Double Reeders Unite!

The Band Post speaks to Emerald Chee, who runs the Singapore Double Reeders group on Facebook, whose aim is to publicize double reed events that take place in, around or near Singapore. 

Its key event, the Double Reed Day (DRD) has been happening every year since 2012, and the next one will be held on 1st October 2016 at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM).

Why did you initiate the Double Reed day project?

I started Bassoon Gatherings in 2011, as a way to inspire young bassoonists by showcasing the various solo and ensemble repertoire of the bassoon, as well as to create opportunities to meet up with fellow bassoonists and play pieces together. It might have stemmed from when I first started out as a bassoonist – I was unaware of the various colours and possibilities the bassoon was (is) capable of, and ended up disliking the instrument.

Now, I want to create a positive environment for the next generation where they can experience and learn from fellow players. From Bassoon Gatherings, it then naturally branched out to include oboes as well, and thus, the Double Reed Day was first held in 2012.

Considering this is a project started by you alone, were there many challenges in getting it together?

Double Reed Day 2015 at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts
Double Reed Day 2015 at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts / credit: Siew Yi Li

One thing I have learnt from past experiences is that I cannot do everything by myself!!! ?

I did experience a burnout after the first one, as I literally received contacts of students from friends and texted them individually on my own, so that I could create awareness of the event. I faced a lot of expected rejection in the process, as I guess no one was really that enthusiastic about attending an entire day devoted to the oboe or bassoon.

The following year, I found it even tougher to get the organisational momentum going, but in the subsequent years, I had a few oboist friends to help out with organizing for the oboe aspect. And that really helped!

My bigger challenges would be in terms of monetary and logistics. As an independent bassoonist back then who is trying to organise events, I had to think about location costs and purchasing of scores for the ensemble. Most of the money spent was from my own pocket, although I did manage to get some funding in one of the years, I had to cancel the entire event in the end as the funding was not able to fully cover my dreams. However, I must say that I am fortunate to have institutions like NAFA and YST and private music businesses who continue to support me wholeheartedly.

The timing of the Double Reed Day is also another challenge. I have to consider and coordinate the schedules of professionals, visiting international artistes, full-time music students, various band and orchestral concerts, as well as the exam and holiday schedule of student oboists and bassoonists. In this country, academics still plays a huge part in a student’s decision-making, and finding the right time to hold the Double Reed Day is a work of art in itself.

The last challenge would be to contact new players. Many oboists and bassoonists stop playing after leaving their school bands, and only a few dedicated ones remain. However, each year there are always new players starting on the instruments. My aim is to get them involved in Double Reed Day, but it is very hard to keep track of who these new players are! This is where I rely on and appreciate greatly in the help of school band conductors to encourage their young oboists and bassoonists to go for Double Reed Day.

What is this year’s programme going to be like? 

Double Reed Day 2015 at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Tay Kai Tze, Seow Yibin & Leow Rui Qing on the Oboe)
Double Reed Day 2015 at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts / credit: Siew Yi Li

This year’s format is largely comparable to previous years. It has always been,
1. Talks and masterclasses
2. Lunch (free food!!)
3. Ensemble rehearsals, and at the end of it,
4. Performances and a mass play-in

We are very privileged this year to have visiting artistes for both instruments (first time!) from the Australian World Orchestra. They will be conducting masterclasses for the YST students, and the masterclasses are open to all to attend.

What do you feel about the double reed community here? What are your plans for DBR events in the future?

I feel that the double reed community is very tight in Singapore. The circle of musicians is small, but there is ample support for them.

I do hope to, one day, expand Double Reed Day to include neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. To ensure that Double Reed Day remains a sustainable event for the years to come, we are also happy to welcome monetary donations and contribution of personal time and efforts.

In the long run, the dream is for Singapore’s Double Reed Day to grow exponentially and reach a similar scale to or host a major event such as the International Double Reed Society (IDRS) or Asian Double Reed Association (ADRA) conference.

To find out more about the Singapore Double Reeders group, visit their Facebook page here!

Band Post
Band Post

A contributing editor at TBP.

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