Elitism in Brass Banding

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by eanto, Apr 1, 2008.

  1. eanto

    eanto Member

    'Elitism' (dominance by a select group) - just looked it up! :)

    OK. The 'very' best players like to play in the 'very' best bands.

    But why as an amateur hobby, do they expect remuneratuion for their efforts? Wot became of loyalty, commitment? did it ever exist?

    An analogy. Only 3 or 4 football teams are capable of winning the premiership - I hope that's not the way banding is going..... Opps, last years' National Finals; Grimey, Fodens, Cory, Dyke.

    Is this a healthy situation? What can be done? :confused:
  2. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member

    While money talks LOUDLY there is a lot to be said for loyalty. Can a band be bought. I suppose.

    Now, being in the US, my view is very much from the outside. Even in sports it is hard to break into the top. Some teams stay at the bottom for long periods of time. Winning breeds winning.

    Take your football analogy. How long did it take a giant and very athletic country like the US to break into the world cup (men's - ladies was much different) scene?

    Contesting is one thing. But pure music is something else. Having an all brass band internet radio station I have seen where lower bands have reached the top. Listening, for pleasure, is another thing.

    If a great cornet play had a chance to take an opening at Black Dyke or say Okasa Brass Band in Japan, which would they choose? Now that is a bit of hyperbole, but winning does breed winning.

    But some of the live recordings of the famous Virtuosi Brass Band have some of the best splitting notes. I think lots more players than we know have had a chance to play with a higher band. They have turned it down without fanfare to play with their local 1st or 3rd division band.

    The 3rd Division band Clifton & Lightcliffe Band new album "The Rise of the Phoenix" was a pleasant surprise to me. Some fantastic cuts and the radio listeners have agreed. I am sure some of them could move if they chose. But they didn't and a great album was recorded by them.

    I have only heard US bands in concert. My dream is to come to the UK and perhaps even Albert Hall. So, I am really giving an outside view. But if listening is any indication, you would be surprised how many of "Grimey, Fodens, Cory, Dyke" get voted down or off the radio station.

    Some really small bands have sent me CDs. I played them and low and behold, they have been pretty well received. Some I am sure when it comes up on the station go "who is that band?" and then listen and are pleasantly surprised.

    I hope that happens at contests and concerts in the UK also. But you would have to tell me.

    Dr. Jim
  3. Aidan

    Aidan Active Member

    They don't. Look up 'generalising' while you are at it.

    This isn't a new earth-shattering phenomenon is it? The best players in the best bands have a better chance of winning a competition?
  4. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    Although I've never played in a 'top band' I do appreciate that to play at that level consistantly requires a level of commitment which most of would be unable to meet, 3 rehearsals a week isn't unheard of, plus concerts, contests, tours, recordings......

    If a top band wishes to help some of it's members out for the financial cost of this then I can't say I really have a problem, and I doubt very much whether anyone could make a living out of it.
  5. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    Personally I don't see the problem here, so in my opinion nothing needs to be done.
    I wouldn't call it "elitism" either. Maybe it's "jealousy" ;)

    and for crying out loud, would everybody please stop with those football analogies, please :rolleyes: :wink:
  6. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member

    Well, looking at your playing experience, you have played with some very good bands. But I think you missed the point. Certainly winning breeds winning.

    I am sure Dr. Childs and the other Dr. Childs do not come cheaply.

    The point was, do you have to play in a top 4 or 5 band to ever have a chance of winning? Our could a band with some excellent players and a great MD, come from nowhere and win? Having the same winners is, well, a bit boring.

    In the NFL (American Football) a commissioner some 20 odd years ago setup a system that would make it fair for all teams. Small markets, large markets -- didn't matter. They split TV revenues to all teams. The team with the worst record got the first pick in the draft.

    He was famous for saying "On any given Sunday, any team should be able to beat any other team". That phrase in the US as been often quoted and shorten to "On Any Given Sunday".

    You know what, it worked.

    Rules were made so that the same teams would not always win. Made the sport more fun to watch and TV revenues went up. Way up.

    I think that is the point. Could a championship level band that has not won in many years or ever -- play extraordinarily well and win? Was that not one of the driving themes in the movie "Brassed Off". That band had been around for 150+ years and never made it to finals. They did and won.

    Could a lower championship band do that today in real life? Would that help increase interest in brass banding? It did for the NFL! In fact it did multi-fold.

    And wouldn't all of brass banding benefit? I do not have the answers, but I understand the question.

    Dr. Jim
  7. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    All walks of life have elitism, why should banding suddenly be any different? How long have the bands you mentioned been at the top of the banding tree?

    It is a healthy situation as it gives everybody else something to aspire to. The guys that are already there? Well they have the long and proud heritage of the band to uphold (also if their not up to scratch, there's a likelyhood of being sacked).

    Also, if large numbers of people come and happily pay good money to listen to these superb bands, why shouldn't the guys playing the music take a cut of the rewards?
  8. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member

    Is "elitism" to you pejorative or not?

    Are we worried about the top bands, or brass banding worldwide?

    All workers are due their share (paraphrasing the Bible).

    Would a non top-five band winning help or hurt banding -- even worldwide?

    The British Brass Banding movement is growing fast in the US. Should it be a amateur thing or semi-pro? Which helps bands grow? Which helps brass bands grow?

    I do not pretend to have the answers.

    You made an excellent point which I think cannot be overlooked. It is no small thing. In the top bands, a bad week, or even a bad few weeks could cause you to be sacked. For that, should you not be remunerated? Should there be a limit so all bands can compete?

    The only answer I have is to the last question. Yes, remuneration should be limited. But how to do that ABBA would have to figure out and they won't come asking me.

    I volunteered to be a MD for years. For the love of it is why I did it. I am not against players getting money to offset their expenses and time away from family, etc. That, is an excellent point to go along with the fact they could be sacked at anytime with only a bit of a slip up.

    Good points.

    And look, no football analogies this time ;) ;)

    Dr. Jim
  9. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Ah, another football analogy. Goody. :rolleyes:

    Every few years there's a band (or group of bands) which dominates contests for a while; not long ago Faireys and B&R would have been hot favourites for every contest, then there was Desford in the 80s, Dyke in the 70s, CWS Manchester, Fodens, Faireys, etc., etc., back to Besses in the early 1900s. Nothing new. Why does something need to be "done", and by whom?

    In terms of money, there are a couple of the very best players in one or two of the very best bands who can probably earn enough to make a profit from their playing. Of the rest, by the time they've paid for petrol (I'm aware of some players who make 300 mile round trips twice a week, and every night in contest weeks), taken time off work and used up their holidays, any expenses they may get (and the majority get nowt) will have been long since eaten up. I've said before, there are much less players making a living from banding now than there were in the "Golden Age" of works bands before the war. Another pointless and divisive thread.
  10. Aidan

    Aidan Active Member

    Trouble is if they had excellent players and a great MD, they wouldn't really be nowhere to start with :) We have the same winners because those bands are consistantly among the best.
    There are ofcourse one-off results and the odd dodgy result, but that could happen to anyone, it would take more than Acne&Shat Colliery Silver Prize Old Band getting a decent result at the nationals to rekindle a public interest in banding. Bands arn't a part of mainstream/popular culture anymore.
    Besides the fact that random bands who normally arnt one of the top dogs don't normally get a chance to play at prestigeous contests as the selection/qualification process in most cases requires at least some consistantly good results ie. National Finals requires regional qualification, Open is probably the hardest competition to get into with the eggcup->tropy->shield->open route. English nationals is based on rankings and area winners, Masters is invitational for consistant performers, Europeans winner of respective region/english nationals etc etc..
  11. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member

    That is how it is at the moment. That was not the question. Surely there are enough great players in the world to have more than 4 or 5 bands with a chance?

    I dislike doing the following (because it sounds self-promoting -- but trust me, that is not the reason I bring it up). The All Brass Band Band radio ranks in the top 500 bands out of the about 30,000 internet stations in the US (hard to do outside the US as US laws make it easier). 500. That includes all the stations that are AM or FM stations being relayed and the many stations that only play top 40 -- whatever that is today. Back in the early days of the Beatles, we knew.

    Brass Band music has it all. I get email all around the world. And if it isn't true in the UK, it is growing in many other places.

    It that not the point of this discussion? How to help brass bands? And if elitism is hurting it, well maybe the point should be addressed.

    Sure, like with most competitive organizations, you must work your way up. So my anology of a "great day" should be a "great year". I simply fail to believe the world can only produce 4 or 5 bands capable of winning. I refuse to believe the UK can only produce that many.

    Again, I pose questions (this time in the form of doubt). I do not have answers. But is elitism pejorative or not? If so, then a problem does exist.

    Research has shown that making GOOD music makes you not only smarter (actually increases IQ, I have done some research on the subject) it also makes you happier. So what adversely affects brass banding and concert bands and orchestras affects us all.

    Dr. Jim
  12. Simon Preshom

    Simon Preshom Member

    I don't have a problem with an elite group of bands...it gives the rest of us something to aspire to and the feeling is all the better when you beat them.

    The thing I don't like is when one of these elite bands suggest that they don't get paid and do it solely for the love of it...as one recent BBC documentary suggested.
  13. Anonymous_user

    Anonymous_user New Member

    You are wrong........very wrong Most top players dont earn anything from playing.
  14. Chunky

    Chunky Active Member

    Spot on Simon, we all need to aim for something and certainly having listened to many top bands at contests and concerts I always find myself enthused and looking forward to my next rehearsal

    No but would I be right in thinking in most top section bands whilst not earning, they have their expenses covered?
  15. Rob

    Rob Member

    Wrong! :D
  16. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    No you wouldn't be right. Maybe as recently as 5 years ago, yes, but you'd be surprised how many of the "top" bands give nothing.
  17. Chunky

    Chunky Active Member

    Thanks for the clarification Andy.
  18. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member

    That would be fine, in my opinion, and if true (how would I know?) that is not elitism. That is common sense and we are talking about a non-problem in this thread.

    We have decades to go whilst still dependent on petrol. That expense should be covered in many cases if possible. But I doubt getting reimbursed for petrol makes a difference if a player joins a band or not.

    Dr. Jim
  19. Chunky

    Chunky Active Member

    It appears not Doc!

    I too have no problem (with the exception of MP's) being paid expenses. I asked the question because I wondered if people were confusing being paid with reclaiming justifiable expenses.
  20. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    I have no problem whatsoever with there being an elite group of bands. With the exception of those that are *ahem* reluctant to admit women, they are meritocracies. If you want to play for a top band, it's possible - if you have a basic talent and are prepared to put in the work and time, and put band before anything else. I tried it for a few years in the 90s and had some great experiences in a top 20 band. But to do that I had to practise as never before to keep my 2nd Bari seat: do all the rehearsals and jobs: arrange my family / job / holidays around the band: etc. Money was absolutely nothing to do with it. Top level banding is about what you are prepared to give, not what you can take.

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