Bridging the Gap - Junior Band to Main Band

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

  1. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    One person's experience does not always match another's so we can both be right. If the bands concerned are happy to support each other then I think such arrangements benefit all concerned. As a teenager I played in a youth band and whilst I didn't make the grade those people who played in the end chairs seemed to, the Band Master would tell us about the various people that had left us and moved directly to join a Championship level Band. Locally what I've seem is what I've seen, there will always be a few that make the grade and there's no shortage of bands happy to take those who don't quite make it. The biggest problem is keeping the youngsters playing; there are so many other demands on their time, etc., and it's also important to support the weaker player: not all can play at the highest level but we and they surely must come to terms with that and take pleasure in their achievements.

    For those in training bands then, subject to ability and local agreements, etc., I'd suggest visiting others and deping for them was a good idea. Indeed, even if you have outgrown them, supporting a training band is a good idea in that it's both good for society and you'd be surprised what's there (musical and other) to be learnt, rediscovered or just seen from an alternative perspective.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
    Jack E and 4th Cornet like this.
  2. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Quoted for truth. Such bands tend to either retain the players they train for life or see them leave in determined fashion, suffocated by the attitude. Bands that act this way are not being functional parts of the local banding scene.
    Kiz7, Jack E, Tom-King and 2 others like this.
  3. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    It's hard not to agree with the above - probably just wrong too - but one thing to remember is the social change brought about by so many going off to University. Leaving home at eighteen for University is almost universal, well this is if we just consider able young bandsmen/women. As such there is almost an automatic break in which they play for someone else or stop playing. Some bands might be possessive of their youth and others that they have brought on but less so or worse if someone isn't up to contest standard ......

    Sorry Jack, I appear to be diverting your thread to make a point. I'll try to get back to your OP now.
    Jack E likes this.
  4. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    In my opinion, the great thing about banding is its diversity both in terms of background, talent and ability (the 3 often go hand-in-hand, although not always so)

    In an ideal world you would have a natural progression route for most bands through a beginner group, to full training band, to junior contesting band, to Senior (or A band), with players often jumping between levels (or reaching their ceiling and stopping there). However I appreciate that the majority of bands don’t have the resource (in terms of finance and people to train and coach the developing players, as well of course the developing players themselves). I can also see why bands are reluctant to lose players that they have poured so much time and effort into, although I don’t necessarily agree with it – I never have gone along with the “Poaching” idea. Whilst some bands are unwelcome with their (sometimes) persistent approaches to players, all bar perhaps the very youngest do have a tongue in their heads and are quite capable of saying yes or no.

    I’ve been in bands that have refused to speak to me for years because I’ve left to go elsewhere, and others that have actively encouraged developing players to move on. On a personal level I have never stood in anyones way if they want to move, and only get annoyed if I’m told an outright lie as to why they are leaving (when I know the actual truth behind it).

    I would always recommend that players do as much depping etc as they want to do, indeed can realistically do, bearing in mind the constraints of other commitments. Obviously if you are a member of a band then they should come first in the event of a clash – but otherwise the more playing time you get in, generally the better you become (especially as a developing player). My 10 year old son is a member of our local town band here in Norfolk and also its training band – but he’s also played for my wife’s band, a couple of local ensembles, has been on tour to Germany with a band from Oxfordshire and also played with the North Midlands Youth Band – all during the course of this year. His network of “band friends” has increased enormously to the point that he’s now considered a player in his own right rather than our son for many organisations and we’re often asked if he can come and play

    Having gone round the houses to Jack’s original post – Jack I have my suspicions of who your band is based on the clues given (although may be wide of the mark) and if I’m correct I do know that you’ll get a lot of encouragement there. However I’d perhaps “put yourself about” a bit as well to develop your own playing – you can still remain a member of your band organisation but it should help your playing develop quicker. I also wonder whether its worth sitting in some rehearsals with the main band – either to just listen or play bits and pieces. It will certainly give you a new perspective, and will give you an idea of the remaining “jump” to that level. If that’s not possible then perhaps look and see what else is around you either alongside or instead of – there will be a group somewhere that will help “push” you but not too far and too fast

    Good luck
    Jack E and 2nd tenor like this.
  5. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Not at all; as far as I'm concerned, threads are (and should be) friendly discussions, rather than being as rigidly confined as a text book. For myself, I've found this thread has thrown up many useful and helpful suggestions - and even if I don't follow up on them all, there's no harm done. As I said above, the band I'm learning with is the only one I've had any contact with, so I have very little idea on what goes on elsewhere - and some of the 'diversions' have been of great interest!

    Even your last post makes a valid point which I hadn't really thought about; with so many of our main band players being in their teens, inevitably many will be going to university, or finding jobs in another part of the country (or the world, as some have done) in the next few years, and that will create spaces which need to be filled.

    No need to apologise, 2T :) - and best regards,

  6. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    (my emphasis, Jack)
    That's another helpful point which has come out of this thread; that, even if I never get good enough to play with our main band, there's no reason I can't move on to a higher level than our junior band - either by a junior contesting band being formed where I am, or by playing with another band as well.
    It does seem astonishing that a band can be so petty minded - but I had exactly the same treatment when I was in a motorbike club, and after having a series of small / average / mediocre bikes for years, bought myself a Harley-Davidson! One bloke in particular behaved like a 3 year old brat, throwing a tantrum because another kid had got a shinier toy than him - even though he could have afforded a Harley much more easily than I could! And they had no idea why I stopped going there . . . :rolleyes:

    In any case, even if a band manages to retain a player by emotional blackmail, are they really dumb enough to think that he or she will give of their best? The truism of Nelson's time, that "one volunteer is worth ten pressed men" is just as valid today.
    Although I haven't played anything with the main band, I do go along to all their rehearsals, and have, as you say, learnt a great deal from doing so - not least that it puts my tutors' advice into context. Seeing the main band rehearsing, I get to understand exactly why I need to learn each of the skills that my tutors pass on to me, and what the impact can be on the overall sound of the band if I get any of them wrong.

    Re. your point about the encouragement you thought I would get from the band; it was one of my tutors and one of the players made the suggestion that I attend main band rehearsals, and the MD and the rest of the band have always made me very welcome, and gone out of their way to answer my many questions.
    Thank you, Paul, and best regards,

    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
    Euphonium Lite likes this.
  7. UncleStreaky

    UncleStreaky Member

    Hitchin Band and Hitchin Youth Band had a similar situation recently as the main band went from 3rd to 1st section in a couple of years.

    The range of abilities with youth band is also from near beginner to advanced so lots to think about to keep everyone interested and challenged at the right level.

    We started with a spin off advanced group within the youth band with older students going off to a breakout room to develop some more challenging ensemble pieces for part of the rehearsal time, allowing us to support the more junior players in the main room and both groups would join together again at the end. The advanced group now has its own spot in concerts and players at all levels can see progression.

    The we changed youth band rehearsals once a month to play more advanced pieces for the whole rehearsal with players from senior band sitting to make up numbers. This really helped to start bridge the gap.

    More recently we have set up a community band where all players are welcome. The more advanced youth players come along, supported by senior band players and we have also seen a lot of new players joining this group. It has effectively become an intermediate standard band and bridges the gap. Hitchin Community Brass currently meets once a month, sometimes more if there is a concert, but it keeps everyone engaged and creates more opportunities to play. The experience has so far been very positive.

    None of this was a quick fix solution, it took time to evolve according to what was needed at the time and is dependent on volunteer support and goodwill to make it work, but so far so good.
    4th Cornet and Jack E like this.
  8. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    This is the type of example that other bands should take note of. Bands need players of similar standards to thrive. Where different abilities exist, creating having separate bands is the ideal way to go. An eye needs to be kept on the end vision because it doesn't happen overnight. Baby steps...
    Jack E likes this.
  9. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I see your several points and mostly concur. On thriving what a band surely needs is happy satisfied players; for some individuals playing to a similar high 'standard' will matter yet others won't be much fussed by playing simple stuff in support of those less able. Attitudes and perspective influence whether a player is happy and those can be addressed by comments from the MD and Committee (Edit. a form of managing expectations) ; those that play in several groups/bands can also enjoy being both more and less challenged by the variety that they offer. If music is easy then challenge yourself to play it even more perfectly and, subject to it being welcome and needed, offer support to the player next to you ...... I seem to remember someone playing back row Cornet so that she could help her own child in a similar way.

    The idea of having a split rehearsal seemed very helpful to me. Have the stronger members of the training band join the senior band for (perhaps the first) half of the rehearsal and select pieces accordingly, I feel sure that that can be practical. Over this last summer I've tried to listen to bands playing in parks as well as playing in them too. One thing that I noticed was the use of the same piece by bands of very different skill levels, obviously the written music was the same for each band but the delivery wasn't.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
  10. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    All good points; indeed there are many players who are happy to push themselves within the bounds of their current band and much satisfaction can come (for some people) from helping others develop.

    Different players have different needs which is why it's important for each band to decide where it pitches itself and what it has to offer. I come across bands that haven't done that resulting in mis-set expectations and resultant frustrations.
    2nd tenor likes this.
  11. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Whilst away from my computer the thought struck me that I hadn't been clear about expectations and that you had rightly flagged up their importance earlier. I came back intending to clarity my post [ and for completeness have, see: (Edit. a form of managing expectations) ] but in the meantime you, quite correctly, pointed out the need for having common expectations. IMHO Banding is about team work, but as is life some folk just don't get that there is no 'i' in team and forget the sacrifices of others who supported them in their own progress.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
    4th Cornet likes this.
  12. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I was out playing last night and struck up conversation with faces new to me in the interval, by chance they reminded me of an old story. Two old players are sitting listening to a youth band and marvelling at the difficulty of the pieces and what the young folk are achieveing. When the chance arises they 'collar' the Conductor and ask him how he/she gets such music out of such weak and inexperienced players. "Simple" he/she says "I don't tell them it's difficult and 'cause they don't know any better they just get on and play it".

    Well the above might or might not be wide of the mark but never underestimate young people ..... or older learners too.
    Jack E likes this.
  13. Mello

    Mello Active Member

    It has been good to hear of so many successes and the training/feeder/junior band working well with their senior/main band , as there can be problems when the jnr band gets too proficient !

    I have personally experienced this ..with more than one band , in different parts of the country.

    Too good seems a strange description , but problems arose , which eventually caused a break away and even open hostility . A couple of reasons were, as there were no vacancies in the snr band , the jnrs kept getting better , growing together as a tight unit.
    Both bands had the same secretary who played in the Snrs, and his children in the jnrs.....when concert invitations came into the Snrs, he often diverted , suggesting the Jnrs would be more suitable ....or saying the Snrs were previously booked elsewhere - kind of thing . Naturally resentments grew..
    Another situation was the lack of co-operation in sharing the bandroom....particularly getting near contests.. the Jnrs couldnt use it on ? night as the Snrs needed it & vice versa - so one of the bands would have to hire a room...the band organisation actually owned their own band hall. The better the Jnrs began to enter more and more contests , the more rehs etc & the more arguments.
    Things really came to a head when both Snrs & Jnrs were both competing nationally & couldnt help each other due to registration rules. Specially when the Snr bnd was short - as some members reacted angrily that the 'purpose of the training band was to feed the Snrs .
    A strange situation arose when a young Snr player wanted to transfer to the Jnr /Training band to be with his girlfriend ,a front row player in the Jnrs.
    When both Bands had their own Bank A/counts ....External Fund raising event profits were apparently diverted ...and in short ..with so many hassles....both organisations broke away from each others training bands .
    Then the problem got worse....who or which owned the library ? ( they used to share the music ) , and more seriously ...which band owned the instruments ...Timpani /Xylo /Basses etc. as both bands initially raised money together to purchase the equipment.

    A sorry tale...friendships were broken and the two outfits didnt even speak to their ex partner bands.

    So it seems the most important thing to do when first starting a jnr training band is to set out hard and fast rules which could save great hardship and heartbreak in future if needed...
    Be very careful about the fundamentals //officers etc to avoid the above.

    It hurt me to see and experience it first hand ...and specially when I had to make a choice when the split came, as to which band I should stay with..I had friends in both ...I had NOT been involved in anyway except as a player....and both Snr & Jnr band were already established when I joined .This applied in Both Band organisations I was attached to.

    I only post this ...NOT to discourage starting jnr /training bands, but in the hope the above situations can be avoided by acting early & setting off on the right foot. I wish youGood Luck and Good Fortune, Mello
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
    Jack E and 2nd tenor like this.
  14. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I think I can deduce one of those situations, Mello...

    Seems to me it's as you explicitly say about getting the rules about how the groups interact sorted out clearly in advance. But also there's a strong implication there that bears pulling out explicitly - difficult personalities can make any situation bad.
    Jack E, 2nd tenor and Mello like this.
  15. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Gosh - I'm glad I started this thread!

    I had no idea it would bring in so many thoughtful and practicable suggestions and ideas from so many posters - both as to how a transition from training band to main band can be made easier, and also as to how problems might arise, and how best they can be nullified.

    The steps followed by Hitchin Band, as describe so clearly by Uncle Streaky, aren't just workable, but also adaptable to a variety of situations in different bands - but the principles he outlines take into account the points made by 2nd Tenor and 4th Cornet:

    1. the need for the support of all members of the main band, the MD and the committee;
    2. allowing for the fact that some players want to strive for as close to perfection as they can possibly get, whilst others are happy to attain a reasonable level of proficiency, and enjoy being there;
    3. setting up lessons, rehearsals and performances so that learners and lower level players are actively encouraged to go a bit beyond their comfort zone, but without feeling pushed too far and / or too fast;
    4. tactfully reminding the better players that if somebody, somewhere doesn't invest the time and effort into training new players - the way somebody trained them when they were learning - banding is going to die;
    5. and making it the band's policy that they, as a band, take responsibility for their part in ensuring a supply of replacements to come in when established players retire or move away - and that they do this by helping other people find out that they can be musicians, and helping them to find the satisfaction and the buzz that comes from making music, rather than just listening to other people doing it!

    Thank you all for the time and trouble you've put into your posts on this thread - I very much appreciate it!



    and thanks also to Mello for a graphic description of how things can go horribly wrong if people don't think ahead, and let an awkward situation become impossible, because those in charge didn't deal with it as soon as tensions started to rise.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
    2nd tenor likes this.
  16. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    2nd Tenor's tale of the youth band reminded me of a true story, which happened many years ago in the US.

    A maths lecturer was talking to a group of undergraduates about methods of dealing with complex problems, and that the key point was to arrange your working so that, one by one, you could pin down the 'unknowns' and make it possible to calculate them. He then drew out a large and very complex problem on the board, and told the students that there were several approaches you could take, but each of them only got so far before reaching a point where you had several interacting 'unknowns' - and no way of establishing what any one of them was. Effectively, he said, the problem as it stood was unsolvable - because you needed at least one more numerical value to be known.

    He then told them to try the different approaches, and see how far it got them before they stuck.

    Some time later, another student came in who had arrived late. Not wanting to disturb the rest of the class, he slipped in quietly at the back and sat down, and the lecturer didn't notice him, so didn't explain what they were doing.

    The student looked at the problem on the board, and assuming that it was just another piece of class work, he got on with it . . .

    Some time later, the lecturer asked the class how far they'd got before they stuck. The latecomer stuck his hand up and said "I didn't get stuck, sir - I solved it!", and gave the stunned lecturer the answer and his proof!! :cool:

    Well, nobody told him that it 'couldn't be done', so he just assumed that it could be done and, like the junior players in 2nd Tenor's story, he just got on and did it! :D

    Which leads on to a conversation I had with a man who held a 2nd Dan Black Belt in karate. I didn't know anything about the subject, and Gordon told me that most people think that when somebody holds a Black Belt, that means they're at the top of the tree. But, he explained, what a Black Belt means is not 'expert', but 'teachable'.

    Apparently, as you move up through the various coloured belts, the training sytem is not designed so much to teach you things, but to break down your pre-conceived ideas as to what is possible or impossible for you. Effectively, getting to Black Belt means that you have released all those misconceptions about your potential- which you honestly believed were facts - and your mind is finally open to learning to do things which you previously 'knew' were impossible.

    It strikes me that - whether we realise it or not - we go through exactly the same process when learning to play brass . . . ;)

    With best regards,

    Tom-King and 4th Cornet like this.
  17. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    It's worth noting that a team of the same type of people is not the best performing.
    Supporting others comes in different guises; a (potentially selfish) star player in a band that creates a new benchmark to aspire can have a big positive impact on individuals' playing standards. Such people are often identified as poor team players because they don't partake in practical activity outside their playing. Their presence and example alone could be filling a gap in the team.
  18. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    Some great stuff on the mental side of playing – something that is so often ignored or glossed over in teaching and even so many development groups.

    If you’re faced with a passage and those around you comment on the impossible difficulty, there is a fair chance that they – and you by default – wont be able to play it. A similar thing occurs with – say Football – when a non-league team faces Manchester United. Yes the United players are technically better, but the more the other team focusses on the gap, they become beaten mentally before they even step on the pitch and ultimately end up getting hammered.

    Same thing with brass – Ive been in bands that have turned up at contests and appeared almost arrogant to the opposition, so that they start making comments along the lines of “Damn, XX band are here”. 9/10 we would beat them – not because they didn’t have good players, or even in some cases that the band were not even “less good” than us, but we knew we could play well and were there to win the contest – note the word “Win” and not “try and win”.

    When I put a piece of music in front of my young son that includes upper register, I keep referring to “high” Bs and Cs, not “Top” Cs etc. “Top” suggests an ultimate with nothing beyond – it’s a struggle to get there and you can’t get beyond it. “High” gives the confirmation that the note is in the upper register but suggests that there is something beyond. Likewise low notes – “Bottom” suggests as low as you can go, but it is quite possible to play pedal notes on a cornet (although admittedly its easier on the bigger brass). Also semiquavers – whilst they are quick, they are still notes – it just involves thinking and moving more quickly, which is mental agility. Too many players see the 2 little black bars and instantly convince themselves that they’ll struggle.

    The main difference I think between the likes of Mello (one of my brass heroes growing up, and someone I’m trying to get my son to listen to, although he currently prefers Sheona Wade – sorry Mello) and us mere mortals is that they have successfully mastered the mental side so that it becomes less of an issue. There are ways and means of improving this but the older I get the harder it becomes to take it that extra little bit further. Still, onwards and upwards…..
    Mello likes this.
  19. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    Very true. It doesn't whether you believe you can or can't do something, you'll be right!

    (I'm not sure I agree with 'High' being less intimidating than 'Top' though. I'd be more inclined to use them the other way around; if asked to climb to the top of a hill I'd be ok if it wasn't too high...Whatever works is what matters though.)
    Jack E likes this.
  20. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    It reminds me of a phrase (I can't remember who/where I heard it)... "my definition of an educated person is someone who knows much they don't know".

    I think you'll probably find a lot of strong players who consider grade 8 much the same as your Karate friend - it's the point where you've proven you can learn the basics and are ready to start really making music and getting into advanced skills...
    I recall saying something similar about that (that grade 8 isn't a final target, it's where playing really begins) to a friend or two and getting quite a bit of pushback - but I think it's one of those things where the perception of it depends on which side of the fence you're on... if you're working towards grade 8 it's easy to think you've got to the top level and you're the equal of anyone else - until you sit next to them and try to keep up!
    Kiz7 and Jack E like this.

Share This Page