Brass band from scratch

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Craigsav83, Nov 18, 2004.

  1. Craigsav83

    Craigsav83 Active Member

    What would it take to start a contesting brass band from nothing but players?

    Basically, there are a bunch of us at university (Edinburgh) and no brass bands for our needs - I currently rely on a lift to Dunfermline, most others have played in brass bands before moving to Edinburgh, but find it difficult, time-consuming and expensive to commute twice weekly.

    We have formed an 'interim' committee, and have found interest from about 15 players (good start) ranging from sop right through to tuba and percussion.

    There are also the obvious problems -

    1. Instruments
    2. Music
    3. Most importantly - money.

    Ideally, through the university, we may be able to use their facilities for rehearsal, and they also own a full set of percussion (timps, kit, tubular bells, xylo etc.)

    Firstly, we are looking to see if this project would be financially viable i.e. finding the correct funding, and how to go about things if it is. Secondly, we would need to ensure that it would be a continued success - there is always going to be a natural influx of players every September.

    I'd appreciate any comments of ideas.

    Many Thanks
  2. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    There used to be a City Of Edinburgh brass band conducted by Fred Frayling-Kelly. Maybe if you contacted him (I have seen e-mail links to him online), he might guide you in the the right direction. It's possible that the band may have left their equipment in storage somewhere.
  3. ScrapingtheBottom

    ScrapingtheBottom Active Member

    As you are based at Uni a good example might be the University of Warwick Brass Band who are contesting. Paul Lynch (Lynchie) plays for them and might be able to get some info for you.
  4. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Another option is to contact Napier University's Head Of Brass. He/she may be interested in forming an Edinburgh Collegiate Brass Band. In simple terms, more players and resources.
  5. ScrapingtheBottom

    ScrapingtheBottom Active Member

    Good point,

    there are 3 uni's in Edinburgh I'm sure you could get enough players out of all of them.
  6. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... that's if they are not already playing with bands in West Lothian! :-? .
  7. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    I believe that both Alliance Brass and Zone One Brass based here in London were formed under similar circumstances.
    You could try getting in touch with them (sorry, I don't have any more contact information).
  8. Craigsav83

    Craigsav83 Active Member

    Some good points!

    All the Universities (also Queen Margaret) cater for players - orchesteras, wind bands, jazz bands etc but not a single brass band. I know that Napier discourage 'brass band' instruments in favour of orchestral.

    Everyone I have spoken to about this are currently unattached to any other brass bands (other than myself) hence why the topic arose. They were mostly from brass band areas (i.e. Aberdeen, Ayrshire and Yorkshire etc) and were keen on starting contesting again.
  9. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    That's a shame that Napier has tried to 'raise it's profile' like that. I had mates at Napier years ago and although they didn't have a formal brass band, they got together for recitals and exam purposes (conducting) with the help of a band or two in the region. I think Fred Frayling-Kelly is still living in Edinburgh, and he was the brass instructor there for years (as well as conducting many bands in the area) . I'm sure he will be keen to help!

    Late edit here (20/11) ... the Napier question got me thinking, and please tell me if I'm wrong,... that Sandy Smith qualified on Tenor Horn there years ago (???)
  10. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    As an interim measure to get round the shortage of instruments, you could always transpose onto what you've got. A number of the groups attached to London colleges use french horns as necessary to cover horn & baritone parts, plus a range of different tubas, and it could at least get things started.
  11. kevs67

    kevs67 New Member

    With regard to Craigsav83 - comments

    "Basically, there are a bunch of us at university (Edinburgh) and no brass bands for our needs - I currently rely on a lift to Dunfermline, most others have played in brass bands before moving to Edinburgh, but find it difficult, time-consuming and expensive to commute twice weekly."

    Most of our members either come from or work in Edinburgh and play a good level of banding.

    Contact Newtongrange Band promoted to Championship and just 20 mins south of Edinburgh. We're sure to help and theres a bar in the bandhall!
  12. Owen S

    Owen S Member

    I played in Cambridge while I was there, and the University band has been going about 15 years or so now. They don't contest, other than an appearance or two at Whit Friday, since the shorter terms fit badly. Several people there also played elsewhere, either locally or with their home bands, and you might like to think about setting up first as a non-contesting band to try to get players along who are already playing elsewhere. This also meant that we had some players playing their trumpets in the cornet section, though I believe they've now bought a few instruments (flugel, sop, cornets, baritone, bass IIRC) and it's all cornets. Here's a link in case you want to ask their advice.

    Remember that there will be a big intake of people every year, and while you might have a year short of players, once you have a band up and running, you can get into the freshers' fairs at the start of the year from which you should get plenty of players.
  13. TuTuKu

    TuTuKu Active Member

    I've got a friend at Ed Uni that plays trombone who was interested in joining a band this time last year.. think he's found one now.. not sure what it's called, but if you do set something up he may be willing to play... PM me if you want any more details!
  14. sparkling_quavers

    sparkling_quavers Active Member

    Like it has been said before it would be a good idea to talk to somebody from Uni of Warwick band- David Sait on here is their president I believe.

    I would suggest talking to the University Union- I know when I was President of the Music Soc at Sheffield University, if you had enough interest (can't remember the numbers) you would automatically qualify for basic funding. Now this wasn't very much (infact hardly anything) but once established as a society you can apply for funding/sponsor in a number of areas. The main problem is instruments- you are talking major sponsorship/grants to buy a set or even half a set of instruments. The Music Soc didn't provide any instruments except percussion - where they owned quite a bit of stuff (bought for the society with funds raised). If you start the band up through the University you are alot more likely to get a free/cheap rehearsal venue which is your major starting costs. Then a basic grant/small level sponsorship/funding to get a set of stands, a few sets of music and you are away! Once you are established you can think about contesting.
  15. Craigsav83

    Craigsav83 Active Member

    Many thanks for the advice given - its given me a good idea of how and where to start.

    I hadn't thought about transposing parts - there are a good number of students with trumpets, tenor/french horns, trombones and euphoniums who play in the university wind band. I think the university may also own one EEb tuba - but many of them were happy to play in both bands. This would enable us to start playing possibly as early as January.

    The initial timescale was about a year - we wanted to be ready for contesting perhaps in the 2006 regionals.

    I agree that the university union would be of great help, we have about 15 people interested (from who we spoke to last night), and the potential for more.

    p.s I was a bit ambiguous when I said there are no brass bands to meet our needs - I realise there are many within the Lothians and Fife, Newtongrange is probably the closest - we'd like to restrict ourselves (initially) to fewer engagements - watching out mainly for clashes with exam times.

    Again, many thanks.
  16. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Best of luck with the venture! Also heard that there is a Victorian Brass Band (players playing Period instruments and music) in Edinburgh. Probably run by Arnold Myers (Senior Lecturer in Music, Edinburgh Uni.).

    ... he is also the curator of the university's museum of historical instruments (fascinating collection of various stuff ... went there on a visit to Edinburgh).
  17. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    Why are you bothering trying to start a new brass band in an area which already suffers from "too many bands and not enough players". Look at Broxburn and Livingston just recently. Both good 1st section bands within easy reach of Edinburgh yet they had to amalgamate because neither band had a full complement of players. If you have 15 unattached players then I'm sure there are enough existing bands who will gladly take you on.
  18. Craigsav83

    Craigsav83 Active Member

    I appreciate what you are saying John, but I feel you are missing my point.

    1. The problem is location - Edinburgh does'nt have a brass band, yet 3 universities (plus colleges) that run diploma/degree courses in music. Travelling puts many of these students off - I'm struggling to get to Dunfermline at the moment, if I want to go, I either rely on a lift, or need to go straight from a 5p.m. finish to find public transport (2 buses, a train and a 20 minute walk). Many students are not willing to do this, especially round exam times, hence why there are so many unattached players.

    2. At least 2 of the people I have spoken to have played with some of the local bands (which shall remain nameless) and have been either 'surplus to requirements' or asked not to play at contests - bad or unfair experiances like that have understandably discouraged many from travelling.

    3 As for the not enough players, in Edinburgh that is nonsense! There is an annual influx of pratically hundreds of players every year, not necessary to study music who are looking for a band - take the uni wind band. 20 trumpets/cornets, 6 horns (inc. tenor) 6 euphs 3 tubas etc many from brass band backgrounds.

    Its a supply and demand area. Students are more likely to join a band that is connected in some way to the University they are attending - other bands will benefit in the long term, players will be more likely to source another band after graduation if they move away from the area.
  19. davidsait

    davidsait Member

    Hi there!

    First of all, from one University Brass Band to another - many greetings and best wishes! Warning - this post contains some general rambling as well as some specific points! I'll try not to say again anything that's been said before. It all seems to be good advice.

    Thanks for the honour, sparkling_quavers, but I've not actually been President for a number of years! Our committee runs on a yearly cycle and whilst there is always some carry over, the President usually changes.

    Whilst I have been at Warwick a damn long time, I certainly wasn't around at the inception of the Brass Band; I believe that a more symphonic/10-piece group existed first (formed most probably out of players from the existing Wind Orchestra). With all this in mind, I can't give specifics on how the Brass Band was set up, only my impressions based on how it is run and financed right now. Someone who was around before me and I know was involved in turning it into what it is today (including starting the band off on contesting) is Dr Stu, who I'm sure lurks around here; if you're watching Stu, please speak up!

    Brief background to Warwick: The Brass Band is part of the Brass Society, a Students' Union based Society (which means we have to follow their rules and regulations, but also that we bid to get yearly funding from them), but is also attached to the University Music Centre, who provides us with (amongst other things) rehearsal facilities, percussion, stands, administrative support and occasional funding (I should point out that there is no music degree at Warwick - this is all provided extra-curricular). It is in this way that we have 'two masters', but therefore also two sources of cash.

    Enough rambling. Specifics.

    1. It's great that so far you've got rehearsal facilities, percussion and 15 players. It's a damn good start. Bid to your University and Union for some cash to get music, or even better, borrow it from other bands that you know (in the area and from back home, wherever that is). Warwick are going strong and have a reasonable library, but we're still greatful to both City of Coventry Band and Jaguar (Coventry) Band (amongst others) to lending us music occasionally.

    2. Instruments. A bit harder than music, but I think once again you need to beg, borrow or steal. We've borrowed instruments in the past from a number of bands, including both Easington Colliery and Wantage - so a bit of a geographic spread!

    3. Continued success. For some reasons, this is the exciting part. Yes, until you have the 1st rehearsal of the academic year, you don't know what players you have. We've been lucky - we generally have a full band; occasionally we'll be missing perhaps a 2nd bari, but then we'll have 3 euphs and so someone will need convincing that 2nd bari is one of the best seats in the band!

    4. At Warwick we're all inclusive - if you're a brass-playing student at Warwick you're welcome, nay encouraged, to play with us. This means that at the moment we need to have 3 rows to fit all the cornet players in. This isn't a problem most of the time; it just means that the MD has to disappoint some people at contests. However with 2 a year everyone who wants to gets a go.

    5. Conductors. Spending money on a conductor if you're short of cash is likely to be a low priority. We've done very well indeed (2nd section national finals!) on student and ex-students who've helped us out by conducting.

    Ok, off the top of my head, thats all for now. Feel free to PM, email or IM me anytime (I'm permenantly attached to my computer as part of PhD avoidance), or even contact the current President, Andy Robinson - his email address is (surprisingly)

    Also, take a look at our website: - maybe when you see the fun we have and what we achieve as a University Brass Band it'll spur you on in (what can only be) the right direction!
  20. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    On this point specifically I know of at least two bands in Fife who would not deem any players "surplus to requirements". Any player would be made most welcome at Lochgelly. It's hard enough finding good players that we're hardly likely to turn anyone away. I know travel is always going to be a problem but not more so than any of the other players we have in the band, some of whom travel from Perth or further afield including one who makes a 120 mile round trip to attend rehearsals. At the end of the day it's about dedication. If players are motivated and dedicated enough then they will make the sacrifices; if they are not, then....

    Sorry to sound so negative about this. It's just that I don't believe that another brass band in the area would necessarily be a good idea in the first place, for the reason I outlined in my previous post.

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