Bridging the Gap - Junior Band to Main Band

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Jack E, Sep 16, 2017.

  1. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I've just worked my way up to playing with the training band, and the main band moved up to first section this year. Having listened to some concert pieces the main band is working on, and having listened to some first section test pieces, the gulf between the two seems to dwarf the Grand Canyon.

    Any of you who are playing in a main band must have been through this transition - so how did you manage it?

    Jack
     
  2. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Hello Jack, just came in for a brew and rest from working in the garden but have to be back there before long so it's a brief first answer.

    With your main band being 1st section standard more than half the folk who play anywhere now would be forever parked in its training band - they'd be good enough for 4th, 3rd and 2nd section but wouldn't be good enough to make that leap to 1st either. The solution is simple, folk either join another band or happily play in the training band as is. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the standard of the training band was at a contesting level in its own right.

    Be happy, continue to make progress and be sure that in time opportunities will present themselves or be discovered. Consider what the progress time is, for an capable youngster, to pass from entry to leaving on an end chair or joining the local county youth band. Influenced by a higher age at entry, etc., my guess is three to five years, it's hard enough to plan three months ahead with much certainty never mind years ahead - think about all that's happened in the last three years and how much of it you could actually control and plan for. Finally don't look at music and think I could never do that 'cause it ain't necessarily so; as with most other things in life if you work at something then over the years progress will be made - though not always in a linear way - and you will be able to do things that once were seemingly impossible. 1st section playing may well be within what is possible for you to (eventually) progress to.

    Edit. I returned from my chores when light stopped play and modified/enhanced the above text.

    Further edit. It's also worth remembering that at some point the main band will be short of a player for some concert or park job, etc., and when you're capable of stepping in to help you might have chance to play with the main band on a temporary basis - good for the ego and for gaining experience. As a more general comment progress into the next group up might be eased by a change of instrument to fill an otherwise empty chair - I appreciate that it's not possible or practical for some people to do that. I'm a Trombone player but played Cornet, Horn and Tuba as a youth, a similar adaptability might assist someone hoping to make that step up.

    After a night's sleep the above was added and some of the text in the main body was further refined.

    HTH, 2T
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017
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  3. Fettler

    Fettler New Member

    Just work your,way up to the top of your section in the training band and then hop over to the bottom of your respective section in the main band as and when a vacancy arises and start to progress again.
    You may need to be patient for a vacancy to arise, but eventually in the main band young folk will move on to university or new jobs and the old ones will die. Every cloud has a silver lining.
     
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  4. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Firstly, thank you both for your encouragement, and for taking the time to give a detailed reply.

    I think I'd be reluctant to move to another band altogether. The people in this one have given me such a lot of support through some very sticky patches when I was recovering from heart surgery and severe breathing problems - and particularly at times when I felt I was going backwards rather than forwards - that it feels more like being part of a family than just "people I share a hobby with". I also have a great deal of respect for their attitude, and the way that many individuals within the band see a really difficult passage not as "something I can't do" but as "something I'll have to work at until I crack it".

    Last week, the main band had a visiting conductor (one who often judges at contests), who did a training session with them last year. This time, he commented on the way the band had come on as a whole since his previous visit, and the tremendous improvement in the overall sound. At the end, he said "You sound like a first section band."

    Obviously, I'm in no position to judge that, but even I've noticed the huge improvement over the last year in some of the younger players in particular - some of them not long out of primary school. So I suppose my gut feeling is that I want to be taught by people who see 'working for continual improvement' as normal.

    As for the current standard of the training band, it varies a heck of a lot. Some are people who played regularly in the past, but a long time ago, and are getting back into it; some, like me, are late starters; and some look about 6 or 7 years old, and have only been playing for a few months - so I think we have a way to go before we think about contesting in our own right! :)

    All the same, I think that this suggestion from 2nd Tenor is worth bearing in mind:
    . . . because, if we keep working at it, our standard of playing will continue to improve (especially if I can learn to play ff without chipping notes!), and we have already played in public, during the main band's intermission when they put on a concert in the park.

    And I found this reminder from Fettler helpful, too:
    . . . as I've noticed our MD will often get players from the junior band and have them attend main band rehearsals when he thinks they are ready for it, so as to ease their transition to a higher level - even if they aren't yet up to playing in public with the main band.

    Thank you both, and best regards,

    Jack
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017
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  5. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    This is a common difficulty in bands where the 'main' band is of decent standard. Various sensible ideas have been mooted here; I note that you are keen not to move, which would be my first suggestion, and what I would encourage a developing player in any training band that we might found to do (we talk about it from time to time, but nobody has the time to organise it... We really should, it's bad karma not to.). Another (longer-term) option for the band is for it to expand its training scheme further, to bring on the training band to the point where it fills the gap and another lower-level training band can be created below it.

    By the by, I was just trying to work out which band it is, but couldn't puzzle it out. I remember from earlier posting that you're in Cumbria, I think, or did I get that wrong? There are no current 1st section bands in Cumbria, so I'm suspecting I probably have misremembered. Dearham maybe, whose most recent contest entry was in the 1st section? But they last competed in 2010.
     
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  6. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I hadn't thought of that, but I can see it as a possibility. As I mentioned above, some in the junior band are people who played to a decent standard in the past, and are now getting back into playing regularly after a long lay-off. I can easily see a small nucleus forming around those better players which, even if there weren't enough to form a full band, could work as a small ensemble, and form a stepping stone to the main band that you suggested.

    Have sent you a PM.

    Many thanks for your constructive suggestions, and with best regards,

    Jack
     
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  7. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if the leaders of your band had already considered something along those lines. However it risks both fragmenting the lower Band and diverting limited resources - there are only so many things that can be focussed on at any one time - the situation has complexities. In any mixed ability band (such as some non-contesting bands and training bands) the best players pull on the weaker ones and without that pull the weak will likely flounder - the way players inter-react isn't straight forward - however the stronger players benefit from developing that mass of supportive sound under and around them too. Quite a tricky balancing act to manage, I suspect.

    Mellingriffith (City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) Brass Band | The Oldest Band in Wales) is an example of a successful contesting band that has multiple bands playing below it, IIRC there are others who have similar schemes.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017
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  8. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Good point; the main band does a number of Christmas concerts, where the programme is Christmas carols and songs meant for the audience to sing to - and those pieces tend to be simpler and played at slower tempos than even the general concert programmes. I can see that as a practicable possibility, which would be a stretch - but not a stretch too far.
    I have thought about that possibility; it always seems to me that bands tend to have barely enough to fill one section, but more than enough in another one - and I know several players in our main band who have made a change of instrument to fill gaps, and who have done very well, both for themselves and the band. A while back, when I was having severe breathing problems, I switched from baritone to tenor horn - and the hardest bit was adapting from Bb to Eb, rather than the smaller mouthpiece and different embouchure!

    I dunno about trombone, though. Where I sit at the back, the trombones are sideways on to me, so I can see their slides whizzing in and out like a fiddler's elbow - and having to stop at the exact spot, every time, or they play a duff note? Sheeeeeshhhh . . . :eek:

    I have enough problems coping with three valves! :D

    With best regards,

    Jack
     
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  9. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    That's true - but the training band is already quite a size, and there are more new learners on the way up, so it could well reach a point where it could get unwieldy, and a split into two subsections might actually help. Having spoken about this to members of other bands, we seem unusually well off for the number of new learners joining. I'm sure a lot of that is down to the level of support given to them in the way of tutoring and general encouragement by main band players, including some who are still of school age themselves.
    That I can believe!
    Thank you for the tip - I'll see what I can find out about them.

    With best regards,

    Jack

    (off now to practise breathing exercises suggested by the visiting conductor last week, and see how that improves my long notes!)
     
  10. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    The traditional solution to the problem is to just get on and play a lot of duff notes...

    Re Melingriffith and their multiple bands:
    Here's some more banding organisations with multiple-band structures if you're collecting info:
    Wantage Silver - perhaps the largest of any? Where I learned to play, incidentally.
    Ratby Co-op
    Brisbane Brass

    And here is one of the most interesting 'B band' situations you'll run across:
    Kirkintilloch: what do you do when both 'senior' band and 'B' band are solid championship section outfits?
     
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  11. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    There is such a thing as giving away trade secrets ................ :)

    The gap is even stiffer if the main band is a Championship Section one and there is only one 'training' band. From my little overlap with a local Championship Section Band I do know of youngsters who have bridged that gap, and in their early to mid teens too.

    I've found that one of the best ways to progress is to visit other bands and then dep for them. It could help you by introducing you to other players - sometimes you even end up sitting next to a helpful expert who's also deping - and types of music, developing your site reading skills and helping you get used to public performance. There is no claim on my part to be a good player, I'm not but have improved a whole lot to reach my current level of inadequacy.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017
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  12. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    I've seen and been frustrated where a main band encourages training players into the ranks (imo) before they're ready. This prevents the main band from being able to progress as music is chosen to try and suit the weakest link. You end up with a compromise where the experienced players aren't challenged and the less-experienced are still out of their depth.
    You end up with a band that may have all seats covered, but few members are being musically satisfied and the music quality is as you'd expect. Attracting new, experienced players also becomes more difficult because they will likely not want to be in a band which is held back by the relative novices.
     
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  13. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I can see that as being a potential problem - and an easy trap to fall into - but it certainly isn't the case with my band. And, as I pointed out, above, improving players in the junior band start moving upwards by being invited in to rehearse with the main band on hymns and simpler pieces at the start of main band rehearsals, and then sitting out when the main band moves onto more complex stuff. This gives them practise at playing more challenging pieces, and with better players, but doesn't hold back the main band at all. And I think the fact that a contest adjudicator said "You sound like a first section band!" confirms that even their concert programme is far from being 'lowest common denominator' pieces.

    With best regards,

    Jack
     
  14. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I'm already doing that, Dave! :oops:

    And thanks for the tips on Wantage, Ratby and Brisbane Brass.

    In a town with a population of less than 20,000 people? Well, okay, they probably draw lots of players from Glasgow, but that is still pretty damn impressive!

    With best regards,

    Jack
     
  15. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Some youngsters I've seen in action are quite astonishing - even when they're not old enough to leave school; and training band to championship is a heck of a jump.

    Certainly something for me to think about over the next few months, 2T, and thank you for the suggestions. At the moment, I'm waiting for the MD to sort me out a baritone, to see if my lungs are up to playing one again (not that I dislike the sound of the tenor horn that I swapped to last spring, but the baritone is my first love). If I can, I'll have a few months to get into it again before the junior band will be playing in public (probably around Christmas), and I'll give the whole matter some thought in the New Year.

    With best regards,

    Jack
     
  16. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    Sounds like your band have got it right Jack. Most importantly, it sounds like everyone's expectations have been set correctly.
     
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  17. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Indeed - it's a very difficult balancing act, especially if the stronger players in that group are carrying the less developed ones.
    As someone who will (from time to time) help out non-contesting/training bands of a fairly low standard - that's some of the hardest graft you'll ever do with a brass instrument, you have to carry lines when everyone else can't (even if you're knackered) or the audience suffers.
    Imagine being in that situation all the time, though, and having to play music that isn't especially stimulating your personal improvement (because most of the band can't play them)... sure, if you're playing in a higher-training band (for want of a better name) or with the main band, you might feel okay about carrying on with the training band and helping to pull the weaker ones along - but if that's the only playing available to you?

    Personally, I don't see an issue with players moving on to different bands that provide a step-up without being such an enormous chasm (such as between a training band and a 1st or championship section main band!)... the players themselves will improve much more quickly and in most cases will still always feel an attachment to the band that started them off - they might come back, they might not, but banding as a whole is the beneficiary of players continuing to improve and growing the pool of available players.

    I've known bands who seem almost cult-like with the levels of posessive attachment to their training band players - I don't think that's helpful to banding a whole, and I don't think it's particularly conducive to encouraging those players to return to that band (to help or otherwise) later on in life.
     
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  18. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    I can't say I've seen any jump directly from training band to championship section unless the training band was an unusually high standard (equivalent to second section or so) - I've seen a fair few continue with a particular championship bands training band and at the same time play for other 2nd/3rd section bands and get some extra experience (and contest experience) before ending up at that championship band though.
     
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  19. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I think so; at a concert last winter, there were about 32 players on stage, and the MD told the audience that all bar five of them had started with our band. As there are plenty of other bands within easy travelling distance, I think that gives a good indication of how happy the players feel with the set-up.

    With best regards,

    Jack
     
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  20. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I can well believe that would be pretty disheartening - but it certainly isn't a problem I've noticed in either section of our band, nor have I heard anyone complaining about feeling that way.
    I don't have an issue about moving to another band, per se - it's more a question of me not wanting to lose touch with the friends that I've made where I am. At the moment, I don't feel as though I'm being held back, nor that I'm holding anyone else back. If that situation does arise, then I'll consider either moving to another band altogether, or sitting in with another band from time to time. Looking at the way the junior band is shaping up, though, and looking at how many new learners are moving towards playing with the junior band, I think it quite likely that the juniors will split into an upper and lower section in teh forseeable future - in which case I may not need to move at all.
    I wasn't aware that some bands have that attitude; my present band is the only one I've ever had contact with, so my experience is very limited - but I agree that such a dog-in-the-manger attitude is unlikely to create loyalty on the part of the players, and will probably cause more problems for the band in question than it solves.

    With best regards,

    Jack
     
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