DRESSED in their bright pink headscarves and batik-print blazers, the wind orchestra team of Sekolah Seri Puteri, Cyberjaya will most certainly catch your eye, but wait until they pick up their instruments and you’ll be simply enthralled by the way they skillfully play everything from classical compositions to songs from the hit musical, Mamma Mia!
Founded in 1982, the Seri Puteri Symphonic Wind Orchestra, also known as SP Winds, has come a long way from when it first began: In the last four years, they have been invited to perform and compete in Singapore, Australia and Austria.
The orchestra has also bagged numerous awards, including the gold awards at the Singapore International Band Festival 2012 and Australia International Music Festival 2013, as well as second place at the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival 2014, in Vienna, Austria.
The wind orchestra was also the sole recipient of the “Encouragement Award Jeunesse Austria” at the festival last year.
Its school, principal Siti Rogayah Yahya said that the school was told that its orchestra was selected to compete in the New York Wind Band Festival (NYWBF) next month.
“We are proud of our students’ achievements in getting selected to compete in the festival as this makes our school the first and only Malaysian government school to do so.
“In New York, our school will compete against other music schools and even universities such as Dobins Bennett High School Concert Band from Tennessee and University Wisconsin-Madison Wind Ensemble,” said Siti Rogayah.
Seventy SP Winds members will represent the country to compete with seven other ensembles at the prestigious Isaac Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall from March 6 to 11 this year.
Flautist Deena Mohamad Ajmal said, “I am very nervous yet excited about representing our country at yet another international competition, in New York, no less.”
The fifth former added that even with her background in music (she has studied the violin since she was eight), picking up the flute was not easy.
“The flute is a much more challenging and tiring instrument than the violin as it requires a lot of stamina to play,” said the 17-year-old.
As such, Deena understands that, in order to prepare for these competitions, the “intensive training” that they have to go through is necessary.
“All our band members have to go for a jog every morning as part of our training, to build our stamina, as we can’t be out of breath halfway through a performance. Our training sessions are also quite intensive. We have practices by section for one hour every day, capped off with practice with the entire group at night,” she said.
Being part of the orchestra was “only natural” for trumpeter Miza Arina Anwar for music is in her blood. Her father is a musician while she has been playing various percussion instruments.
The 15-year-old enjoys participating in festivals and for her, getting the chance to attend workshops run by international composers, as well as sharing knowledge with the other bands is what she looks forward to most.
Miza Arina who is in Form Three, added that it would be her “last hurrah” before she focuses full time on her Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga (PT3) at the end of the year.
Unlike Deena and Miza Arina, their conductor, fifth former Syamim Aqilah Zamros, 17, had no background in music prior to joining SP Winds.
“I only picked up the piccolo in Form One, and had to keep practising everyday to be good at it. Now, as the conductor, it is a different challenge altogether.
“I constantly have to stay on top of things and lead the members, while making sure my timing is correct. Both these things are not easy, but I am happy to be trusted with such a role,” she said.
With the date of the festival looming, Seri Puteri Symphonic Wind Orchestra teacher-in-charge Shahriyah Abdul Rashid said that the pressure is on for the team.
“We have already selected two classical compositions for the 20-minute performance, one of which is a Beethoven piece.
“Practices have been even more intensive lately, as we have invited music coaches to improve our performance,” she said.
Shahriyah added that althou-gh their regular music coach, Raja Muzaffar Shah Raja Abdu-llah is currently pursuing his master’s degres in music in London, he will join them for their last few practices.
In order to compete at the festival, the total expenditure for 70 students and six teachers, which includes airline tickets, accommodation, food and entrance fees to the Carnegie Hall, will amount to over RM1mil.
Siti Rogayah attributed the exorbitant amount to the currency exchange and the fact that the students will be staying in New York City which is much more expensive than its suburbs.
However, even after collecting RM4,000 from each student, already a burden to some students, the school still cannot cover all the expenses required for the trip.
As such, the school is embarking on its final leg of fundraising, having raised over RM700,000 to date.
The school will be holding a charity dinner themed “Flourishes” at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) on Feb 27, with performances by the orchestra as well as local celebrities Fazli Zainal, Haleeda, Datuk Khatijah Ibrahim and Akademi Fantasia 2014’s Ewal and Aman.
The school’s parent-teacher association representative Mohd Lukhman Ghani who is in charge of fundraising, said that tables have been priced from RM2,000 to RM25,000, with individual seats going for between RM200 and RM2,500.
“I hope Malaysians will come forward to help our students realise their dream. The success of the orchstrea is something our nation should be proud of as its members are on par with competitors who are full-time music students.
“I would urge people to attend the dinner and support our talented orchestra,” he said.
“It will be a waste if we miss out on such an opportunity as we have no idea when we will get invited to compete again,” added Siti Rogayah.
Contributions towards the trip can be deposited into Pancaragam Sekolah Seri Puteri, Cyberjaya’s CIMB account (80-0158619-3).
For enquiries, e-mail email@example.com, or contact 012 612 1282 (Shazreen), 019 380 8806 (Norain), 019 435 2090 (Shahriyah) or 012 647 0411 (Malissa).