Display Bands

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For the next few weeks I will be observing classes at a secondary school in the northern part of Singapore. I really loved this school when I had my introductory meeting there a few weeks ago, and I look forward to meeting the students and getting to know the faculty.

After a very lovely morning In Chinatown eating, shopping, and enjoying an hour long reflexology / massage session, I ventured to the Singapore Indoor Stadium for the Singapore Youth Festival Display Band judging. I was invited by the Secondary School I will be visiting to be a guest audience member for the day. The school was being judged.

Prior to entering the Singapore Indoor Stadium I had no idea what to expect.

The Singapore Youth Festival is an annual arts competition, with different categories judged on alternate years. Each school (primary, secondary, junior college) can choose to compete / be judged in a variety of art forms. The awards bring acclaim to the school, and some awards come with a cash prize from the Ministry of Education Arts Education division. The quality of the performance is judged by a panel of experts in the field. Each school is awarded a medal for their efforts: Gold with Honors, Gold, Silver, and Bronze.

In a few weeks I will have the fortunate opportunity to attend the SYF English Drama Central Judging. I am looking forward to watching the performances from schools all over Singapore. I will not be judging, but attending as an audience member.

A Display Band is what we might call a marching band in the US, but the Display Band does so much more; they use props, dancing band members, a baton tossing Drum Major, and flag twirling dancers to enhance their music performance. So much more interesting than the TRHS Band playing “Heartbreak Hotel” during every football game when I was in high school.

The event was truly awe inspiring.

I watched as 8 bands from schools all over Singapore run into the stadium (literally), mark off their coordinates, bring in instruments, and strike up the band. Each school performed separately, and had a certain amount of time to set up, perform, and strike their performances.

Over the course of the day the performances included fireworks, fans, Mount Fuji, a boat, a huge flag of Singapore, balls, flags, and some really impressive music.

The bands were amazing, but I was mostly affected by the students in the stands. They cheered on the bands like crazed American football fans, engaged in the “wave” (which lasted a good 20 minutes and was applauded when it was finished), and teased rival school with cheering “bombs.” It was fantastic.

At the end of the day, the results were announced. Three of the eight schools performing were awarded “Gold.” The school I’m visiting received one of these awards. Unfortunately, they did not given the top prize of “Display Band of the Year.” There were lots and lots of tears.

One of the teachers asked me: “How do you feel about these kinds of competitions?” I answered her: “I think there are benefits to competing and benefits to not competing.”. For me, the tears (of joy and of sorrow) is another kind of answer to this question.

Some photos from the day…

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