The Band World

Becoming a Saxophonist

Michellina Chan

I love this quote from the movie August Rush, “You got to love music more than you love food. More than life. More than yourself.

Going into a career in music, people don’t always tell you the whole truth about it. Yes, we all know that it is not seen as an ‘iron rice bowl’ job. Yes, we know there is all the glitz and glamour with performing. You don’t normally hear about all the mundane downtime along with it, the endless hours sitting/standing practicing the instrument and how you get a job mostly depended on how many connections you have. “Putting yourself out there”, that is a phrase that I had to learn the hard way.

Being a musician is a job that you really have to love if not it will be an arduous and fulfilling journey. 

My musical journey started off at the Yamaha Music School when my parents first signed me up for the Junior Music Course when I was 4 years old. At that time I was trying out different things like ballet, swimming, art and craft..etc. As a shy child, I was fearful and afraid of singing, I had fun at the piano but aural was difficult for me. I stopped taking piano lessons for awhile to prepare myself for my PSLE exam.

When I got into Crescent Girls’ School (CGS), I had to choose a CCA (previously I was Pottery Club which they did not have in CGS). I was very thankful for my primary school senior, Priscilla Yuen, who was already in the CGS symphonic band and encouraged me to join. When I went for the first session, I was introduced to the teachers in charge and the conductor – Mrs Chua. She then looked at our physical attributes and allocated us an instrument. I was given the saxophone.

Being in a band taught me the values of team work, hard work, discipline and patience. I went on to Jurong Junior College and I was given the opportunity to lead the band as president. There, I learnt skills like how to be a good leader, how to organize a concert and how to balance the copious amounts of schoolwork with the band. 

When I left Singapore to pursue a music degree, I had no idea what was in store for me. I had never studied music full time, the closest I came to it was the once-a-week piano lessons back in my primary school days. The first year was extremely difficult for me, I was in a brand new country experiencing culture shock, trying to make new friends, having to cook my own meals, starting a new bank account, paying my own bills and trying to set up an internet connection for home. The list goes on. The resilience and patience I learnt from being in a band now paid off. I went from occasionally practicing the instrument to doing 4-6 hours of practice a day, every day. Hardly anyone knew me in my first and second years of University as I was lacking a lot of self-confidence and wasn’t very good at my instrument still.

Here is where I learnt to put the phrase “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there” to practice. It was not easy, but I went at it one step at a time, started off with playing regularly in saxophone class, then graduated to woodwind class and performance class and then I started taking part in competitions and so on. The endless hours of practice finally paid off, I was seen as a role model, was given lead positions in the different ensembles and had one of the biggest crowds at my end of year recital.

Fast forward to today, I have recently graduated from the University of Melbourne, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music with a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours. I am back in sunny Singapore and surrounded by family and friends. I had my debut recital in Singapore, which was extremely well-received – it was a sold out recital and I had so much fun performing to a full house!

I absolutely love playing the saxophone. I love performing and sharing my music with the public. I love working with new and upcoming composers to write music for the saxophone. My conductors and teachers-in-charge have changed me for the better. Thank-you! Without you, I would have never gone on to pursue my passion. I would also like to thank my family for always being supportive in my musical endeavours.

I am currently a freelance saxophonist and giving back to education by teaching young kids the importance of inculcating good character (especially discipline and perseverance) through the band program in schools and hoping to inspire them the way my teachers did for me. 

Band Post
Band Post

A contributing editor at TBP.

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