 50 bandsmen. Training days are on every Wednesday and Friday for the main band, and every Monday for the recruit band.
Anderson Military Band was first established in 1969. It started out as a brass band, which consisted only of brass instruments and a percussion section. It had only 35 members then Anderson Secondary School Annual School Magazine 1969] . When it was first set up, the band combined with Swiss Cottage Secondary School band for five years. It was only until 1974 when the band separated from Swiss Cottage Secondary School band and became an independent band. Over the years, the band grew in strength and number and eventually became a full-fledged military band with the addition of the woodwind instruments.
Achievements in Competitions
The first year that Anderson Military Band entered a competition as an independent band was in 1974, when it entered the Singapore Youth Festival Central Judging of School Bands. It was placed among the top 27 school bands, and obtained a certificate of merit Anderson Secondary School Annual School Magazine 1974] . In 1975, it entered the competition again, and won the Certificate of Distinction, as well as the Mace of Honour Anderson Secondary School Annual School Magazine 1975] . Subsequently, in alternate years, the band has been participating in the SYF Central Judging for indoor bands, and had been awarded the bronze medal. It was only in the year 2003 when AMB won its first Gold medal, and in 2005 and 2007 when it won silver medals.
Other than competitions for indoor bands, Anderson Military Band has also participated in competitions for outdoor bands. Its first SYF Display Band competition was in 1984, and subsequently in 1994, both of which it won Bronze medals Anderson Secondary School Annual School Magazine 1984] . It also participated in the Outdoor Assessment for bands in 2002, when it was awarded Grade 2. Other outdoor events that the band participated in also included the Parade of Bands, which was held in 1993, when the band marched down Orchard Road and received a Certificate of MeritAnderson Secondary School Annual School Magazine 1993] .
School bands also contribute towards the cultural appreciation among Singaporeans when the young musicians bring their music to the public. However, a certain musical standard is usually set and required to be reached before school bands perform in public. In 1971, the number of school bands that reached the required standard only stood at 52 , yet the number rapidly increased over the years as school bands in Singapore began to gain maturity. The Anderson Military Band is one of the bands with numerous experiences of public performances.
The band’s first public performance was in 1974, when eleven members were invited to play on the Singapore Youth Festival Float for the 1974 National Day Parade . Subsequently, the band had been involved in the National Day Parades in the years 1977, 1989, 1990 and 1995, as part of the Mass Band Display. The band also participated in Chingay Progressions in the years 1979 and 1991. In addition, the band was invited to play in events such as the NCC (Air) Graduation Parade at the Sembawang Airbase in 1986, IBM Convention in 1991, Chinese New Year Celebrations at the Istana and Cheng San Community Centre in 1992 and 2002 respectively, the Singapore International Dragon Boat Festival at Marina Promenade in 2000, and Cultural Night organized by the Old Andersonian Alumni Society in 2001. The band organized its own park performances, such as the MacRitchie Reservoir Performance in 1991 and the Ang Mo Kio Park East Performance in 2001 and 2002.
In 2002, AMB held its very first concert, named Ambience, and this tradition continues subsequently every year. In 2004, the band also started a family concert, known as Together or Recruits Graduation, as a means to inform the family of band members what they have done and achieved in the school band.
As the school bands in Singapore mature, besides organizing activities within the band, opportunities are also created for different school bands to interact and learn from one another. The Anderson school band’s first overseas exchange program was in 1991. At that time, 10 of its members took part in the Scandic Music Festival, which was held in Kristianstad, Sweden. They formed the Singapore Combined Schools Band with members from five other school bands, and represented as the only Asian band in the exchange program Anderson Secondary School Annual School Magazine 1991] . The second overseas exchange program took place in 1994, when 16 of the band’s members participated in the International Music Festival also held in Kristianstad, Sweden Anderson Secondary School Annual School Magazine 1994] . The Singapore Combined Schools Band was formed with other members, and the band went on a performing trip in the cities of Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Stockholm. In 2004, the band co-hosted a group of band members from Kuala Lumpur together with Tampines Secondary School. The band then went on for an exchange in Kuala Lumpur at the end of 2004.
Besides participating in overseas exchange programs, the Anderson Military Band also participates in exchanges with other Singapore school bands. In 2000, the band was involved in a music exchange that was held in Hong Kah Secondary School. In 2003, it participated in music exchange in Bukit View Secondary School as part of the band’s preparation for Singapore Youth Festival Central Judging 2003.
The school band is usually under one or more resident conductors, also known as band directors or instructors. Mr. Harold de Rozario is Anderson Military Band’s first resident conductor, and the band played under his baton during the period between 1974 and 1988. Mr. Lam Seng Kye took over the role from 1989 to 1996. Between 1996 and 1999, Mr. Tan Keng Yan acted as the band’s resident conductor. In 1999, Mrs. Anne Wong took over until 2000. In the year 2000, Mr.Yea Guo Ming followed by Mr. Lester Lim Chong Choon took over the baton, and they continue to provide invaluable guidance for the band till today.
Mr. Yea Guo Ming started out as a member of the Anderson Military Band, and thereafter pursues a professional music career. His accumulated wealth of experiences in playing in bands started with playing the euphonium in his secondary school days, after which he went on to play the trombone in the Singapore Armed Forces Band. Thereafter, he joined the then National Theatre Symphonic Band (now known as Singapore Wind Symphony) where he played the trombone. As of 2008, besides being the resident conductor of AMB, Mr. Yea is also the resident conductor of Punggol Primary School and Ang Mo Kio Primary School bands.
Mr. Lester Lim Chong Choon joined the band shortly after Mr. Yea in December 2000 and together with Mr. Yea, acts as the resident conductor of AMB. Mr. Lim first started playing the euphonium in the Victoria School Band, and he later played the trombone in the Republic of Singapore Airforce Band during his national service. Mr. Lim also pursued an Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) Practical for Trombone and earned a distinction Ambience VI Programme booklet 2008. Anderson Military Band. Accessed 12 April 2008.] .
Since the inception of the Band Project in 1965, there is a rapid and apparent development of the school band movement in Singapore. As the school bands produce more graduated members, schools begin to set up Alumni Bands, which act as channels for the graduated members to further develop their musical interests and also as a support for the main band. The Anderson Alumni Band Association, the alumni band of Anderson Military Band was also set up in recent years. There are regular rehearsals for its members, who would prepare for public performances such as Ambience, when the alumni band would play a segment of the repertoire for the annual concert.
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