Meet the SAF musicians who signed on because of their secondary school band experience

Similarly, the military’s exacting standards mirror the desire of clarinet players ME2 Benjamin Wong and ME2 Zulhafeez Zainuri to constantly improve their craft. 

Despite being less than a year in service since leaving his career in academia, ME2 Benjamin Wong has always considered himself a performer. The 33-year-old, who served his NS in the band, considered the career switch after watching the SAF Central Band perform at the Esplanade at the start of the pandemic.

“They were hiring more mid-careerists, more people trained in their craft for their expertise … And what I really liked about the changes is that they recognise not just our qualifications, but also how they treasure us as musicians as performers, in and of ourselves,” he said. 

“We are pushed artistically in terms of our musicianship and professionalism, how we carry ourselves as part of the army, how we carry ourselves outside to our musician friends as artists ourselves. So it’s different (from the past). It’s more dynamic.”

Having musicians in his family, including his younger brother who plays the clarinet for the Singapore Police Force’s band, ME2 Zulhafeez is also familiar with the hunger to improve.

Even if he wasn’t in the army, he would be “doing the same thing like practising really hard”, admitted the 31-year-old Associate Principal Clarinet who has served for three years. 

“Not just in the army, but as a musician, we are built to always want to outdo ourselves. Every day, learning a new piece, we just want to perform the best that we can, as a soloist or as a chamber group, or as a band … So adding the army (aspect) to it, it’s not any different.”

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