Once upon a long long time ago, about 13 years in precision, I could wield a musical instrument. But that I assure you, is not because I am musically-inclined. I wanted to be and so when the time came for me to pick an Extra-Curricular Activity in school, I chose the Chinese Orchestra which incidentally is one of the best and most popular nationwide.
At the age of 13 and impressionable from watching delicate chinese ladies playing the zither or a pipa in the drama serials, I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be elegantly strumming my fingers across the strings of a pipa or running my fingers across the zither in absolute enrapture while the handsome heroes stood nearby, mesmerized by my skill. Either Fate decreed or many other impressionable 13 years old all wanted to be the same heroine and chose the same instrument ... and I was assigned to Percussion. At first, I cried at home. There is no way I could hope to appear like a delicate femme fatale now, instead I have to appear the exact opposite. You can still be delicate in the Percussion team but that would look rather silly if you appear frail from just carrying the cymbals so I braved up, got all manly and strong and for the next 4 years, moved drums, yunluo, bianzhong up and down the aisles of the auditorium and concert halls.
It was also one of the best times of my life. I had a good time not because I was the most popular girl in school because I was not but during those 4 years, I lived and breathed music. I genuinely enjoyed classical chinese music and they delivered a certain placidity in my disposition. I felt proud to be part of a "family".
We were made to practise hard. Saturdays are ECA days so we spent the whole day in school but when preparing for concerts and competitions and events, we are usually back on Sundays. There were countless times during these years that I sat quietly behind the bianzhong, either doing my homework or catching a little nap before our turn or chatting with my group member, Liz.
We practised on a group basis before getting together for an orchestra practice. Our conductor, Mr. Tay Teow Kiat is exacting but passionate and there were times I hated him for going through the same music notes over and over again till we were sick but when we saw the results produced, I love him again. We had our alumni to guide us during group practice. It always amazes me even till now, their dedication towards guiding the young ones along. Our seniors range from Junior College students to postgraduate students to working adults and each of them definitely has their personal commitment and priority. Despite that, they took turns to come in on Saturdays and Sundays and some of them came religiously every weekend to check on our progress. They were my heroes.
I always thought I would turn out to be like them but as it is, having being caught up in a whirlwind of activities, I lost touch. I went back a grand total of less than 5 times and then I was out.
I went to Youtube and searched for my alma mater. I went through all the video clips fervently, looking for a part of me that I had lost en route to maturity. I remembered the songs we worked hard for, the parts I played in them and I let my memories flood through me and imagined how is it like again, to be thirteen and sitting behind the bianzhong, idealistic and filled with a passion that I could hardly feel these days.
Dunman High School's The Great Wall Cappricio, video posting is recent but these orchestra players must have belonged to the 1992/1993 graduating batch or something