The band plays on

Sultan Ibrahim Girls School (SIGS), home to Johor Baru’s award-winning all-girls marching band, recently held a fund-raising event dubbed the SIGS Band Charitea with a request, “Make a donation to support the band.”
A dramatic scene performed at the 2014
KL International Youth Marching Band competition
An interesting programme of activities was planned for the event that included music, dances and performances by the SIGS band and SIGS Drum Line.  The event was well supported, with ticket proceeds going towards buying new uniforms and musical instruments for the band.

With a 45-year old history in JB, the SIGS marching band is renowned at school, state and national events with their smart uniforms and exciting performances.  

This fund-raising event was organized by members of the SIGS Band Club, with the help of the school’s Music Education teacher, Rohazuddin Hassan.  The band’s drum majorette, Nur Emilia Huda Mohd Yunos, 17, shared some information about the band’s proud heritage.

Humble Beginning

The SIGS Marching Band in their winning performance at
the 2014  KL International Youth Marching Band competition
The birth of the SIGS marching band is attributed to Mrs Dawn Parry, the school’s headmistress from 1960 to 1987.  In 1956, Parry joined SIGS where she taught History and English.  She went on to become Senior Assistant and was promoted to headmistress in 1960. 

It was a new dawn for SIGS as she became the driving force that propelled the school to new heights of achievements over the next 28 years and made her name synonymous with SIGS.  Besides upgrading the school premises and facilities, she gave the school a national image not only academically as a premier school but also through its award-winning school band and choir. 

In April 1971, a fun fair was held, with funds raised going towards the start of the school band.  The SIGS band made news in 1981 when they emerged the champion at the National School Bands Competition. 

In the early years, the band had only 46 members with 17 types of musical instruments and performed music with spectacular synchronised movements.  The invitation to participate in the national day celebrations every year since 1981 was proof of the nation's recognition of its talent and superior standards.

From underdog to serial winner

The SIGS Marching Band at a Street Carnival to
celebrate the Johor Sultan's birthday in 2015
Throughout its 45-year history, the band has consistently won numerous achievements at national and international competitions. 

In 2009, the band won the Silver award in the Street Parade Kuala Lumpur World Marching Band Competition and the Bronze in the World Marching Band Competition in 2010.
For the 2011 World Marching Band Competition, the band won a Silver award.

The band gained much experience and confidence when they performed in annual national and international events including carnivals such as the Carnival of Drums in Singapore, National Day parades, games half-time shows, as well as a school exchange programme in Japan.

The woodwind and brass section of the SIGS Marching Band
In 2014, the band clinched the Silver award in the international level Street Parade Marching Band Competition at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur.  But its most memorable and proudest achievement to date must be winning the Gold award as champion of the Kuala Lumpur International Youth Marching Band Competition that same year.

Emilia recalled how the band felt like underdogs when they faced competing school bands from Indonesia and Taiwan, and even local bands from Victoria Institution and Sultan Abdul Hamid College.

“As we watched the others perform, we never thought could do it,” said Emilia, who fondly remembered their jubilant response when the SIGS band came in second in the preliminary rounds.  It was clearly the band’s passion, commitment, discipline and potential that led it to emerge as champion in 2014.

Help Needed

A section of the SIGS Marching Band performing to an
appreciative audience at Angsana Johor Baru Mall for
Karnival Asrama 1Malaysia
As a Cluster School of Excellence, SIGS receives an annual allocation of funds from the Education Ministry for the band but the sum is insufficient.  Its consistently good performance has driven the band to aim for greater heights of achievement.  But it is unable to achieve high scores in international competitions as it does not have its own pit percussion instruments.

The Charitea event was then organised to raise funds for the band which now has 125 active members with sections for woodwind instruments, brass, percussion, pit percussion and the colour guard.  The cost of the pit percussion instruments is estimated at RM400,000 while another RM300,000 is required for new uniforms and musical instruments. 

“Next month, the SIGS band will participate in the World Championship Marching Show Band competition in Putrajaya.  We will take our performance to whole new level,” said Emilia. 

“New instruments will lift our performance and we are hopeful that parents, supporters and the school alumni will lend a hand to help us realise our dream to achieve greater success for the school and for Johor,” she added.

Band Club pitches in

The percussion section training in the recent Band Camp
Raising such a large sum of money is an immense task that some of the parents of band members have undertaken.  They observed how these girls commit themselves to spend at least three hours practicing daily after school. 

Even those facing important examinations like PT3 and SPM are putting more effort in maintaining their academic and co-curricular activities at top level.  As it’s a short time before August, they often burn the midnight oil to keep abreast with studies and sleep hardly five hours a day. 

Band members being trained in playing pit instruments at
the recent Band Camp held in the school compound
“Even though they spend much time marching on the field and practicing with the band, it is encouraging that they have made their parents and teachers proud by achieving consistently good results,” said Fauzidah Abdul Rahman, mother of Nurul Alya Zakariah, 17, a trumpeter in the band.

Together with the parents of other band members, she formed the SIGS Band Club or Kelab Pancaragam SIGS, and registered it as a society, with Basri Abdullah as chairman.  Fauzidah, a lawyer by profession, aims to maintain a proper legacy for the band as the club properly accounts for the collection of funds and its use. 

The Charitea event was the first project in the club’s fund-raising activities while a bank account opened in the name of Kommuniti Pancaragam SIGS would facilitate donations directly into this account.  [Affin Bank account No: 10 – 027 – 018246 – 7]

Rain or Shine

During the mid-year term holidays, a band camp was held from May 25 to 29 to prepare the band for the coming competition.  Band members sacrificed their holidays to train together with a high level of commitment and determination to excel in this unique combination of sports and art.

The colour guard during their training at the Band Camp
A group of five instructors were invited to train various sections of the band including honing their skills in synchronised marching and formations, playing musical instruments and the choreography of the colour guard.

“SIGS is one of three schools representing Malaysia in this coming international competition with up to 20 participating nations,” said Syed Khairuzman Syed Zain, who has been training the band in the last five years.

While the marching band was formed in 1971, the colour guard or flag spinning, was only added on in 2011.  In marching band competitions, the performance of the colour guard adds to the overall score of the band.  The colour guard will accompany the band, wielding various instruments like flagpoles, rifles and sabres, in a choreographed dance routine to express dynamic passages in the music.

The woodwind and brass section of the band practising their
formation patterns on the field during the Band Camp
The band members trained under the scorching sun, holding and playing their musical instruments, practicing and memorising the various formations in the field.  Each girl must be physically fit to perform as an athlete and artiste. 

It clearly takes an incredible amount of courage, energy and passion to remain focused on her own role as well as to coordinate perfectly with her band mates to present a flawless performance.  This steely attitude is clearly reflected in the band’s motto, “Rain or shine, the band still stands.”

For more information on SIGS Band and to donate, email: and or Tel: 017 – 7583758.

A version of this was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 12 July 2016 


  1. ALL the BEST in the upcoming World Championship Marching Show Band competition in Putrajaya.

  2. ALL the BEST in the upcoming World Championship Marching Show Band competition in Putrajaya.