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Mar 19, 2015

School Bands - Cultural Life of Singapore

At what age can a schoolboy in Singapore join the school bands?

Few schools had school bands 50 years ago and the primary school I attended on completion of the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) in 1961, did not have a school band.

Young children in Singapore who love music to play with musical instruments is the best opportunity to join the school band.

School Bands in Singapore are made up of student in the band CCA who perform music together with their respective instruments.  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 student's holistic, well-rounded education, and are aimed at nurturing student qualities, and preparing them to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world.  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.

In the above photos (including the archived photos on this blog with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore and other contributors), Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew speaking to school band members during Telok Ayer Community Centre's seventh anniversary celebration in Hokkien Huay Kuan on 3 June, 1967.

Presentation of baton to drum major of Tampines Primary School in 1980.

A Malay band leading the welcoming procession through a narrow village path to Changi Tamil School during Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's tour to Changi constituency on 19 May, 1963.

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.  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 as a "High Priority".

Singapore's 500,000 school children in 1970 have come to accept band playing, marching and drill activities as an important aspect of their extra curricular activities.  This could be seen on school fields, public parks or on the concert stage.

The government in introducing this programme in the schools, had recognised the fact that group discipline and a sense of national identity could be gained by students participating in bands as an extra curricular activity and the positive influence on public morale when school bands are heard and seen performing at outdoor functions and music festivals to entertain everyone in Singapore.

The Music Department of the Ministry of Education was charged with the responsibility of forming and training bands, and undertook the challenge to form the bands in schools.

This was an encouragement for other schools which were wary of embarking on an expensive experiment to benefit the students.

It was a costly school expenditure for musical instruments, an unusual extra curricular activity for schools in this part of the world.

Financial assistance from the Government was supported and this was the greatest contributing factor to the success of the school band project 50 years ago.

Government schools as well as Government-aided schools received substantial subsidies for purchase of instruments as well as uniform.

Training was provided free, given by bandmasters and bandsmen paid from Government funds.

The school brass band members during the 15th anniversary celebration of Tanjong Katong Girls' School on 12 March, 1968.

The primary school band stole the show at a National Cadet Corps Parade at Queenstown.  The 60-strong Hua Yi Primary School Band, Singapore's champion primary group of musicians was given rounds of applause, some of it coming from the flats overlooking the parade ground.  To the strain of stirring militia music, the boys and girls average age of 9, stepped out in style in a performance that lived up to its reputation.  The event on 5 July, 1969.

A petite 1.47 metres Miss Tan Chay Ee, 15, and the smallest of them all was the best when she won the drum-major award trophy and mace.  Chay Ee presenting the band from Outram Secondary and Kim Seng Technical School stood out among 15 other drum majors and majorettes at the inter-secondary school band competition finals at Kallang Theatre.  Picture shows Chay Ee, clutching her drum major award trophy and mace, was chaired by her band friends during the competition on 2 July, 1977.

PM Lee Hsien Loong in his school band

In the 1968 National Day Parade on 9 August, 1968, PM Lee Hsien Loong played the euphonium marching with the Catholic High School band at the Padang.

[There was a heavy downpour that August 9.  The then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had to decide whether to proceed with the parade or to postpone it.  He decided to proceed, for to do otherwise would have implied that Singaporeans were not resilient.  My mother, my brother Hsien Yang and I watched with pride from the windows of my father's office in City Hall as Hsien Loong marched past]
Source:  Straits Times 2 August, 2009.  "The march of a confident nation" by Lee Wei Ling.

National Day Parade 1969 third rehearsal at the Padang - Combined School Bands of Catholic High School and Raffles Institution, led by Drum Major Lee Hsien Loong on 27 July, 1969.

On National Day,  9 August, 1969

The National Day Parade 1968 at Chinatown

The Bugle and Fife School Band

Many years later, Singapore had her first All Girls Bagpipe Band .

Band Performance at the MacRitchie Reservoir

Pioneer generation Singaporeans, please share your fond nostalgic memories during your primary, secondary and junior college bands in Singapore over the decades.  Thanks for sharing our memories to celebrate Singapore50!