Big Problems!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Soppy, Nov 3, 2003.

  1. Soppy

    Soppy Member

    Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
    last night (Sunday) I went to Soham (unfortuantely most people know where that is now :( , but if not, it's in Cambridgeshire, near Ely) for a concert of Soham Comrades band. Big deal I hear you say! But Alan Morrison was guest soloist. Now Soham Comrades are a decent Championship band and the tickets were well priced (£6 adults, £4 concessions), and there were about 50 people there! And with the exception of 5 of us, they were all OAPs.

    Now to me that just shows the problems faced by brass bands in our part of the world. Nobody's interested, especially young people. Even the Brass players at school laugh at me when I say I play in a Brass Band, let alone the others!!!

    To me this just shows that Brass Banding is dying a slow and painful death. I don't know what it's like in other parts, but if it's like here (East Anglia), there's big problems :(
  2. CaharleyFarley

    CaharleyFarley Member

    Stoke on Trent
    It is indeed demoralising when a concert receives a poor turnout.

    However, I tend to disagree that brass bands are dying a death.

    The bands I am involved with, go to great lengths to select good, up to date music to perform. The problem is I think that youngsters today can only relate brass bands to old fashioned marches etc. If they only knew....!

    I am convinced that if bands across the Uk could go into schools during school time and give concerts, these same youngsters would realise that brass bands arn't dinasours, and I think many would get involved.
  3. The Cornet King

    The Cornet King Active Member

    I have to agree and disagree with both of the above on this one.

    Quite a lot of concerts i attend (i am very much from the North) , the vast majority of people tend to be 50+, and a relatively high majorty of those are OAP's.
    Having said that looking at the number of youth bands around, many of which really are prospering it makes me wonder why. :?

    As CaharleyFarley mentioned above, the youth tend to associate brass bands with marches (and i have to say when i played Prague and Revelation to my Uni house mates they were rather shocked!!)

    We have to make the youth aware that playing in a brass band is not an 'old man's' thing but something everyone can enjoy and BE PROUD to do so!! :D :D Most of my most enjoyable times in life have come from socialising with people in the banding world.

    To be able to associate with the young again the bands themselves have to help themselves and pick reasonable programmes so that all can enjoy.
    As far as i can see however, the brass band world is very much flourishing, lets just hope the youth continue to develop, and more and more of them become aware of the delights that Brass bands can offer!! :D
  4. Vickitorious

    Vickitorious Active Member

    I find that as well! I've been to a number of concerts, example- I went to the British Open concert a few weeks ago and there was me (13) and very few other people of my age! :?

    I can't see why some people and mostly young, actually aren't interested because I've been playing the horn since I was 9 and I love it and wouldn't give it up for anything! :D

  5. Kari Anson

    Kari Anson Member

    I am convinced that if bands across the Uk could go into schools during school time and give concerts, these same youngsters would realise that brass bands arn't dinasours, and I think many would get involved.[/quote]

    For my A-Level English coursework I had to write a persuasive piece of writing and I designed a workshop about brass bands, focusing on the local brass band Wem Jubilee Band. The target audience was 11-13 year olds. I researched my area well and obtained a B in A-Level English so perhaps some big authority on brass banding ought to design a presentation that people can go out and present and spread the word - wow this is starting to sound like a religion!
  6. EIBB_Ray

    EIBB_Ray Member

    Iowa - USA
    Then imagine life here in the states - "preaching" brass band is like being a druid in the middle of Rome!

    I do think a lot of popularity is about exposure, and if what you do, or what you're trying to promote doesn't have a currently natural mass appeal (spurred by the media, or whoever) then it's simply a lot of work getting people interested and even more work to get them to show up. Every concert we have, I invite people from work, many of them act interested, some have ven told me they'd come (not even maybe, outright said "I'll be there") and so far, over htree years and no one, 0 zip zilch. It's disheartening, but all you cann do is keep trying, talk to people, get out the posters and flyers and press releases, get the band out to play for schools, and wherever you can. A lot of people get into brass band by being invited by others, so it can (in theory) have an exponential affect (get one person hooked , they get one etc.) it just takes a lot of trys to get that one hooked.
  7. On the other hand, Ray, we have to bear in mind that Brass Banding is still a very recent development in the States. Since 1980, there has been a remarkable growth in interest by players and audiences here. Of course, the majority of Americans still don't know or care a hoot about BB, but our numbers are growing.

    If I may ask a stupid question of the respected and astute readers of tMP:

    What does OAP stand for?
  8. neiltwist

    neiltwist Active Member

    firstly, it's good to see it catching on in the states!

    secondly, OAP - Old Aged Pensioner! ie, someone who has retired!
  9. leisa

    leisa Active Member

    Wakefield, West Yorkshire
    i agree most concerts stockport do are mainly oaps and family watching, however i dont agree that we are a dying breed cos if you go to see the bands at the national youth championships where there are huuuuuuuge youth bands (i think theres about 50 in our senior band alone, 40 in the intermidiate and about 50 in the junior band - and this isn't including poynton band and thats just in the stockport area!!) i think in the majority of places have rather large youth bands! :)
  10. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Hadleigh, Essex
    It is very true that people often have a very out-dated view of banding, and the sort of repertoire to expect at a band concert. Equally, once people do come, they always seem to be pleasantly surprised, and I often come across people who say "So-and-so should have come tonight - they would have really enjoyed it".

    One way of bringing in a captive audience is by arranging joint concerts with other instrumental or vocal groups, and if each brings its own supporters then it may well be that in the future they may want to attend each other's concerts. Such events may need some compromise in terms of repertoire, and it may not seem as immediately satisfying from the band's point of view, particularly if all the usual soloists are unable to do their party tricks etc, but it should be good investment for the future, especially if some sort of joint item can be included: this should also mean that there has been some sort of contact between the groups beforehand to rehearse, which can help break down the "them and us" feeling that can pervade at such events.

    Equally, I think we have to know what sort of audience we are targetting. A typical "village hall" audience (not wanting to offend anyone, but I'm sure you'll know what I mean) wold not expect to hear a programme full of intricate test pieces, although one or two original works should be programmed, especially if they are introduced in such a way that the audience will have a better understanding of what the music is trying to achieve; equally, an audience of brass band afficianados is likely to be disappointed if all they hear are a succession of pot-boilers - lollipops, no matter how stylishly played, do not provide a balanced diet, either nutritionally or musically!

    We also have to accept that, for the majority of people, their lives are so busy that they are unlikely to travel miles to hear a band concert, unless it is going to be exceptional. It is difficult to fill a hall even for bands such as Black Dyke and YBS, certainly in our neck of the woods, so maybe smaller, more localised occasions, with bands from the surrounding area to reduce travellings costs etc, are a better way forward.
  11. jackyboy

    jackyboy New Member

    Warsop, Notts
    It has to be said that our movement is not attracting a younger audience.
    Brass band music has moved on from the days of march, overture and selection but unfortunatly our audience is still the same. Youngsters dont realise that we do try and cover modern music. All that seems to happen is the older generation dont like the modern stuff and they stop comming to listen as well. How do we attract a younger audience ?
  12. Jo Elson

    Jo Elson Member

    We don't get young people coming to listen to concerts much.
    We had an army band (i think, it was bout 4yrs ago) come to my secondary school and the musicians had workshops and at the end of the day we got to do a concert with them to the whole school. It was great fun and the rest of the school loved it too. The choice of music helped, but they did demonstrations like the the mouthpiece in a chair leg etc. Even though we don't get many young people listening to us we do have many young people in the band.So maybe it's not as interesting if you don't play, sitting there quietly for a coulpe of hours?
  13. asteria

    asteria Member

    Do you not think that part of the reason the audiences are full of OAPs is because they're the ones with loads of time on their hands? The last thing most people want to do in their precious few hours away from work is go and sit in a band concert, sad but true.

    Agreed though, younger generations need to be attracted to concerts by making them more entertaining and audience-friendly.
  14. iggmeister

    iggmeister Member

    It is interesting to read the comments made that since there is a good deal of youth bands around that the audience potential should increase. In reality that doesn't happen.

    I dont really tend to go to concerts put on by other bands in my area. Why should I? I spend a lot of time rehearsing and playing with my own band. I like to do other things as well. Other bands are the same- I dont see members of their bands coming to listen to our concerts. Probably the same reasons why.

    As regards a younger audience, we are always going to struggle. As long as we are labelled with the flat cap and whippet image we will struggle. Playing pop arrangements isnt enough.

    I had a conversation with somebody the other day who said that bands in Norway can attract younger audiences, i.e. people in their 20's and 30's as opposed to 50's and 60's. Why is that? Perhaps some of our Norwegian or other European members can comment on this.

    It might bethe music, but I reckon it is because it is relatively new in those countries and that they have marketed it right, i.e. new music is only part of the solution.

    The people in the US may be able to comment on this also.

    I know we have to respect where we have come from but the movement needs a rocket from somewhere or things will only get worse.


    PS No disrespect intended to anybody in their 50's or 60's who regularly attend concerts. Rather I thank you for your continued support and helping us keep alive!
  15. Lotta

    Lotta Member

    West Midlands
    Dont you think that some of the o.a.p's in the audience played in brass bands when they were young so every year, a new set of o.a.p's join the audience as they are too old to play in bands? (I'm not saying there's an age limit before anyone slates me!!) :oops:

    Just think... there'll be a time when we're sitting in the audience thinking 'Oohh... I remember in my day when we used to play cock up your beaver! What fun we had!' :lol:
  16. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    Southport, Lancashire
    I agree that the 'flat cap and whippet' image is difficult to shake (and got reinforced by Brassed Off, good film though it was). This is why I cringe every time someone suggests putting the Floral Dance on a concert programme, to me it symbolises everything we should be trying to get away from!
    I don't think this problem is confined to brass bands, classical concerts have the same trouble appealing to a younger audience (unless there's a large concentration of music students in the vicinity - hence the rise of 'crossover' groups/singers like Vanessa-Mae and Bond.
    Is brass bands playing more pop music the answer?
  17. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    Rockhampton, Qld, AUSTRALIA
    Wow, I am sooo glad this topic came to the top!!! This is where I need some advice myself. Oh, and please excuse any's rather late.... :?

    We in Australia do try to follow the standard brass band guideliones. Trumpets not cornets, Tubas in Treble, horns are in Eb not F and so forth.... We also (well in Qld, anyway) have this amazing Instrumetnal music system in the schools, where kids can learn to play woodwind, brass percussion or strings.

    Now these days, a large majority of the kids coming intp brass banding are from thsi system, which is modelled from the US Concert Band methods. Trombone in BC, horns in F, tuba players not being flexible and trumpets galore. Some teachers go so far as to say kids with hand-me-down cornets or brass bandies who prefer their cornets need to spend $1000 on a trumpet. Also, Education Qld (the government department) has decreed that teachers shall be multi-instrumentalists.

    Now as a conductor of a junior brass band I get stuck with trying to find cornets for trumpet players, convincing some of these kids that euphonium or tenor horn are fun too, and having to transpose tuba parts into a standard BC (which for me isn't too tough, I am a tuba player). The kids are being taught with bad habits as the teachers tend to be woodwind majors (euphonium on right hip????????) and as these kids filter in senior band, the standard attition hits harder because less brass kids are allowed to come through as younger ones (trying to maintain balanced school bands) give up when they get to high school and only the extra comitted continue on.

    Can ANYONE suggest anything about this? My most recent decision has been to drop the band back a grade promote 99% of the junior band, and start the jr band again. If you need to contact me to tell me off for something you think is completely stupid, feel free to email me at

    thanks guys
  18. Blot

    Blot New Member

    This has been a topic since I first started with a brass band in 1976. It's nothing new, but, I must say, it remains an issue for those who love brass bands and perform in them.

    The truth is that brass bands and their music is completely stereotyped - cloth capped miner playing umpah music and workin' down pit. We know this isn't the case, of course, but it is so easy for us to "play" along with this image and why Soppy hears people laugh when found to be associated to this image.

    There are many reasons for the proliferation of this "old" image. For example; take the programme of your last concert. Look at it from a music lovers perspective rather than as a brass performer, ie. I like playing this stuff or the conductor's "this is a good filler". Does it stand up to close scrutiny? If ClassicFM is the most popular independent music station in the World, with a significant percentage of its listeners under 30, and classical music more popular than ever, how can we bemoan our dwindling concert numbers without questioning what we play, how we look, who we involve, and how we market / portray ourselves.

    There is no easy answer. Park jobs, Christmas carolling, and such like are for many bands their only income and demand the stereo-typed image. But what little things are we doing to shift that image to attract more than 50 people?

    [ Just a small piece of history that may help Soppy feel better - I played with a band that was current British Open Champs with only 7 people in the audience and 3 of them we brought with us! ]
  19. A J Foad

    A J Foad Member

    Part of the problem the brass band faces in terms of audience figures, is that it is not taken seriously by the so called 'musical establishment'. By that, I'm talking about the type of people who turn out to musical concerts for the enjoyment of listening to good music. Some of these people will gladly listen to a third rate orchestra struggling through Mozart 40 or whatever, but would not be seen dead listening to one of our many top class bands perform. Why....? Is it that the brass band marketing machine is virtually non-existent? Do these people have a pre-conceived idea that they won't like the brass music? The success of Classic FM in drawing in a young or new audience has been mentioned. Great! It's fabulous for the promotion of 'non pop' music, but brass band music is still out in the cold. Why do they never play band music? Why aren't banders lobbying in their droves for a bit of recognition? Surely if the great music which has been written for bands gets a bit of recognition some people may want to listen to it at a concert?

    We seem to be content with the attitude that only brass banders want to listen to bands and grumble that it's all the bandsmen's fault for not supporting the concert in the nearby town when only 20 people turn up!

    As for the age of the audiences - there are, as we know loads of young brass enthusiasts - they're just all in band practice of course....!
  20. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    South London
    Unfortunately I can't remember the last time I heard a brass band on Classic FM. And even Radio 2 seems to have abandoned us!
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