Struggling Band

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Blueboy, Nov 9, 2003.

  1. Blueboy

    Blueboy New Member

    Hi all, Im new to these boards and was directed to the site by Super_Sop from his website.

    Ive used many forums before for other intrests I have, but can I say how impressed I was reading some of the threads before registering. No swearing, no timewasters, just genuine brass band enthuthiasts, I look forward to speaking to alot of you in the future.

    Now, coming to my thread subject. I know that this has probably been discussed many times before, as it is a common problem for alot of bands. When I first joined Seaham Town Band in 1990 as 2nd Baritone, we had 30+ players, a bottom section band who played every contest that we could afford to go to, with the yearly highlight of the CISWO weekend in Blackpool. Bottom of the bottom section we may have been, but that didnt hinder our enjoyment of playing. As time went on, and a few promotions for me, finally making it to Principal Euphonium, players left, including myself at one point to go to Silksworth (Vaux) Brass Band.
    After a spell at Vaux, I decided to pack it in all together due to the amount of time Banding was taking up. I eventually returned to Seaham as I missed playing, to find alot of people missing. we now stand at about 7 or 8 regular players on a good night, with only two engagements a year, the Armistace Parade and the Civic Carol Service. Rehearsals had dropped from twice weekly to once a week, the missing parts in the music restrict us to which pieces we can play. Oh, and we dont have a conductor anymore. Now dont get me wrong, I still love to play each week, but I do miss the proper band experience, doing concerts and contests, and the sound of a full band playing their hearts out.

    What I want to know is, of the other bands and bandsmen who have found themselves in this or similar position, is there a way out? What did you do to revive the band again? Any comments or suggestions welcome, I just want to hear that we are not the only ones, as alot of our neighbouring bands dont seem to be suffering.

    Sorry for the long rant, just had a lot to say.

    Thanks for reading.

  2. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    I don't know the whole of this tale, it all happened before i took the reins at Emley.

    A few years ago (5/6ish). Emley band was stuggling with players and everything else, the band merged with Cawthorne band, fairly close by in Barnsley. This went on for a while until the numbers had built up and the bands split back to their original groups (i'm hazy on th exact details of that bit). Emley band then hit on the right bloke in the middle and they built nearly a full band, unfortunatley Jack left a year or so ago, and then the band have been through a couple of conductors, until I took the job in April this year, Even then we were 9/10 players short of a full outfit. Now we're short of a couple of seats, but no-more really. We're keeping our fingers crossed, on filling out the rest. But we feel as though we're on the up!

    So It can be done from what seems to be no hope at all!

    All the best and I'm sure if you keep plugging away things will happen.
  3. groovy

    groovy Active Member

    This is a simple trombonist's view :p - I have no experience of your situation, being only 14 and have only ever been in one band, so this may not help.

    But, as ploughboy said, maybe just merging with another band could be the answer? You say neighbouring bands aren't suffering, but a smaller one could be willing.

    Sorry if this is no use to your band. Good luck. :)
  4. Ginge

    Ginge Member

    You are definitely not the only ones!

    I used to play for a 3rd section band that eventually got relagated due to loss of several players from the band. The band went down to about 7 players and lost their conductor! This was a hard time and at one stage we thought we would just have to fold. I left them at this stage to join JAG Mount Charles for obvious reasons. Fortunately for them though, there ex-conductor came back to the band to try and bring them back to their original standard. He attracted players back and they grew stronger and stronger as the weeks went by. They are now a very strong 4th section band and have qualified for the National finals for the last 2 years.
    So there is hope!
    You just need to attract attention to the band. Perhaps by advertising in local schools/newspapers?
    I know this will not be easy, but it's worth a try!

    Hope I helped in some way.

    Best of luck in the future!
  5. Keppler

    Keppler Moderator Staff Member

    Oh I know this one.

    We were in a somewhat similar situation ourselves about 5 or 6 years ago. The band, for various reasons, was slowly disappearing, and at one point in 1997 we were down to about 7 regulars (read. die-hards) Quickly realising that all was going down the toilet, we took a number of steps to try and ensure the survival of the band.

    started a massive fundraising campaign to buy new instruments and equipment.
    decided to appoint an "outsider" conductor
    most importantly - developed links with local schools to bring new players into the band.

    I'll say it now, it takes time, and is no way an instant solution, but imho, the absolute best way to maintain long term survival of a band is to get local youth involved. Essentially, we went back to basics - played easy music, and slowly began to build up the standard from scratch again.
    6 years later, we've grown from 7 to 107, have become one of the most promising bands in the area, have started a dedicated youth band, and to be honest - things have never been brighter.

    So, from the sound of your post, it seems to me like you're looking for the "quick fix". I'm not altogether sure there is one, but with effort and patience it is possible to bring things back to life - potentially stronger than ever.

    Best wishes (and good luck)
  6. michellegarbutt

    michellegarbutt Supporting Member

    I was in a band not so far from you (Sacriston Colliery) that went through exactly the same problem. when I joined again we had about 10 players. Theres no easy answer to the problem. First of all recruit beginners through schools, local press ect. We had a mission for every player to recruit 1 other player. We hired a conductor who brought in a few players. The important thing is to try and keep morale up amongst the players you have. Ask among other local bands if any of their players would come to your rehersals just to fill up the seats until you manage to recruit new players of your own. Do as many jobs as you can even if it's only half a dozen of you playing carols or hymns. You've got to let people know you exist. Good Luck for the future.
    p.s. if you ever need to borrow a baritone or bass just pm me or ChewyTuba
  7. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    Gladstone's had a few ups and down like that this year alone mate. I feel for you.

    Part of our problem, is as older adult members die, younger kids that we train and educate all head off (myself included for 5 years) to unis and bigger bands. As a result, we are currnetly very dependant on our education system.

    But like all government departments, it is letting us down. EdQld has decreed that techers are to be multi-instrumentalists, and as such we have noone plugging brass in town.

    After a few fights between members and comittee, I was made conductor of the band. We actually have 2 bands, a Jr, or training band, and a C grade band. A lot of our high school players try to do both, but schoolwork alwasy wins out in the end. As a result, I have been known to get 6-10 ppl at a rehearsal. So I did the only thing I could.

    On paperwork, it worked out that what one band was missing, the other band had. So I am combining the 2 bands for the rest of the year, permantly transferring 90% of the band for next year, and starting from scratch with a younger junior band, and trying to get a few adults interested too, in the hopes that some of them may stick around when their kids don't.

    Also, antoher reason attendance was low before I took over was the conductor, a clever enough bloke, was not a musician, just a player, and the age gap, combined with the lack of pure knowledge drove a lot of kids away. While I am sure this may not be your case, it doesn't hurt to be aware.
  8. geordiecolin

    geordiecolin Active Member

    My old band (Ovington Tynedale) went through a pretty much similar process and unlike the boys and girls at Sacriston, it wasn't turned around. The band subsisted for 2 years on about 7 or 8 regular players, many of whom were kids who were travelling from the Boldon area which for them was a round trip of 30 odd miles. Quite often my dad used to drive over to get them and take them home again, meaning what should have been a 10 minute roundtrip from our house turned into a 60 mile marathon!! My dad was the secretary and the amount of work he put in fo r so little reward is staggering. Schools and Peripatetic teachers were canvassed with little sympathy, jobs were performed, often with the fee being mostly spent on dep players and the recruiting drive never stopped, but had little success. A change of rehearsal room, moving right into Newcastle (Gosforth), didn't attract any more players.

    After 2 really hard years, the committee decided to call it a day, in effect they decided to turn off the life-support machine!! A sad day for us all.

    Best of luck with keeping Seaham going (despite being mackems!) and don't go the way of so many North-East Bands of late. Down here in S.Yorks/N.Derbys you can't move for bands overflowing with players and with full training bands. In the North East whole bands, sometimes even successful bands are just dissapearing overnight. Tis not a nice state of affairs!
  9. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    Sometimes you can feel like you're beating a dead horse, when all you have is really a weak pony. Were you rehearsing Full Brass Band stuff, or did you try making a small ensemble? A couple of good gigs as a funky, funny little group would've gained a little publicity and breathed some life back......maybe.
  10. satchmo shaz

    satchmo shaz Active Member

    well here's my 2 pennoth, all the ex players etc, and have a reunion! apply for smaller grants (success more likely) and yes start a training band, use the local media and band press to help you raise awareness....... it wont happen overnight tho. as for music see if any bands will donate or let you have some cheap! (we are currently selling some original duplicate sets for £3 each!)

    good luck :wink:
  11. MattB

    MattB Member

    Whe nI first took over as MD at Littleborough just over two years ago the band had a max of 12 players, hardly any jobs and not much morale.

    Through bloody hard work we are now only three players short, are contesting again and there is a buzz about the place. The only advice I will give is call in every favour you can, and stick at it! It doesn't happen overnight, and it's taken a hell of a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get us to where we are now.

    Best of luck.
  12. jim

    jim Member

    Have you ever thourght about starting a youth band going around the schools recruiting sevrall times a year in some areas funding is availible from the local councils ect If you can manage to get people to start learning you never know you might find the next Roger Webster or Ian Porthouse! many a band has got its way out of the bleekest of spells by going about a youth policy.
  13. Straightmute

    Straightmute Active Member

    I'm astonished that you're struggling on without a conductor.

    For me the first step would be to find someone who would come along and inject some enthusiasm, motivation and musical leadership. They would not necessarily need to be well-experienced or highly qualified, maybe a player from a higher section band who wants to get a foot on the first rung of the conducting ladder.

    In my experience players do start drifting back when they hear that there's a new conductor and that rehearsals are purposeful and fun.

  14. Tpascoe

    Tpascoe New Member

    I agree with "Straightmute" that a conductor would inspire others to come and see. I know when I was appointed conductor of the Metro Youth Band of The Salvation Army in Chicago we were going through problems of declinning membership and looked at shutting it down. WHen I came in the thought of a new conductor brought people out just to see what was going to happen. It also promoted the idea that if a conductor is in place then the band must be planning on performing and doing things.

    Best Wishes!
  15. euphgothgirl

    euphgothgirl New Member

  16. SirakEdaj

    SirakEdaj New Member

    Hi kim!!!!!
  17. 2nd man down

    2nd man down Moderator Staff Member

    Adverts on tMP, posters in local shop windows, and enthusiasm when people do turn up eventually. A lot of hard graft goes a long way, we were on our knees at one point and now have a full (except for maybe 2 seats), happy (and hopefully going somewhere) band.

    Hope things have picked up for your band since this thread was started.
  18. GingerMaestro

    GingerMaestro Active Member

    Even though my band have been through a similar situation another band that I have links with went down to about 4 or 5 regulars but instead of packing it all in they used the local press and national press and started a S.O.B campaign Save Our Band They are now back to almost full strength and are able to do atleast 1 or 2 contests a year it was suprising how many players suddenly appeared out of the wood work some who actually had moved to the area and didn't even know there was a band right on their door step

    Keep Trying things can and hopefully will get better

    Good Luck:tup
  19. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    You definitely need to get the local kids involved if you want to secure the long-term future of the band, however that is a longer term fix. Even if you were to start a junior band now, you'd be lucky to have anyone who was ready to move into the vacant seats in the senior band within a year, possibly longer.

    I would say the first priority is to sort you conductor situation out. My own band was in a similar position about 10 years ago (in fact we were one commitee meeting away from packing up all together) but we were lucky enough to find a someone who wanted to learn how to conduct a band. He wasn't bothered that there were more empty seats than full ones, as he was learning as we rebuilt. Over the following months we managed to pick up players, and he gained confidence with his conducting. At the area, just six months after we were talking about packing it all in we came 4th. So you need to find an enthusiatic conductor who isn't going to gripe about mssing parts etc and work with what he has. Once you've done that you can start to set realistic targets - first concert, first contest etc and try to stick with them - even if it means borrowing heavily. Getting on the scene is important.

    There is hope, but it takes lots of hard work, PMA (positive mental attitude), and a bit of luck. Ring old contacts, have a re-union, advertise - all the suggestions here are good ones, but mostly keep your chin up and stay positive.

    Best of luck.

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