Opinions urgently sought.

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by amgray, Sep 29, 2005.

  1. amgray

    amgray Member

    This weekend I will be interviewed by BBC telly (for Inside Out) as to why there are falling numbers of kids taking up Trombone specifically and Brass instruments generally.

    This is a great opportunity to get the message across - as I see it the main questions include;
    1/ Are falling numbers of players the case throughout the UK?
    2/ If this is not the case everywhere, why are some areas producing more players than others?
    3/ What are the causes of the falling numbers?
    4/ How can we reverse this trend?

    Please feel free to express yourself fully, if you would rather not do it publicly you can email me at andytrombone@gmail.com

    BTW, any trombonists at the British Trombone Society day at Oundle School this Sunday, feel free to say "hi".
  2. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Hey good luck Andy with this fantastic opportunity to promote trombonists etc. and don't forget to mention tMP if you get the chance.

    Let us know how you get on yeah :tup
  3. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Active Member

    What a great opportunity!

    The chief problem in Britain is that there is no national instrumental teaching structure, and that, mostly, parents have to pay. My friends from Holland (where things are very well organised) are amazed at this!

    So music teaching depends on the enthusiasm of the local teacher. This can, of course, have great results (eg Wardle and Abraham Darby Schools) but there are vast areas of the country where no-one cares, because they don't have to.

    I once witnessed a young girl of 7 having her first trombone lesson. She shared 15 minutes with two other players (who had been learning about two years) and was told she couldn't actually TOUCH the trombone till her parents had signed a form! The same teacher asked one of the other students to learn a new tune for next week - then saying he couldn't take the book home 'cos there was only one copy!!

    I think it's a scandal that anyone can teach instrumental music without any teaching qualifications (in some areas). Try teaching English without a PGCE!!

    Perhaps you could bring this up??

    Rant over.

    Good luck!
  4. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    I remember hearing similar stories of beginners in a brass class at my former school in Hertfordshire not being able to take books or instruments home and having to learn solely by comingin once a week for a lesson with NO practise :S
  5. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Financial support is another thing that should be examined, whether it be at national, regional or local level. Without funds, it is difficult to start or continue quality musical education in schools or in the community. I know one brass instructor who quietly goes about buying cheap second-hand instruments to help kids to get a choice to learn on. The educational and local authorities have not helped his cause in the city where he teaches both in primary and secondary education.
  6. Di B

    Di B Member

    One of the main reasons is that brass is not well known about in schools unless there is someone who is a brass enthusiast teaching in some capacity.

    An example of this is at a junior school close to my band they have just set up an 'all instruments welcome' orchestra. There are around 15 people in it. 2 are brass (euph and horn). Both have been taught from scratch by me . Neither get lessons from the school as 'there is not enough interest to warrant a brass tutor' If it wasn't for our training band these two kids wouldn't be playing at all.

    Schools also tend to teach in groups whatever the instrument. When I was 7 I started playing violin. I was taught with 2 other girls. I progresses quicker than them but was held back while they caught up. Needless to say I packed up after 3 months as my enthusiasm wasn't encouraged. Thankfully, I came to my senses and found brass at 11! :)

    The other problem is that where brass is promoted, it is usually orchestral brass that is favoured (I have had a couple of trumpet players come to my training and they have ended up on cornet! (heh heh!))
    Bigger instruments like trom and euph are often taught bass clef as well - something that isn't required for a lot of brass band pieces and indeed it can be difficult to provide such players with music.

    Another issue for beginner bands is music. Things are better than they were with several people now writing for young bands (Cameron Mabon is a current favourite arranger with my band) but it is still an issue.
    Kids want to play chart music, music from films and TV and fun stuff they know.
    They don't want to play something they have never heard of and will find it boring even if it is titled along the lines of 'This is nearly similar to this really great TV theme tune you know but not quite!'
    With so many melodies available to play for clarinet and flute and some top class arrangements for young wind bands and orchastras it isn't surprising that a lot of kids choose this route. Sadly, I have lost a tenor horn to a windband as he preferred the music they played. (At least he is still playing though)

    (On a similar thread, if anyone is going to arrange the Harry Potter theme tune for a junior band or The Simpsons PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me know!!!!)

    I think that there are small pockets of players across the country but these are being taught be people that care about the brass movement and have had some involvement in it - wether this be through school or through a local band.

    Those areas that have no brass enthusiasts in are the ones that are seriously losing out - brass needs to stop being the poor cousin of woodwind in schools.

    There's my own thoughts!
  7. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    1. Computers, the Internet and Games Consoles. (especially in bedrooms!)

    If I'd have had access to the internet and games at the time I was learning I don't think I'd have stuck at it, or at least progressed as well as i did.

    2. Finance.

    Equally, I would never have even started learning if my parents had to pay for lessons. It was a free for all at school assembly!

    3. Coursework.

    Many pupils find the ongoing, relentless pressure of modular examination, coursework deadlines etc. mean they are disuaded from anything extra curricular by teachers and advisors.

    4. "Cosmetic" dental work.

    I've lost 4 pupils this year because of braces. Spot how many excellent brass players have a Hollywood smile. Not Many!

    5. Brass teachers focusing on "Commercial Music"

    Some teachers in our area push students towards instruments that are classed as Professional, in the misguided thought that these players will make a living out of it. Therefore there's a shortage of Cornets, T.Horns, Euphs/Baris/ BBb basses and treble clef reading Trombones.

    I've worked (and helped with brass) in the same school for 14 years. There were 40 brass pupils when I started, there are now 7. All lessons have to take place out of "Curriculum time" ie after school, so pupils with school service buses are automatically excluded. If the lessons were free, perhaps more of an effort would be made by parents.

    At the same time, attendance at local Music Centres and County groups in my County have also dropped dramatically (across the board really) and a lot of pupils who do play do it solely for their Record of Achievement or UCAS form, with no interest in ensemble playing at all.

    I could go on, but I've probably said enough for now!
  8. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    All very good and valid points.

    Let's not forget what puts a lot of youth off Brass Banding. The terrible uniforms that most bands seem to inflict on their members. It's one thing to play in public but quite another to have to dress like a Sergeant Pepper album sleeve extra.
    I would disagree with the need for a 'qualification' to teach. Over half of the players in my band have been taught by a couple of the Old un's and the band would not exist, if not for their commitment.


    I have found that a lot more brass lessons are being given in schools here in the North West than were given in Oxfordshire (where I come from). The only brass there was orchestral and lessons were pricey, luckily my parents enrolled us in the local brass band which was great and far less expensive! We then later got lessons from one of the band members and did our grades that way instead.

    A big problem, I think, is that some peripatetic lessons in school are concentrated on grades as these reflect progress to outsiders, where as the youngsters we teach in our band get a more rounded teaching of techniques, musicality, tuning, note production and other such things too. They get individual lessons, joint lessons with others of their instrument and junior band. I'm not saying that it is that way with all peripatetics but we have been told that some of our learners who were already playing when they joined the band have improved many times more in a couple of months with us than in years learning at school, mainly because they are getting more teaching about how to play the instrument and get good sounds from it rather than just how to get through a particular piece in order to pass a grade.

    **"I think it's a scandal that anyone can teach instrumental music without any teaching qualifications (in some areas). Try teaching English without a PGCE!!"**

    It's not necessarily true that people without teaching qualifications are bad teachers. Aidan is a brilliant teacher for our juniors although he has no formal teaching qualifications (he is in his last year at Salford at the moment). The main thing is to be able to reach each individual on their own level and make it fun for them as well as educational. It's very hard to do this in 20 minutes a fortnight at school, especially if teaching more than one player at once! Some top players that teach struggle for that very reason, they cannot get down to the learners level and solve fundamental problems because when they learnt, things came easily to them so they can't understand the problems some learners face just getting a note! Were top players like Bob & Nick Childs and Brian Taylor taught by people with formal teaching qualifications and do they have formal qualifications to now go on and teach others as I know they do? Are they poor teachers if they don't?

    I think the only way to reverse the trend is for just about every band to teach. It takes a lot of commitment but the rewards are worth it! All arts are suffering in schools and we cannot just be relying on them, and the cost will prevent many taking up the offer anyway. Bands have to look after their own future. Too many want instant success then wonder why the band is collapsing after a few years when players have moved on! This problem is again greater in the south than the north for some reason. I have heard many excuses in my time banding as to why not to set up a junior group, not enough time/the kids round here aren't interested/there arent enough kids round here to do it. The truth is the kids are out there if you search for them (adults too!), we canvassed all local primary and secondary schools left leaflets and posters in libraries, council offices, tourist information and anywhere else we could think of, and we now have almost 30 learners in less than 9 months! Split the teaching between several of you if time commitment is a problem, just make sure you plan and discuss what you teach so you are not giving conflicting messages to the learners when you teach!
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2005
  10. jumperKing

    jumperKing Account Suspended

    I have to totally agree here. It always suprises me how many trombonists can't read treble clef - a fully trained trombonist should be able to read all 4 main clefs. The cornet and euph are sometimes required in orchestra music. BBb bass - i thought the professional tubist had a collection of instruments to tootle on? The tenor horn is a difficult one as it is very rarely used outside the brass band (which is a great shame).

    That's a really interesting point and I have come across many kids who have never played in an ensemble despite having passed all their grades. Most musical instruments in the western world are designed for ensemble playing as well as solo work, to do the latter and not the former seems totally pointless.
  11. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    Sorry if I've mis-read what you have written but.....

    Are you saying that bands shouldn't teach their own "next generation" as they traditionally used to?

    My Band have recently started a junior band to get kids back into playing, especially kids whos parents cannot afford the charges the local education music department charge. Not to mention that they "pick and choose" who they will or will not teach. Additionally they positivley discourage their students from being involved with brass bands.

    Our band is trying to put something back into the community, please don't discourage us, no we are not "professionals" but then I've met some so-called professionals who really shouldn't be teaching!. Yes I agree it SHOULD be the teachers teaching but they aren't available or not supplied, and we do try to persuade the kids that we can only give them a "taster", if they wish to really progress they need a professional. Please don't discourage all the hard work and effor that bands throughout the country are putting in to bring along another generation of players. If we left it up to the "education system" we'll be finished in 15 years or so.

    rant over
  12. meandmycornet

    meandmycornet Active Member

    I think Phillip means that people who teach brass in schools should be qualified, not people teaching in training bands and stuff. Which I agree with, like he said, you would want your kids class teacher to be unqualified, so why is there music teacher?
  13. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    Yes I see what you mean "Music" Teachers should be qualified. Mind you my Son (who's been learning 3 instruments, recorder & Keyboard (through school) and Tuba (through a private teacher, who is qualfied ;) ) ) has been very unimpressed with what the primary education regards as "music"

    quote (bear in mind he's in his last year of primary education) : "We've actually looked at some notes in music today, rather than just bashing drums which we've done the last 3 years".


    I suspect this is because previous teachers can't read music. We were also pretty annoyed that the school only introduced brass lessons (trumpet :rolleyes: ) last year for the Bottom 2 years (and we'd been fighting to get him brass lessons for the previous three years!) and only now he's in his last year have they opened it up to the rest of the school (oh and they won't teach tuba!, only trumpet....).

    (sorry mods is this going off topic ?)
  14. welshraz

    welshraz Member

    I have to agree. I learnt to play through a youth band after my parents heard them playing at our local social club at Christmas. I really enjoyed the lessons and progressed into the junior band bit within 5 months. I did find that when i started lessons in school they was a conflict of interests but I stuck with the band and now I have a BA (Honours) in music. So who says that bands shouldn't teach children (or adults) to teach. Our band has about 20 kids currently learning to play, and it costs then about £1 a week for the lesson and an instrument. I think that bands should keep teaching children to learn because its great for them and without it we will be up the creek without a paddle....

    TIMBONE Active Member

    Good point Philip. I'm afraid that I can't resist a little political remark here. I spent some time in the 1970's as a brass teacher for one of the beacons in the UK for a local authority instrumental teaching service, Manchester. Unfortunately, this free tuition facilty was practically destroyed, across the UK, in the 1980's, by Tory Education Minister Kenneth Baker and the Thatcher Government.

    That is my little rant over :)


    I have to agree with you, especially with regard to teaching. I teach with my local band two nights a week, with all of my pupils progressing well. I do not have a music qualification to my name appart from higher music and grade examinations. Although I would love to get a music qualification, I have already spent years at university and now have a decent job and a young family (no chance of stopping work to get a qualification).

    We have had to fight hard to get the kids into the band and find the right music for them. However all of the kids in the youth band really enjoy themselves and keep coming back to rehearsals.

    One problem with playing the trombone is that you have to be that little bit older to start with to be able to get 6 position let alone 7th. By that point a lot of kids have taken up another instrument if they are interested. I play the trombone and am always mucking about on it before and after rehearsals to show the different things that a trombone can do that other instruments can't: so we have no problem in getting kids to want to play the trombone. What if people are not exposed to this kind of enthusiasm?

    Well that's me off the soap box now. Bad day at work and needed to vent a little frustration.

  17. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    Whilst agreeing with much of what has been written above, I think at the same time it's important to recognise some of the leaps forward that have been made in recent years, and to publicise them so that some of the old stigma of Brass Band instruments being a 'dead end' can be debunked.
    There are now several higher education centres specifically teaching 'Brass band' based courses to degree level and beyond, and Cornet or Euphonium as a first instrument on a music degree, leading on to teaching or professional playing careers are now common, rather than being non existent as they were 10 years ago.
    Similarly Brass Band composition is no longer a matter of rearranging overtures or popular songs, but is a medium worthy of many 'big name' contemporary composers.
  18. yonhee

    yonhee Active Member

    Cause if you play a brass instrument and even more if you play in a brass band everyone takes the p*ss. We dont have a brass band at school but Im in the windband there and the conductor has to do lots of transposing for me cause I cant play alto sax parts :p

    Thats evil, my horn teacher only teaches 4 people at my school.
  19. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Active Member

    Not at all - if it weren't for such opportunites, the number of young players would be much smaller. The traditional teaching in training bands is, of course, invaluable.

    No - what I meant that peripatetic teachers should know how to structure a lesson etc to get the most out of the small amount of time available. This needs proper teacher training.
    The pupil should feel that something has been achieved.
  20. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Why is brass so low in schools? Simple-parents.

    The last people whoi should have any say in anything their kids do is their parents.

    "Our little jessica should only learn the flute, not those nasty and probably very expensive metal things"
    "Androgeny is to learn piano. He will be a great penis one day.
    "I want you to re-write your entire curriculum around our son Geoffrey. He is to do GCSE two years early, while the common children do it one year early."
    You might laugh, but the last one nearly happened this week!!

    Parents will not pay good money for instrumental tuition for brass (common) instruments. They want their children to play violins, acoustic guitars (a la dylan), piano and the puoffy (cute) woodwinds. i.e. the instruments with cachet.

    The children want to play keyboards - because they are easy, guitar - because it is easy and other easy options.

    Parents refuse to 'push' their lazy brats into doing the 'right' thing and won't let us do it either. I've just had three lazy brats pushed down from the 'express' groups into my classes this week because... "They aren't enjoying it any more. Music should be fun, don't you agree?"

    What they mean is "my daughter/son is too effin idle to work at it and I CBA making them."

    We have children in our junior band, I discovered the other week,who don't practice at all outside the band room. why do they bother? That kind of attitude makes my blood vapourise - never mind boil. "Well,she likes coming to band" -

    and holding everyone else up in their progress?
    and setting them a bad example?
    and wasting my very valuable time?
    and p***ing off the conductor because the parts come back week after week in exactly the same state?

    Close your eyes, folks because I'm going to swear :eek: - my response is ...
    **** Off and stop wasting other people's time you selfish spoiled little brat!

    This may explain why I gave up being the junior band's conductor.:rolleyes:

    Parents have a responsibility to make sure their offspring stick to any committment they make. Not to make excuses for them when they let other people down. They have to know that:

    1. If they commit to something, that committment must be fulfilled
    2. If they don't want to commit to it, they can go away and do something else.

    I don't want to deal with someone who isn't prepared to put in at least as much effort as I am.
    It's waht I tell my GCSE and A level kids : If you put in 100%, I will put in 200; If you put in 50%, I will put in 100; If you give 25%, I will give 50 - and of course, if you give nothing, so do I.

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