What are the three most important issues concerning our movement at this present time

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by critic, Mar 28, 2005.

  1. critic

    critic Member

    Overall the band movement has many positives to be proud of but there are still some major problems to address. name your top three.
  2. lewis

    lewis Member

    Adjudicators (and everything surrounding that issue), venues, and the desperate need for the rules to be brought into the 21st Century.
  3. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    Certainly round here, its getting youngsters out of the county-run "music centres" and into local bands would be one of my wishes!

    Very few of the local bands have any school-aged members at all - they only tend to have them if a parent plays as well and they live close. (Unfortunately, my son can't play in the band I play in because the rehearsals finish too late - I'm usually not home until after 10:30 - and he has to be up by 7am next morning to catch the school bus :-( )

    The music centres also don't use brass band instruments - so they play trumpets and french horns and the trombones learn to play in bass clef.

    I wonder what'll happen in the next generations - will it all be wind bands round here?

  4. sparkling_quavers

    sparkling_quavers Active Member

    1. Adjudication system - need more than 1 adjudicator and a system where promotion/relegation is not based around 1 yearly contest
    2. Lack of interest from the music education system in banding (although I don't think this is a major problem in the NW. Saying that, it is directly where I live in Trafford)
    3. Contest venues
  5. Bryan_sop

    Bryan_sop Active Member

    Pretty much exactly what I was gonna say!
  6. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    1. Exactly the opposite problem here. We have County groups with a severe shortage of players, yet plenty in the local bands! A lot of purely political problems here tho (and not the band type!). We have storerooms full of new instruments ready to be played! Youngsters have too much to do to commit to music making generally now, all Games consoles should be banned ;-)

    2. There seems to be a lack of good players generally, but especially Bass and cornet round here for some reason. We are now (as a movement) really feeling the education cuts made some years ago, and will continue to for some years. The only way out is by training your own players it seems, but that involves the instruments, commitment and money that most bands don't have or haven't time to give.

    I await flaming on this one..............

    3. The way that we generally slag each other off, slag adjudicators, moan about contests, conductors, other bands etc. IT'S A HOBBY! Stop doing it if it upsets you that much. Play in a Big Band, Orchestra, sing in a choir.... you'll find they're all the same!
  7. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    Things the brass band movement should be thinking about:

    Being stuck in the past. Let's be honest about this, the brass band movement has hardly been progressive. In fact, I would say it has got less and less outward-looking in recent years.

    The attitude already seen in this thread is one that worries me - get the kids out of the local music centre groups and into the youth bands. In the local music groups, the players are tutored by staff who (on the whole) are good teachers, in the band they quite probably won't have this sort of standard.
    The worry about the instruments is, frankly, ridiculous to me. I am a trained trumpeter. Does this mean that I can't play cornet? I have played in brass bands all my life, I just prefer playing trumpet as my main instrument (actually, I prefer to spend my life on piccolo trumpet, but that is another story). Variety is possible. Surely an education in the wider world of music is a good thing? Mozart wrote nothing for brass bands, yet did write some stunning music for orchestra. If the wish is that students get a good musical education and experience, surely it is a good thing that they are able to experience this sort of music?

    Just think about the history of brass bands for a moment - evolution has happened in the past. Take a look at some of the instrument listings for the very first bands - notice anything odd?
    If the brass band movement buries its heads in the sand, then I believe it is going to die out, or at least become something of a musical anachronism. Trumppets are not the enemy, they are a different tonal alternative. Take a quick look at many of the top trumpeters in the UK (Maurice Murphy, Rod Franks, Martin Winter, Jim Watson, John Wallace etc) and you may see that many of them started on cornet and then moved to the trumpet. They obviously don't think that the trumpet is an instrument that should be avoided at all costs.
    My suggestion for the brass band movement, on this front, would be to not be afraid to experiment. If a piece would work better, tonally, on trumpets - use trumpets. If it would work better on cornets, use cornets. If it would work better with everyone using flugels - everyone get out your flugels.
    I can feel the hatred towards such a radical suggestion, but sometimes things do have to move on.

    French horns are not the enemy. Yes, they are a very different beast to the tenor horns that you find in the brass band world, but does this make them something to be avoided at all costs? The professional musical world doesn't seem to think so. Most of the french horn players I know can pick up a tenor horn and play it very well, they consider it an easy instrument (this is not meant as offensive or derogatory to any tenor horn players) in comparison to the french horn.
    The bass clef issue - hmm, just how short-sighted do you want to be on this issue? If you learn trombone in bass clef you are able to play in orchestras, wind bands, jazz bands, brass ensembles, brass quintets and the solo repertoire. If you learn in treble clef you can play in brass bands. If you are any good on the trombone and taught properly, you evetually learn how to read all the other clefs as well (bass, tenor, alto, treble clef Bb, treble clef C). If you stay with the brass band you will learn only treble clef Bb.

    I don't want this post to appear as if I am picking on one person (Neil, please don't take this personally - I was going to write it anyway), but you have brought up some of the issues that I see as being the potential downfall of the brass band movement.
    Rather than complaining about how trombonists are taught in bass clef (which makes sense, musically speaking), how about complaining to the publishers that all brass band sets come with bass clef parts as well?
    It takes so little time to alter the clef (and key) of a part of music, it would be easier for them to do this, than to retrain all the trombonists in the UK.

    I enjoy playing with brass bands (sometimes), but I do find the atmosphere very restrictive. If I turn up with my gig bag and there is a trumppet in there alongside my cornet, many people look down on me, just for owning a trumpet! The fact that I can out play them (and make my living from music) is neither here nor there, I own a trumpet, therefore I am evil and don't know what I am talking about.

    Mine is a plea - don't be afraid of trying new things.

    Another aspect of the brass band world that desperately needs thinking about (changing), is the contesting world.
    Mainly - is it necessary?
    I know there are people who enjoy playing the same piece every rehearsal for a couple of months, playing it once and then having one person say how terrible it was, but is this really the best way to demonstrate musicianship?

    The attitude of "we have been doing this for x number of years, this is the way we have always done it, this is the way it shall always be done."
    If you spend your life looking backwards for your inspiration, you may well find that the things in front of you change what they are looking for. This is something I feel the brass band movement is in serious danger of suffering from.

    Just some thoughts - hopefully nobody will take offence at any of them. They are things that have frustrated me about the brass band world for many years. They are not aimed at anyone in particular, just ideas that I think the brass band world should be thinking about.

    (and yes, I am prepared for the flaming that some of it might start)
  8. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    1. Youth development. Too many educational authorities have a blinkered view of music tuition that is geared toward orchestral instrumentation. Also, many schools are actively hostile towards the idea of their pupils being involved in extra curricular activities.

    2. A single administrative body to oversee banding in England. England is the largest banding country in the world and needs to be seen to be properly organised. Regional committees have their place but an overall body in charge with a single set of contesting rules would surely be a step in the right direction. It goes without saying that such a body should be democratically elected by the bands themselves.

    3. Public image. This needs to be improved. We need to bring banding out of the "flat cap and whippet" image and into the 21st Century. Events like Brass Alive are a step in the right direction but we need to do more. Mass market media like national newspapers and television and radio need to be targeted. Events like the Nationals and the European Championships went largely un-reported by those outwith the normal banding press.
  9. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    With regard to the question of instrumentation, trumpets / cornets / horns etc, this is nothing new. During the 1970s, Besses o' th' Barn and their then Professional Conductor Ifor James were experimenting with alternatives such as Eb trumpet instead of Soprano and Tenorcors instead of traditional Eb tenor Horns. This only becomes a problem when entering competitions, which don't / didn't allow for departure from 'standard' instrumentation.

    I have to admit to being a traditionalist, if only in terms of the sound a Band makes. Physically, the sound of a Band comes from the fact that it contains groups of mainly two harmonic series (sorry Mr/s Bass Trom player!), and it's this osund that I find spine tingling. For the record, though, I have no objection to 'breaking the rules', but only for a specific purpose.

    With reference to Andy Cat's post above - the salient thing for me there is the word 'hobby'. With this in mind, my three things (in no order) are:

    Money (and, IMO, its destructive influence on banding);
    Politics and
    Lack of new audience penetration.

    One final point with regard to the education issue, I've seen it from both sides. Dissaffected teachers and pupils who want more than their teachers are willing to give - and it may even be geographical.
  10. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    Lordy, lordy, lordy, no.

    The argument, yes, the thought of playing/singing in one, no.

    Big band, yeah, OK, ('cos I get to play trombone!) except for the clarinet/soprano sax
    Orchestra - ish, but loads of bars rest and prima donna violinists
    Choirs - eek. Sopranos who are past their best, can't reach the upper register comfortable or in tune, and act as if their constutional rights have been violated when asked to sing the 2nd part.

    I'd rather play Bb Bass.

    Oh. I do.
  11. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    I'm not going to quote all of TrumpetMike's post...

    You've not offended me - don't worry - I think we actually agree, mostly.

    I've no problem with people playing trumpets and french horns - each to their own. As you point out, there's (and so I'm told!) little problem in picking up a cornet or a flugal and playing it as a trumpet player and vice versa. Likewise, us an instrument that's appropriate to the music. However, parents don't usually want to spend on a cornet and a trumpet (and a flug) - so as the trumpet is what is "prefered" at school, that's what they buy and it doesn't really fit tonally into a band that's got all cornets...

    You're absolutely right about the trombone issue too: in today's computer-set music its trivial to produce bass and treble clef version of parts and ship both. And yes, I do read in tenor and bass clef as well as treble on my euph and wouldn't mind if they did the same for us (never mastered alto clef, I must admit, but there's not much out there!)

    I don't see bands as being the primary place where (young) people are taught: they are places to go and play and practice the skills they are learning in an ensemble. Thus its not strictly necessary for the band to have the same level of teaching skills.

    As I only did 1 point out of 3, I'll add to the other 2...

    Contesting: its not a bad idea, and is something that not many mucical groupings do. It does appeal to the "competitive instinct" in some of us. However, setting out the rules by which it'll be judged more formally would probably help. That way you know what you're working towards rather than second-guessing the adjudicator's intent.

    Lastly, stressing its a HOBBY more! Work WITH each other more rather than against. Work with other musical groups - be they choirs, orchestras, kazoo bands or whatever (not bagpipes though :eek: :) ) and people will realalise banding is fun!

  12. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    Whit's wrang wi the pipes wee man. :)
  13. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    Well my main concern as got to be adjudicators more than anything else:
    The sooner we get 2 Adjudicators in EVERY AREA AND EACH SECTION the sooner the better, because the present system is just not on at all some areas 2 this year the majority 1.

    With some of the sections with over 20 bands for one adjudicator to judge is not on.
    You may say well the adjudicator as a comfort break of 10 mins after 9/10 bands but THAT is no good.
    Its about time we stood up to the AREA OFFICALS and say we want 2 in the box.
    For get the prize money bands i do not think are bothered about the prize money they would swap prize money for a extra adjudicator in the box or even a extra £5-10 to the entry fee.
    But it will NEVER not get through to the THICK HEADS who control the area contests, that bands for a good number of years want 2 IN THE BOX.
    I bet if all the bands boycotted the AREAS for next year and said 2 in the box or you will not have a area championship contest something would be done.
    The National Champoinships 2& 3 adjudicators whats the difference we may ask.
    Any one else got any more thoughts on this subject.
  14. critic

    critic Member


    Having first started the thread i have to say the quaility of reply's have been ecxellent keep them coming as these issues wont go away .i myself have some strong views which iwill leave till later but two adjudicators in all sections at mayjor contests is a must. What about not being allowed to warm up before going on stage. Lets get that sorted out.
  15. sparkling_quavers

    sparkling_quavers Active Member

    I don't think this is true in the majority of cases. I suppose it depends what you mean by 'local groups'. My experience of LOCAL orchestras, windbands and choirs isn't off a particularly high standard musically speaking. If you compare this standard to an average standard local brass band (taking mid 2nd section as average) then (in my honest opinion) the band is better. In terms of teaching, many youth bands have very experienced MDs and tutors.

    I totally agree, but likewise fantastic music has been written for band only.

    Although I believe that the beauty of the sound of a brass band comes from it's instrumentation I totally agree with you. There is nothing wrong with changing instrumentation to suit certain pieces of music

    What disheartens me if the fact that bands are often seen as 2nd-rate music in education. That means money isn't invested into giving youngsters the opportunity to experience banding. I am not saying that they should only play in brass bands. I believe there should be opportunities for young people to experience as many musicial styles as possible. Like you said, variety is the key to education (true for education of all sectors).
  16. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    1) Adjudication
    2) Encourage Youth into playing instruments
    3) Creating a greater following from non-brass players
  17. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    The three things that spoil banding?

    1. Politics
    The politics that dictates that young people in school can no longer have free lessons. The politics that frowns upon extracurricular activities for no reason and fails to appreciate the benefits of music - until, of course, that music starts to bring in some money, in which case, as long as it costs nothing to get it going, it's OK. This politics also prefers science at the expense of everything else and produces limited, rigid, blinkered adults to carry on the tradition.

    2. Politics
    The politics that says "Jemma can't play in the school band because the teacher in charge is in another band." That little Amy can't come to rehearsals once a week because she can't spare the time. That little Johnny can't come to band because he CBA and I CBA making him. We insist the school band plays for Alice's GCSE performance even though she couldn't be bothered coming to band practice and we didn't see the point in making her. It's only a school band. That values electronic keyboards, guitars and mindless banging rock noise to sensitive thought provoking music because it's cheaper to produce.

    3. Politics
    The politics of a band world that is still in the Victorian Era in terms of its musical tastes, it's arcane rituals (including contests) its lower working class values and its public face which helps to create a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of its audience - people who refuse to even countenance the possibility of change - because they are afraid of it.

    On top of this, you also have the legacy of the Thatcher years, which encouraged people to be totally self-centred. I think we'll be feeling the results of that for a couple of generations. People are much more selfish and self-centred than they used to be. They are much less willing to give up their time and effort for a group activity unless they can see some (immediate) personal reward.

    They are also much less willing to put in the necessary effort. I have noticed a definite trend in the last 20 years for children to give up at the first hurdle. Parents are no longer prepared to 'push' their children. They seem to be so afraid of 'over-doing it' that they don't do it at all.

    (OK so it's a sweeping generalisation, but it is very common. People reading this are liable to be the exception)

    My experiences in recent years have included peri teachers who 'poach' players for their own band, or who compete against school band for players on concert nights; a very bizarre and short-sighted attitude amongst other local bands towards school bands as well as the usual deprecatory "Sounds like a school band", "Its only a school band" comments in other band rooms I've visited. We all suffer from these attitudes in the long run.

    The education system is also letting us down. Most of the children we are putting through GCSE this year would not have made it in previous years. Nearly all of them are rock musicians and despite three years of quite intense teaching they can still barely read notation.

    The new head of department is young, and perhaps more in tune with this klind of music than I am, but last year we had our first failure in 15 years. This year I'm expecting quite a few more. It hasn't been helped that I've been off sick for huge chunks of this year, but the quality of student we are putting through the GCSE is very poor.

    This also has a knock on effect on instrumental lessons and groups. Whereas at one time we would have had 20 or 30 brass players on the instrumental rotas we now have 5 or 6. Guitarists and keyboardists however now have about 30 to 40. I'm not complaining about the numbers, but it alters children's perceptions about what is a 'cool' instrument to play.

    I can feel a senior moment coming on so I'll stop now.

    Just my thoughts - which I think I may have expressed on a similar topic before.
  18. Griffin

    Griffin Active Member

    The Brass Band movement has always been progresive. I think its important to remember the past. For example, Bands started out with 12 players, including Clarionets, Cornopeans, Opicleides, Serpents ets because basically there wasn't any thing else until Adolph Sax came along in the 1840s to produce decent reliable instruments that the working people could play (by this I mean valves & their shovel-like fingers!).
    It wasn't until the 1880s that we recognise the standard formation...
    since then there have been many changes, it was only 29 years ago that percussion was alowed to play in all sections at a contest.
    The point is that perhaps we don't notice or realise the developments within the brass band movement.
    The traditions we have today stem from the mid 19th century, based on working-clas cohesion... all I'm saying is that we should always remember the past.
    The brass band movement is always progressing, but one must not mistake tradition for recidisim.:wink:
  19. Chris Sanders

    Chris Sanders Active Member

    The conditions bands are left before going on stage is disgusting...

    Particlularly at the Blackpool Winter Gardens... Everytime I play there, players are left in the freezing cold...

    Then you get some mong stewarding telling you to be quiet, but if they supplied adequate facilities it wouldnt be a problem...
  20. postie

    postie Member

    I would totally agree about having 2 adjudicators in the box I think that is 1 very important issue that needs dealing with. I am sure the bands would put more in entry fee terms if it meant having the 2 adjudicators.

    Another very important issue is the absolute mess that banding at the top level is in at the moment. In 2006 it looks as though youare going to have 2 European Championships taking place Complete and utter farce that is!!!!.

    Another issue needs dealing with is the promotion of band generally i.e. hearing a brass band on the radio more often. It is not just Radio 3 but Classic FM don't seem to want to do much for Brass Bands at all. I have no problem with them playing all the usual Composers. I certainly think they could include a brass band programme or just the odd piece once in a while.

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