Me and a couple of my mates were having a conversation the other day about banding in general when the topic of contesting reared its ugly head again bearing in mind that we all play at the top level and so contests have been coming in thick and fast. We know its a necessary evil but the debate was regarding contests and concerts. Contests help us improve tightness of ensemble playing, intonation, general balance and tuning, teamwork and bonding etc and yet all the hard work (in most cases for us including many users of this website) can be in vain as most of us will have experienced at one stage or another. You have to perform a piece of music that you may or not enjoy playing/rehearsing or both, and then you have to play to one or two "experienced" people who judge you. And if its not to their liking for whatever reason, be it quality, interpretation, or any number of other factors, then the hard work thats been put in for the majority of bander's is seen as hard done by and in a nutshell wasted. This is all know to be fact. Thats how most of us have felt at one time or another surely? Then you have to pick up morale and get ready for the next one. I understand why alot of people would disagree with my thoughts on this because there are many of you who thrive on the buzz of contesting. And to a large degree so do I. I wouldn't still be doing it if I didn't enjoy it. On the other hand there are concerts. Our bread and butter, our life blood. Without them where would we be? The repetitiveness that can sink in when practicing test pieces is broken up by hard work in the bandrooms up and down the country to firstly (and in my opinion) entertain yourselves and secondly, to take our hobby/lifestyle to the outside world, where we all strive to perform and entertain the paying public. Here is where our hard work is to be shown off. Here is where people who may have never heard the band, walk out of the concert afterwards and say" well, weren't they good?" Here is where there are critics aplenty, but there are more people who aren't and just enjoy the sound of a good brass band. Surely it is these people who are really the judges? And do you know why? Its because there should be a total unbiasedness towards the bands that makes these people a better judge. They hear a band, they enjoy it and go home happy. That makes me happy. The pleasure, excitement and sense of achievement playing to the best of your ability, playing good music to a good standard and to an appreciative crowd is surely what its all about? The question is this. Would you rather be doing contests, pitting you wits against other bands knowing that the hard work can either pay of for you and you get the adulation and glory and party hard on into the night or, get you nowhere, where afterwards we go into the bar, don't hear anyone else and then complain about the results afterwards? Its the gamble. Or Would you rather play to the highest standard that you and your band is capable of, to a crowd/ audience who pay money to be entertained whilst at the same time entertaining yourself. Thats what banding is all about. Putting on a good show to an unbiased audience who just want to be there. There is as much glory in this as there is in a contest win, and when its the right program, that matches the right people in the right venue then sometimes it can outweigh a win. That sense of pride when you stand up at the end of the last bar of a great concert is such a wonderful feeling, that we try to emulate that every time, though not always with success. Its all about pride and yes, a contest win is a massive sense of achievement, joy and all the recognition that comes with it (within banding and its connected press) and I would be lying if I said that I don't enjoy this part of banding, though it doesn't come very often, but I feel no greater sense of pride when I have come away from a concert thinking to myself, wow! or that was awesome. I have been very fortunate to have performed in some great concerts with some great bands. And do you know what? I can recall the amount of times I have come away feeling like that away from a concert, more than I can about contesting. If I knew how to put a vote on hear I would but I don't. It would be interesting to see what other people though. I think so anyway.