Racial Demographic of Brass Bands

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by DS2014, Sep 8, 2014.

  1. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Something that's been on my mind since Whit Friday is the apparent monochrome racial make-up of brass bands. During the Whit contests, one bumps into a heck of a lot of different bands on the road and it is striking how few minority ethnic members there are in general. If it was possible to argue that brass bands come from areas with low BME populations, well, that'd be one thing; but the fact is that brass bands, particularly in Lancashire and Yorkshire, come from areas with quite high BME populations, so, why do you think this is not reflected in the bands?

    Perhaps my perception is off, and maybe I just happened to bump into a lot of all-white bands on Whit Friday, but has anyone else noticed this? And if so, why is it that bands don't attract BME players?
  2. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    P.s. A quick check of the player-profiles and band photos of the top performers at the British Open last weekend appears to show that they haven't a single BME member amongst them [Dyke, Cory, Flowers, Fodens, Desford, Hammonds]. Of course, there are some profile pictures missing, so, maybe somebody can put me right on that.
  3. Backrowmike

    Backrowmike Member

    Many Muslims will not play in bands because of the teaching that they are not to "waste their precious lifetimes in pastimes and amusements" which is taken to be music and singing. Others do not like the mixing of the sexes in Brass bands.
  4. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    For those that aren't certain, as I was, BME does equal 'black and minority ethnic communities'.

    There are certainly able musicians in the BME population and some 'State Side' Afro Carabean trumpet players are Jazz idols. In the UK their absence is, to quite a large extent I think, cultural. You do not see much in the way of BME in Orchestras either and again I think that is cultural. In the London Carnavals you do see BME musicians (steel drums come to my mind) so they exist. Group music making seems to be more of a European and North American way of doing things whilst music making traditions in other places, with perhaps poorer and more dispersed populations, seems more resticted to generally simpler and cheaper to make instruments played by themselves or in small groups.

    To put it simply bands do not attract BME players because they typically choose to stay outside of banding, but I do recall seeing a photo of a lower sections band with a BME player in it.
  5. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Thanks for the responses, guys. I didn't know about that Muslim teaching and its interpretation as meaning not to waste one's time on music making. Isn't interesting how a different religion/organisation like, say, the SA interprets the spirituality of music making.

    Have just checked out the websites of the New York and the London Phil. And, sure enough, there are very few minority ethnic there too. The exception, with the NY Phil, is that there are quite a few Asian (Japanese, I think), players.

    Check out this Japanese Primary School brass band play Sparke's 'London Overture' with not a sheet of music in sight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xe6clDYFlQ8
  6. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Smithills Band always seem to maintain a good number of players from an Asian background, but it doesn't look as if many choose to continue playing once they leave school.
  7. euphoria

    euphoria Member

    I seem to remember quite a few English bands with members of Scottish heritage :cool:
  8. Ianroberts

    Ianroberts Well-Known Member

    Most welsh bands need a majority of English players to play the fast twiddly bits for them.

  9. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

  10. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Anecdotal experience would suggest that able English players are pulled in to support some Welsh Bands. Certainly on the forum I’ve also noticed that the RWCMD attracts many students from England (typically the South West?) who then support the Welsh Bands in some way. But to be fair some do flow the other way, aren’t there some Welsh players in (Gloucestershire based) Flowers?

    In the place I live, like other locations, we have a large number of Eastern Europeans but I’ve never come across one in a Brass Band. I have come across players from Germany and France, their music culture was not brass bands before they arrived in the UK but they managed the cultural change. These days I recon’ that any gifted BME player would be welcomed nearly anywhere - the Welsh have already put prejudice to one side (to let gifted English in). :)
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2014
  11. DaveBBb

    DaveBBb Member

    Ripon City Band has a Pole in the back row cornets
  12. DaveBBb

    DaveBBb Member

    Should also have said Ripon have two Scots in the bass section lol
  13. DaveBBb

    DaveBBb Member

    My son teaches Low Brass to the Royal Guard of Oman and yes, there are cultural issues in playing any type of music within the Muslim faith, and the mixing of genders is definitely an issue.
  14. animal.22

    animal.22 Member

    I don't know about anybody elses dictionary, but mine says monochrome means black AND white!! Just a thought :p
  15. owain_s

    owain_s Member

    It needs to be pointed out that there is no single or uniform 'Muslim opinion' about music. Some teachings are, indeed, emphatically anti-music. Other interpretations take a more contextual view of the mentions of music in the Koran and the hadith, seeing them as criticisms of the circumstances in which it is used and its role in indulgence and seduction. For some, the criticisms are mainly of singing or of stringed instruments. Then there's the hundreds of millions of Muslims across the world who have no such objections, and the myriad musical traditions which have developed and flourished within Muslim cultures across several continents.

    In short, "Muslims don't approve" doesn't help much as an explanation of brass band demographics!
  16. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    To be fair Backrowmike's point is still true: "Many Muslims will not play in bands because of the teaching that they are not to "waste their precious lifetimes in pastimes and amusements" which is taken to be music and singing. Others do not like the mixing of the sexes in Brass bands." Where the Muslims are, what is many and what particular strand of Islam they follow is yet another issue and a very complex one.

    IMHO what might be sadly true is that people who come to live in the UK often do not adopt our traditions and ways of life - which, to my way of thinking, rather defeats the object of wanting to join us here - but come purely for their own economic reasons ..... and then are we onto a difficult topic or what!? :(
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2014
  17. Backrowdiva

    Backrowdiva Member

    A lot of musicians tend to follow family traditions - I'm brass because my dad was etc, and Banding is generally linked to jobs where the majority of players historically worked in white, working class jobs. Add that to the lack of free in school tuition today and few youngsters from outside the brass band community are given the chance to even try an instrument. (I consider myself lucky had 6 years of shhh woodwind tuition through my school years with an instrument provided by the scholl FOC for the 1st couple of years, plus steel pans for a while)
  18. owain_s

    owain_s Member

    Treating 'Muslim' as synonymous with 'immigrant' does cause difficulties....
  19. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Big word synonymous. I wouldn't want to foucus on any religious or ethnic group too closely. Historically the number of Islamic believers has been very closely linked to immigration from Muslim countries such as Pakistan. The whole immigration issue is a real 'can of worms' and we'd best steer well clear of it and get back to the OP's original question, please.
  20. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Here in NZ it is fair to say that bands are predominantly white (and also a lot more British than some other pastimes here!) but there are a fair number of Polynesian players around. Many of the HUGE Tongan and Samoan churches in NZ have brass bands. For the most part these are fairly amateur affairs (I think the community/spiritual priorities outweigh any issues of ability) but there are a few around who play well and there are some players who catch the bug and play also with 'standard' brass bands. The current line-up at Dalewool has three very good Tongans.

    There is a large population of Asian people, mostly Chinese, especially in Auckland but very few of them are playing in brass bands. Presumably if I went to see a youth orchestra or piano festival etc I would see a better representation from our Asian friends.

    Can anyone think of a British (or western) hobby or pastime that is group/team oriented that attracts a good proportion of non-white people to be involved along with us pale folk?

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