Get a life!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by marksmith, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. marksmith

    marksmith Active Member

    A simple question: If you play in a brass band, is it possible to have a life outside of it?
    You may think this a pointless enquiry, with an obvious 'yes, of course' response.
    However; there does seem a determination within some banding circles, that the band comes before all else - and God help you if you dare become busy with your family/work or other commitments!
    The same can be said in genuine cases of illness. I know that the world waits for no man etc, but some organisations (or individuals within them), feel entitled to 'enquire of your availability to return' before you even begin treatment!
    I know that bands need commitment and that seats are sometimes difficult to fill, but do these facts entitle them to sometimes behave unreasonably towards individuals, to achieve full rehearsals, let alone concerts/contests?
    The top section bands are the worst culprits, usually appointing a personality-less lump of wood, to hassle players into submission, inevitably having the empathy of a Rhino (and a skin to match), playing out his/her role whilst displaying the twisted enjoyment of an abatoire stun operative!
    Worst of all, are the M.Ds who activate much of the described activity, who watch gleefully from afar, as their over-inflated egos are massaged by their lap-dogs, and then claim innocence of knowledge of the whole sordid affair!
    Banding is a hobby/interest, not a life-style.
    If it is their 'life', then I pity their family (but they probably haven't got one!);)
    p.s - no, I don't have a personal axe to grind!!!:tup
  2. eflatbass

    eflatbass Supporting Member

    I am reminded of the late Bill Shankley’s quote:

    "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

    Perhaps that is also the attitude existing within some bands!
  3. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    I can see both sides here. Band is not more important than everything else but if you commit to be part of a team then you do have a responsibility to that team. If circumstances dictate that you can no longer commit to the team as you did in the past then you have to understand that, especially at the top level, your seat has to be filled for engagements. A band cannot progress if they maintain continually empty seats on the promise that a player will be back. All that does is anger those ever presents who turn up week in, week out.
  4. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    I think part of the question is how many lives do you choose to live?

    I have a work life (teaching environmental science). I have friends at work, I generally enjoy what I do there. When on holiday I like to see those types of sights.

    I have my band life. My wife and her parents cross over into this (I play in several groups with my that her dad conducts and they come to many of our other concerts). When on holiday, I like to do banding as well.

    Those are my two main lives. I do spend time with the rest of my family, and I do enjoy watching sport...However, most of my friends are in my main two lives.
  5. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Spot on. I had it drummed into me (by a music teacher, not a band) that if you want to be part of the team and enjoy all the social and musical rewards that come with it, then you have to commit to that team. If you can't commit, even if it's not your fault, it's unfair to expect a band to keep an empty seat available and I don't think it's unreasonable for a band (especially in the top flight) to want to know if said empty seat's going to be filled anytime soon.

    It's not a question of "life outside band", for me; it's a question of "can I fulfil the various commitments I've made?" - at times, in order to ensure that I attend as many rehearsals and band jobs as I can as well as spending time with my family and getting all my work done, other things I might want to do have to be put aside. But that's my choice, because I'm in a band, it's not something the band has forced upon me. If I decide that gardening, or golf, or welly-throwing are things I want to commit to, the chances are that banding will have to pay the price. It's a time consuming hobby, especially if you want to be good at it.

    I've also been an MD, in the lower sections, and it's tremendously frustrating to have a rehearsal plan in mind only to discover that players in a section you were keen to work with that night have got "other commitments", especially when the band look to you to improve their playing and contest results. So I can see that side of the issue as well - I always tried to be reasonable about players needing to go and do other things on band nights, but there were definitely times (turning up to rehearsals with 15 players, for instance) when it was deeply frustrating!
  6. davethehorny

    davethehorny Member

    It is a surely a matter of self discipline. On band practice nights you go to band and on other nights you have your life outside.

    Too many bands accept 10 - 15 players at rehearsal as the norm and then before a contest the numbers grow until you get a full band on stage for contest day. Then immediately after the attendance drops back and frustrates those who attend every week.

    There are always reasons that the odd player is missing a rehearsal but it is only good manners to make the band manager aware so apologies can be given. That way all the rest of the players know why they are missing.

    Either you want to be part of the team or you don't - simple really!
  7. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    I guess it's up to us all to decide how much of our time we commit to the various pursuits we undertake.

    It seems to me that there is a prevailing attitude within banding that if time constraints become a problem, a player can simply drop down a section or two, where their comparitive skill as a player and corresponding drop in the difficulty of the parts they are faced with will allow them to 'drop in' at short notice, thereby freeing up time for the player by missing routine rehearsals and scaling back/cutting out home practice.

    While I can appreciate time concerns are a big one for all of us - particularly when everyone's working all the hours they can just to keep the finances ticking over - this is not an attitude I agree with. True, it makes life easier for the player in question, and there may not be any perceptible drop in their level of performance. However it makes life difficult for the remaining members of the band who attend every week, who are then faced with a part they've never heard before coming in the rehearsal before a gig/contest - and difficult for the MD as he/she has to structure their rehearsal plan around the availability of said player or players - regardless of where attention is required most. It's my opinion that if you join a band of any level, then you free up as many of the days the band needs you for as possible - because if you don't it's not fair on the people around you.

    There will always be times when a player has to take time off - sometimes weeks or months at a time - and quite rightly there is no arguing with that because banding's a hobby. What's important when this happens is that there is some dialogue between the player and the band management about how things are likely to pan out, and that each understands the other's position. For example, if a principal cornet wants 4 months off because his wife is about to have a child - then that's perfectly understandable - however what is also perfectly understandable is that a band cannot be without a principal cornet for four months and hope to have any semblance of a team order on the front row. So the player should not be offended/put out if the band decide to make an appointment to cover that period - or even to fill the post permanently if the leave of absence is too long to be practicable.

    There is a balance to be struck, I think. When one considers the hectic concert schedules of the very elite (Dyke, Cory, Grimey et al) and the time commitment necessary from the players due to the distances involved - then it's pretty obvious that some other parts of life have to go by the board if a person wants to be involved at that level. Likewise sometimes very good players have to make difficult choices and step away from banding for a while - if they run their own business for example. And this can open up opportunities for players of arguably lower ability, but who are able to fill the chair on a regular basis. I don't pretend that my visits to the championship section in the past have been solely to do with my quality as a player - more to do with effort and commitment. I'll never be a superstar, but I'm there every rehearsal, and that the part gets better every rehearsal - and that can go a long way.

    Too many times, the resentment and difficulty from a situation where other areas of a person's life impact on their commitment to a band team is due to the fact that neither side dares broach the subject with the other, when a quiet chat with the MD and Band Manager over a pint afterwards would sort out everything necessary. There is no real answer to govern every situation, because every player/band's situation is different. However in my experience there are few situations that can't be worked out somehow so long as both parties appreciate the needs of the other, and both parties have both the good of the band and the good of it's personnel at heart. It's when one or both fail to see the perspective of the other that problems begin.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2011
  8. welsh_tenor

    welsh_tenor Member

    I’ve been both a band officer and long-standing player and can see both angles of this argument. In my previous band as secretary, I could get incredibly frustrated with players who had other commitments that stopped them coming to band… what could be more important? If I can bust a gut to make it to rehearsal then why can’t they?... (I would always be mindful though of vocalising this and would instead just sound-off to the Chairman!)

    Commitment is an issue for all bands but it is an even bigger dilemma in my humble opinion for Championship bands. It’s often easy to recruit quality players but definitely more difficult to retain them with the very best players expecting full band – how can you improve and move forward together as a group if members of the team are missing? If there are constant empty seats from the same people then commitment does need to be questioned, after all, you chose to join the band…

    I’m a very happy player now though with no involvement in the running of my new band and if I can’t make a rehearsal due to work or holidays I’ll try to send a dep along so that my chair isn’t empty.

    It’s a thankless job making sure that you have full attendance. As long as the band is upfront with players about the rehearsal/contest and concert schedules, I think its down to individual players to say whether they can commit or not. If you’re in, you’re in…
  9. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    Two (or three) rehearsals per week suited bands when most of the members worked locally and had set working hours. In modern life this is rarely the case. I made a decision to commit to a band for a year, but it was a serious struggle as I have a lot of evening work as part of a responsible job. I did make most rehearsals, but at considerable personal cost (not financial). It felt like having a second job. Its not just the rehearsals, but the consistent daily practice required to keep playing to a reasonable standard.

    I think what that year did was show me how much I actually don't enjoy playing and how I saw it as a duty. I also felt that my playing was harder to keep going as I got older. I have effectively given up playing. I have a cornet and have the occasional tootle through Cornet Chop Suey. I am selling off all my orchestral and other gear. It just came to a logical conclusion after 33 years (not helped by contests which I really dislike. It got to the point I could play a solo in front of an audience without any difficulty but couldn't play in a contest because of nerves).
  10. I find that out of my two lives, musical and school, my musical life is far more significant, though its not just a single band which is the focus. Each ensemble I play for has its own friends and social side, so i guess it is possible to have a life outside of my regular band... but still music related! ;)

    My regular band is not obsessive about attendance, though you are expected to do your best to be there as much as possible and work hard to get peices up to scratch. If a player is not there then deps are normally found and no big deal is made of occassional attendance problems (eg. clashes,holidays,personal probelms etc.) so having a life outside is quite easy!
  11. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

  12. davejenkins

    davejenkins Member

    This is exactly why I quit brass band. I sometimes fancy taking part in a practice or a gig, but I found myself mostly looking at my watch during rehearsals wishing I was elsewhere. Also work commitments meant I couldn't do half the concerts anyway. I soon realised I was being selfish by sticking around, so I "did one"! Miss it a bit, though.
  13. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    It is possible to have a life outside band - most people have very successful lives outside of band.

    It is also possible to obsess over band way too much as well, a few people I know could definitely take a chill pill when it comes to freaking out about band - with their lives controlled by band, thinking about band, being at band, planning band etc etc etc

    There is a balance though, and players have a personal responsibility to be completely upfront about what their availability is actually going to be when they join a band. It really is no good for a band to keep a seat for a player who is there less than the majority of the time. It costs bands money to pay for deps, and it costs them time (unless the player is fantastic) when it comes to rehearsing pieces with players missing.

    So...I would say...if you know for sure that you are going to be missing enough to cause the band an issue, then you should be upfront, stop making excuses, and ask them their opinions - and then accept the decision they make. Or, you could even make the decision yourself and decide to leave and join a band that is more suited to your availability level.

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