Do training /junior bands work?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by stevetrom, Apr 2, 2011.

  1. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    My band (see signature) has had a junior band for more years than I have been member (15+).

    Currently there are just 2/3 players who have come from the junior band into the main band.

    Is it worth it?

    Where are the 15-20 years worth of players? (I am only aware of 1 ex-junior band member who is currently playing with another band)

    What happens to junior band players when they get to college/university/work?

    p.s. if there are any ex Brackley Junior band members out there please prove me wrong
  2. euphalogy

    euphalogy Member

    Without them we are sunk!! 13 of my current players were all brought up through the training system, albeit over a good number of years. Currently 5 early teenagers, 2 not so teenagers at all, the other 6 are now all mature (allegedly) adults, nonetheless are still products of the Bands historic and current training system.
    And others have gone on to better things post University
    Keep up the good work
  3. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    my (rough) maths

    20 years
    10 players per year
    = 200 players out there somewhere

    Where are they?
  4. John_D

    John_D Member

    I started off my banding career with a band that had a youth band. Some players came through from the youth band, but not that many. The problem was that the youth band started to view itself as an autonomous unit and started not working with the 'senior' band, indeed the conductor of the training band started to discourage players from playing with the seniors.
  5. BoBo

    BoBo Member

    I wish I had a quid for every time someone has said to me "I used to play the xyz and gave up when I was 13/14/15, I wish now I hadn't". That is true as much for non brass band instruments as well. The sad fact is that 90% of people will drop out.

    It is absolutely necessary to give everyone the opportunity though otherwise the 10% who get the bug won't. That goes for pretty much anything including sport, the arts etc. and these days the opportunities for children are endless as any dad's/mum's taxi driver will tell you.

    I have personal experience of a training band being the salvation of a band. I have also seen the effects of a main band "poaching" youth band players, causing major politics leading to the two bands separating. Somewhere in between those extremes is the right course but, in all cases, it is definately worth it.
  6. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    They certainly do work - if you don't have one in my opinion your band is doomed, unless you are at the level where you can constantly and instantly attract players from other bands to fill your vacancies. Music in schools has been cut to the bone (with a few honorable exceptions where dedicated teachers are giving up their own time to do it), so if you want kids to take it up the band has to provide the musical education.
    However if you are expecting the vast majority of those who start playing to carry on you'll be disappointed - the kids that are inclined to join up often have so many clubs etc to go to that a lot of them will drop out due to other commitments (football, dancing, etc), a certain percentage of parents just treat it as an hour's babysitting, etc. If you get 25% carrying on for more than 12-18 months I would say you're doing well. Also if you can get the parents to start playing their kids are more likely to keep coming, age should not be a barrier (we once started someone off at 68....).
    We are lucky in that a local school operates a scheme where the school provides an instrument for 12 months, after that either the band provides one or they buy their own - the school instrument is then passed on to someone else who wants to start, and so on.
    With regard to what happens to junior players when they get to college/university/work - well it depends how far away they've gone, and what commitments they have - also more universities these days have bands which enables them to carry on playing than years ago and there are more music courses available (I virtually didn't play at all at uni except when I came home in the holidays, the opportunity wasn't there and travelling wasn't an option).
    Of course the really good ones may leave for better bands, and good luck to them, they've earned it.
    Of our current main band about a dozen have played in the training/junior band at some point in the last 30 (cough) years or so, the rest joined from other bands so not sure if they played in a trainng band there (I would guess at least half a dozen did, knowing where they were before).
    I think you have to set your stall out at the start and state that the purpose of the training band is to teach, nuture and prepare players for the main band - as mentioned there is a tendency for some training band conductors to become parochial about what they see as "their" band (and why wouldn't they, they're the ones putting all the time and effort into it, after all!), they may be making a living from it teaching some of the kids privately, and so on. However imo quite ofiten this starts because the main band members don't get involved with the training band enough, so it tends to become separate. The management of the band should run both training and main bands. It is also vital that main band members try and help as much as possible with training band rehearsals, even if it's only pointing over someone's shoulder occasionally if they've got lost. If you don't maintain that connection between the training band and the main band then you shouldn't act all offended if it ends up separate.........
    It may be that you also end up needing a "B" band to bridge the gap in standard between "learners" and main band, too.

    Training bands are not perfect, and need a lot of hard work, but without them bands WILL die, and are dying.
  7. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    I think training bands are great if you are a 3rd/4th section band. The best players can then easily progress to the main band. The problems arise if your main band is 2nd section or above when the step up in ability required is just too great a leap.
    Our training band in the past has often been a feeder to other local lower section bands, which is not the reason why we set it up. However they are self funding and contribute to the band room expenses.
  8. John_D

    John_D Member

    One problem that others may have encountered. What if the local authority music service is anti brass band and discourages thye kids from playing with anyone other than their own bands? Makes maintaining a training band almost impossible.
  9. Rebecca Owen

    Rebecca Owen Member

    I do think that the peripatetic teachers have set bands or county groups that they try to get children to sign up to.

    What has happened in my previous experience is that we have trained our younger members to grade 3/4 standard then suddenly representatives from a very high profile youth band come along and strongly encourage them to join their band. With most children being unable to attend rehearsals for two bands each week and still keep up their education, something has to give. And I guess the idea of world tours and workshops with professionals from championship section bands wins over the loyalty to the band where they have been taught from scratch. This has also been the case with three other local bands, and they are just the cases I know about. I have a friend whose son was asked to join - and he was asked why he wanted to play in a band full of old fogeys, when he could be playing at the Albert Hall with new friends. When he pointed out two of the old fogeys were his parents. He was told he was a fool to stay there, and his parents were selfishly holding him back. Nice !!!!

    Its good if you have adult members in a training band, because you know they will not disappear to university or be tempted into youth bands so these may be the ones that stay for the longest.
  10. pbirch

    pbirch Active Member

    I don't think this is a question just for brass bands, it applies to orchestras and choirs, and more broadly to any participation activity that any child or young person becomes involved in (think sports, cub scouts and brownies etc), we all do them with our children and sometimes they take to it and keep it up all their lives, and sometimes they find something more important to fill their time (often a young person of the opposite sex), and that is before we think about modern attitudes to authority figures
    If they start with music, they may come back to it later in life, they might encourage their own kids to become involved, but I really think that in our increasingly time poor society, anything that does not yield immediate results (and music never does that) or instant gratification is going to be increasingly difficult.
    Do training bands work? Hands up everyone who played in a Salvation Army Young Peoples band.
  11. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    Hands up !

    But tell me the average age of your Senior band?

    Are young players still coming through?
  12. subtlevib

    subtlevib Member

    Steve, you sound like a man in crisis!

    I've made similar observations within our band recently, whilst we have one or two coming through from the training band, it's by no means as many as we ought.
    Our TB's age range is from 8 to 81 with all the gaps in between. A couple of senior band members help out on a regular basis and a couple more can be called on if needed, but there's not really a regular drop-in, which is a shame - I think they're all saving their lips for the main rehearsal!!

    I think our main reason for the lack of traffic into senior band is that we have such a regular membership that there are actually very few vacancies. Our cornet section, except our 12year old on 3rd cornet, the next youngest is 30 and the next after that is 40! In the horns - youngest member is 35, oldest late sixties - and he's been in the band for FORTY years.
  13. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    I think they definitely do, but they're damned hard work and you have to run them properly and very carefully to reap the benefits.

    Enderby have had a youth band since 1989 and there are currently (let me think) ten members of the senior band that started out in the youth band. There are also several players out there playing for other bands that blew their first notes with Enderby, something the band is rightly very proud of.

    I am a product of the Foresters who had an excellent set-up in the mid-80's, taking kids from absolute beginning 'blow the small end' stuff right though to a decent championship section band via various small groups and a junior band. They even got a school music teacher to teach us all theory of music properly.
  14. John_D

    John_D Member

    Not only do some discourage young players from playing with any band other than the local authority music services own bands, one that I know of actually rescheduled a concert for one of their own bands so that it clashed with a concert by a brass band that a couple of the youngsters played with, telling the youngsters that they MUST play with the local authority band or their school peri music lessons could be cancelled.
  15. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I can't put my hand up to that, having come into the SA as an adult, but I have seen a number of youngsters lose their enthusiasm because of unrealistic expectations placed on them: in a (quite laudable) attempt to bridge the gap between YP and senior bands, they are invited to attend senior practice, to see whether it might be for them. All too soon, they can find themselves expected to attend twice as many practices, as well as participation in extra activities, just at the time when they are under increasing pressure at school, with exams and university applications looming.

    By all means encourage our young people, but let us have a more realistic approach to clashes and conflicting priorities, and avoid placing them in a corner in which it may be the playing that ends up being dropped.
  16. bbg

    bbg Member

    Interesting points made throughout this thread so far.

    I can indeed "put my hand up" to SA YP Band membership, and now belong to a Band with a vibrant and successful Youth Band set-up.

    I can not right now think of anyone who I played alongside at my local SA YP level who is still playing at all, whether SA or otherwise - so possibly comments made by previous posters re choices made by teenagers concerning extra-curricular activities are proven to be similar within or outwith different organisations.

    Insofar as our own Youth Band now is concerned, the numbers, talent and commitment are tremendous, with 12 of our senior band on stage at the recent "Scottish" having played in the Youth Championships (which they won at Development level) last November.
    We were actually discussing at Committee the other night just how fantastic a problem it would be if we had more youngsters coming along than available instruments; indeed there may yet be a problem in that respect if some older teenagers are still using non-band property which they "lose" on leaving school.

    Youth Bands are the future (apologies for overused cliche - but it's true!) and our experience, having started life as such a band ourselves over 30 years ago, is that running such a group is the way to keep the sense of banding community and continuity going.
  17. subtlevib

    subtlevib Member

    They do take a lot of hard work, cos it's not just the playing and the musicianship, it's the social side too, so you're not just running a band and all that entails, you're also running a youth club - at the same time not forgetting that you have adults of all ages in the band and that they too need to to be motivated and encouraged, who cover a wide range of abilities.

    I have a similar issue at work (I'm a teacher) where Wider Opps (brass) kids come to secondary school from their Primary School and only a tiny percentage want to continue something that a huge amount of time, effort and money has been invested in. Why are they not interested? Because it requires time, effort and money...! (For some, it's as simple as "I don't want to carry that case on the bus.") What does this add up to? COMMITMENT. And unfortunately, this word doesn't feature in a lot of kids' (and parents') vocabulary. It's a shame, but it's where attitudes are at the moment and with personal finances affected by the current climate, music lessons, instruments, music, exam fees are a non-essential luxury many can ill-afford.
  18. rookiebari

    rookiebari Member

    I'm a junior band recruit along with several others in our band! I still play with the Jnrs & Snrs. When the Senior band gets scary & serious it is the Juniors that keep us going. We have a really good laugh and it reminds the rest of us why we do it.

    Also if the kids in the junior band give up, but have enjoyed their time, they will be supportive of banding and music as they get older and may even come back to it. I was in a junior band along with my sister and 2 cousins, my cousin was a terrible tenor horn player! I'm the only one still playing (having come back to it) but the others take their kids along to their local bandstand and put £1 coins in the tin, especially the one who was a terrible tenor horn player!

    It's about building support & having fun not just a player factory.
  19. winterman

    winterman Member

    To me, it really depends on what you define as "work" really..

    I see a Training/Youth band as not only a way of building a solid future for a Brass Band, it is a community service, an equal opportunities scheme and a social commitment.

    Since it was founded as a Training Band 35 years ago (and since grown to Youth Band and now also Championship Section Band), Drighlington has taken great pride in the number of young people who have come through its doors, regardless of whether they still play or not. Many of whom are still good friends today, and even now when I am in the village pub and start talking to people, they often say "Oh you are in the band, I was in the learners when I was little), what I find is that instantly brings a bond, a recognition and a level of mutual respect.

    Some of them have gone on to join top flight banding, others prefer the lower sections but so many more have given up playing (either all together or just brass), but those who don't play remember all of the things they did, learnt and achieved while there.

    It is great to see young people continue on in banding, but if one turns to me and says "I want to play Saxophone or guitar instead" then, after making sure they know the door is always open to continue alongside that or come back in the future, and that they are always welcome to bob in and say hi, then I would rather encourage them to do that and keep playing something than give up music altogether.

    Likewise if I see kids in our Training and Youth bands who are ready for the next step (both technically and in enthusiasm) I would rather find them a place in another band of the right technical and social levels than hold them back because there isn't a slot in the Senior Band for them.

    So for me it's not just about the banding, it's about the people, the "life experience", the opportunities and the community responsibility.

    Sorry rambled a bit there, in a bit of a hurry and realised I've put off posting on this thread for too long already :$
  20. Chris Lee

    Chris Lee Guest

    As Winterman (previous post) implies: It depends what you want it to do.
    Is the purpose of a Training Band really just to feed the Main Band?
    Or is it there to encourage new players into the banding community?
    My experience with a Training Band is that it is about a 50/50 mix of youngsters and oldies coming back into banding after several decades (I am one such). The band has been instrumental (ho ho) in getting me started again, by providing an instrument, training, practice, and a community of supportive friends. However, the transitional step to a Main Band, especially if it is competing, is very large, and is not necessarily the appropriate next step for a fledgling bandster. For instance you really need to be able to sight read quite serious pieces that many of the band members have been playing for years. That jump is a discouraging barrier. It takes courage, commitment and a thick skin, and is very likely to turn away junior players who might otherwise have stayed the course. More thought needs to be given to the issue of how to ease youngsters into the Main Band - perhaps by having a fete section or B band (as many do) or perhaps by forming smaller practice groups with main band members mentoring youngsters.
    Whatever, my experience as an oldie in a Training Band has been 100% positive, but my progression has been not to the associated Main Band but to less demanding Bands. So I have returned to the fold, but not to the one I expected to return to. Is that bad? Or good?

    Very Best, Chris Lee
    (Newbie on E flat bass)
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 3, 2011

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