Are there less people for brass bands?

Discussion in 'Bandroom News - User Submitted' started by Walsallbrass, Apr 19, 2018.

  1. Walsallbrass

    Walsallbrass New Member

    Are there less people interested in playing brass these days as we seem to find its difficult finding people interested in the West Midlands area and wondered if this is nationwide?

    Roger Bates.
  2. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    Hi Roger. In a word, Yes. There are several threads on this forum where the subject has been discussed. Try entering 'shortage' in the search bar as a starting point.
  3. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Not enough players or too many bands - and with new bands seeming to appear from time to time, you'd expect one or two to have to disappear unless players are to be spread thinner.

    Certainly doesn't seem to be a new problem - though it does seem to be different bands going through the difficult patches so different people finding themselves in that situation of being short and assuming it's something new and happening to everyone (neither of which is the case)
  4. Slider1

    Slider1 Active Member

    The Band I played for folded just after Christmas, the reasons were shortage of players, three Championship bands within Twenty square miles, a Conductor with too many Irons in too many fires and a god awful Road system
    called the M25 inc. the Dartford Crossing which seems to shut down in the evenings for thorough maintenance.
    The other Band I play for which is non Contesting has players falling out of the Doors. So is it Contesting part of the Problem are lack of training/Teaching in Schools?
  5. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

    I'm a firm believer that the future lies with the young. Bands cannot rely on recruiting experienced players.

    It's shocking how many bands don't operate a junior band. The problem is now being made worse with the cut backs in the education budget as music was the subject which took the brunt of the cuts.

    One could argue that the cuts to funding have made it easier to get a junior band off the ground however as most schools would embrace the opportunity to have music taught to their pupils if it didn't eat into their budget.

    I posted in a recent thread where someone said their band members didn't have the time to operate a youth band. As I pointed out at the time, you don't need a lot of time if two or three experienced players are prepared to take it in turns to attend an hour a week before practice with some beginners. It can be very rewarding.
    Jack E likes this.
  6. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    As others have said there was a thread about three months back on pretty much this very topic:

    One particular contribution by someone who rarely posts anything was, IMHO, the best of some good answers (#21 by Andyshep). Basically turning a band around takes time, drive and a capable team. There are folk out there that would like to learn or return. My own Band has a training band and several of the adults in the main band came from the training band, in terms of getting bottoms on seats adult learners seem to be more likely to make the grade and join the main band - subjective view.

    It certainly appears to be a nationwide problem, but it is also one that some manage to solve - it’s not easy but they do it. In your position I think that I’d be trying to identify thriving groups, that are say an hour away from you, and then go and talk to them about how they managed the problems that you face. Good luck.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2018
  7. rootertooter

    rootertooter New Member

    Player numbers have been depleting for years, Ok, you Yorkshire and Lancashire bands still have a good catchment of young uns, I think the vast majority of other bands (especially in the lower sections) have found it increasingly harder for years now
  8. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I can only speak with reference to the band that I'm learning with - but based on my admittedly very limited experience, I'd say that the problem is less likely to be where a band is based and more on the band's approach to recruitment. Once upon a time, I understand that many bands left basic teaching to ordinary schools, and relied on them for a steady stream of new recruits trained up to a decent standard. In effect, they used the schools as 'training bands'. But now that so many schools have axed music programmes altogether from their syllabus, bands which expect to rely on 'somebody else' to find and train their recruits are going to be scraping the bottom of the barrel. Basically, I think it's a case of "if you want trained players to come into your band, either find them and train them yourself, or get used to putting out frantic calls for deps for every engagement."

    The band I'm learning with has put consistent effort into recruiting and training players from scratch ever since it was first set up. The band is willing to take on complete beginners, lend them a band instrument, a tutorial book, and provide a lesson every week, free of charge - there are no subs, and all the band asks is that learners show up for their lessons, and practise in between. Once the learners have reached a reasonable standard, they are invited to play with the junior band - and the juniors play three numbers during the main band's interval at concerts three or four times a year. At every concert, the MD makes a point of telling the audience about the opportunities available to anyone who wants to have a go at playing brass, regardless of their age and previous musical training (or total lack of it!) - and, of course, the pieces played by the juniors at main concerts are a perfect way to get that point across.

    Once the learners are up to it, they are also invited to join the improvers' group, where the rehearsals are more demanding, both in terms of the material and the standards of playing they expected to work towards - and later on sit in with main band rehearsals to get to grips with the simpler pieces in the repertoire (then sitting out when the main band work on the fancier stuff), as a stepping stone towards playing with the main band in public.

    Yes, it all takes a lot of commitment from the main band players who work as tutors with the MD (and some of those tutors are still in their teens!), as well as the rest of the band being willing to work with improvers at main band rehearsals; it's demanding in terms of time and effort; and frequently new entrants drop out for a variety of reasons - but enough stay to make it worthwhile.

    To repeat the points I made in the earlier thread to which 2nd Tenor linked:

    The first time that I saw our band play, the MD told the audience that out of (I think) 34 people on stage, all but five of them had learnt to play with the band - and the home grown players include the solo cornet, rep cornet, sop cornet, solo horn, first horn, first trombone and first baritone;
    11 players are still at school (the two youngest have just turned 12), and another 5 are under 30 years old;
    The last time the juniors played we fielded 18 players (ages ranged from about 6 / 7 years old to me at 71!);
    And that tally doesn't include the learners who are working their way up to junior level;
    And the main band is First Section.

    As 2nd Tenor pointed out, there is no quick fix; but I think it's fair to say that any band which doesn't have some sort of training scheme running is pushing it's luck - and I think having the whole band committed to making it work vastly outweighs other considerations, such as what sort of music the band plays, and what their uniforms (if any) are like.

    Best regards,

    2nd tenor likes this.
  9. Joking0220

    Joking0220 New Member

    In public schools the main brass instruments taught, is Trumpet, Trombone ( Bass Clef) , F Horn & Tuba (Bass Clef)
    In the school I work at there are 5 euphoniums in our cupboard, the only problem is the specialists want to teach the orchestral instruments. What a shame
  10. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Because they just don’t come with the exceedingly broad mix of skills needed for the job Music Teachers (as in a Class Room of say thirty Pupils) have a difficult time and are almost set up to fail, well that’s my observation. Throw onto that a reluctance of children to display their less than perfect skills to their peers and an academic system that values achievement but not enjoyment and it’s no wonder that the children don’t engage with playing music. For the player it’s actually jolly hard work learning how to play to a basic level of competence and to get to any kind of decent level it’s exceedingly hard - and it’s very like to be very expensive too.

    The good news is that Brass Bands can be separate from School, can provide a non-judgemental setting, can be low cost (much more easily afforded) and can concentrate on playing for pleasure. Many people actually want to play music for themselves (rather than just listen to pop artists or other professional musicians) and are open to learning how to do so through Brass Bands, from what I regularly see ‘all’ you have to do is find then and teach them.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2018
    Jack E likes this.
  11. rootertooter

    rootertooter New Member

    Thats all well and good, but finding the kids that WANT to play in a brass band rather than the usual interests is the hard thing. If you cant attract them in the 1st place no amount of commitment from senior players will make diddly squat difference.
  12. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    That’s true enough which is why I suggested above that Bands need to seek out best practice in doing that and copy it.
    Jack E and rootertooter like this.
  13. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

    True, but there's little point in getting kids to play if they don't WANT to be there. Quite the opposite as these are the ones that will disrupt those that do.

    Quality is better than quantity. In this respect, the schools dropping brass instruments from their syllabus can actually be a help as it enables the bands to contact the schools and get a foot in the door to teach those kids that want to learn rather than having a pool of forced players surrounding them who don't actually enjoy playing and are liable to leave the band without warning.
  14. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    RooterTooter:- in my post, above, I not only pointed out that it can be done, and is being done - I also offered some constructive suggestions as to how it can be done, all of which are based on successful, practical experience. Do you think that just complaining about how hard it is to attract new players will change matters for a band with empty seats?

    Most potential newcomers aren't going to beat a path to your door; you have to be willing to put the effort into:
    1) finding them;
    2) giving them the support to encourage them to stay;
    3) keep on plugging away at it, knowing that a certain percentage of them will drop out after a while;
    4) when they do, let them go making it clear that there are no hard feelings.

    Some of those who drop out may decide to return later on - but, even if they don't, that means there's one more learner out there who might just pass the word onto somebody else.

    And why do you assume that the only newcomers you can find will be "kids"? Do you think that anyone out of their teens is incapable of learning? Six of the players in our 'junior' band are adults; two of them are returning to playing, but the others (including me) all started learning with our band, from scratch, as adults - and I didn't start until I was 68.
  15. rootertooter

    rootertooter New Member

    JackiE, Ive been involved in Banding since The late 70's and there has been a steady decline in numbers of people wanting to play in Bands, just as there has been a decline in numbers of people wanting to fish, to Morriss dance and many other pastimes.

    It is a cyclical thing, things become popular then become less popular so I am not moaning about it, I was merely stating my thoughts on it (sorry if my experience is different to yours).

    Your 1 - 4 are exactly what Bands have been doing for years, its nothing new.

    Its great that you have started playing at the ripe old age of 68, good for you, also good on the other adult learners, but in terms of longevity (the whole reason for this thread in my opinion) I would suggest that you are unlikely to be parping your Baritone in say 10 , 15 ,20 years. Please dont take that comment as an insult, Im just trying to address your comments realistically.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2018
    Slider1 likes this.
  16. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I know; my band has been doing it for over a century. But it's also common knowledge that many bands which are constantly short of players aren't doing any of them.

    . . . but not necessarily in the opinion of the OP, who wrote "people", not young people.

    So what? The approach taken by my band - which is what drew me in to join them - has been just as effective at drawing in the rest of our learners, the majority of whom are still in primary school.

    If you want to avoid being insulting, you could try writing about me playing my baritone, rather than 'parping' it, and (as I've pointed out to you before) writing my name correctly as Jack, rather than 'JackiE' - as though I was Jade Goodey's idiot mother.
  17. rootertooter

    rootertooter New Member

    But we all parp, anyway I've just cleaned my screen and seen the error with your name. :eek:
  18. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I hope no one minds me butting in here.

    JakeiE ?? Well we also have a slip of the fingers from time to time and then there is ‘auto correct’ which seems to have a mind of its own.

    It’s true that there has been a steady decline in banding and I would say that it started earlier than the late seventies. It’s also true that bands have fought against that decline and done some version of the pionts that Jack suggested, some have been successful and some haven’t. If you go to the other thread and read Andyshep’s post you’ll see that it is most definitely possible to turn a band around and successfully fight the trend. It’s also possible to start a band from scratch with many members who haven’t played before too.

    Edit. I don’t at all doubt that many bands have put the effort in - or felt that they had - and still folded. However, like any other journey, effort without ensuring that it is in the specific and targeted direction required will see you ending up in the wrong place - hard work by its self is not enough.

    I would suggest that Jack has a good chance of still playing in ten years time and very possibly longer, from the people that I come across playing into your late eighties isn’t that unusual - if you’re still breathing and have your faculties then you can play at some level. Youngsters are great to have around and are sort of the future but they aren’t as reliable as older learners. Youngsters very often move out of banding for one reason or another or disappear off to University, etc.

    ‘Parping’, know what you mean in relation to playing and doubtless many folk would describe my and their playing that way too.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2018
    Jack E likes this.
  19. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Not at all, 2nd Tenor!

    Very true - but when Rootertooter replied to another one of my posts, he / she addressed me as Jackie - and the tone of that response was none too polite, either.

    I certainly hope so, 2nd T - my uncle played in an Irish wind band (mix of wind and brass) until well into his eighties, so I'll do my best to follow in his footsteps! And even when I'm not up to playing in a band, I may well be able to make some music, just for my own pleasure - and there's nothing wrong with that.

    With best regards,

    mikelyons likes this.
  20. Joking0220

    Joking0220 New Member

    Heated argument there between "Jack E" and "rooter tooter"
    Doesn't set the best image of the banding world, players will join your bands if you are welcoming and nice, but actions such as these will deter players/learners wanting to join your bands