If you wander up the leafy path towards your local band room on a summers evening, wafting along on the cool breeze may be the heart-warming sound of the brass band. The journey this band has taken to get to this standard is likely to be varied, but in some cases, questions the very essence of British brass banding… and the future, is definitely not orange. With the future of many local brass bands at stake, due to a general decline in young brass players over the last 20 years, it takes a lot of dedication from all those who love being part of this bastion of typical British ness – with its camaraderie, team work, tradition and hard fought, yet friendly competition – to keep their bands going. Certain bands have taken almost drastic measures to do this... but at what price? To use one of our local bands as an example - three years ago it was a thriving, promising band, competing in the first section, but due to a few twists of fate (including the relocation of a very much liked conductor) there began a steady demise of players. Although the number of players registered with the band was healthy, the attendance in rehearsals never reflected it, and thinking it was a lack of direction, a new conductor was sought. Despite the appointment of a very well qualified and able (not to mention expensive) ex-military musical director, matters did not improve and moral hit rock bottom. Desperate for the band not to collapse, the loyal members continued to attend, rejecting offers to play elsewhere, and a new plan of attack was devised… On a frosty night early in January, the situation radically changed. On entering the band room, members were met by a shining array of instruments held by military owners… almost a full band! The pleasure of playing in even that first of rehearsals was immense! The steadfast few, complimented by these very able men and women, made an enviable sound, and with expert guidance from the conductor, rose to the challenge of competing in the Area finals, where they performed impressively. After an extremely good result, the band was looking forward to progressing and competing at the National finals too. But… and herein lies the sad tale… whilst the original members expected to be a part of this phenomenon, due to a thirst for excellence, they gradually began getting squeezed out of the band. Initially it started with players being moved on to less challenging positions, sometimes well below their capability, in order to retain the interest of the new-comers, until one-by-one they were bullied into leaving altogether, some jumping ship before they were pushed, others hanging on in almost disbelief… surely they wouldn’t be denied the chance to compete with their local band in a position that reflected their ability or even to compete at all? The original members, who had taken in the newcomers with open arms, expecting that this would be the making of the band, would, I strongly expect, never have agreed to it, if they had known how it would result. What amounts to an infiltration and subsequent siege of a local band, has been made substantially worse by the addition of a further atrocity! The band in question has a sister band, running from the same accounts, premises, sharing instrument and music resources, who does not compete. This band, although admittedly of a less polished standard, regularly performs concerts, and to all intents and purposes, is the breadwinner of the family. Due to the ‘A’ bands inflated opinion of itself, quite a few obligatory engagements (council funded park concerts, remembrance services etc) have been passed on to the ‘B’ band, which in effect means that they are shirking their responsibilities too! What’s more, they are demanding the better instruments, which are needed by the working band, simply because they are the superior players! This whole scenario begs the question… at what price does the continuance and furtherance of a band come? Is the professionalism and accuracy of a band more important than the enjoyment of its members? Should ‘hiring and firing’ be the way forward in order to obtain the finest band? Or should the emphasis be on nurturing and improving the existing players to achieve their best? I personally believe that the essence of competing in the brass band world is to encourage bands to continually improve what they’ve already got, which makes any successes not just more enjoyable, but thoroughly well deserved. If the ‘A’ band in question does as well in the Nationals as everyone expects, and hopes, I’m afraid it will be a very hollow victory, and I would urge other bands in similar situations to seriously consider… what’s more important, accolades or people?