tMP Exclusive Interview with Adrian HornBy way of an introduction, could you please tell us a little about yourself.
Webmaster - Sale Brass
My name is Adrian Horn and I work as the Network Manager and Music Technology tutor at Chetham's School of Music in Manchester.
I started my playing cornet at the age of 8 and the first band I joined would have been Shepley Band when I was 10 or 11. From there I progressed onto flugel with the Holmfirth High School band and cornet with HadeEdge Band where I progressed from 3rd cornet all the way up the ranks via Soprano on to the Front Row. However, by the age of 14 I’d decided that I would love to make a living from playing music so had switched to the trumpet as my main instrument and took up principal trumpet positions with Kirklees Youth Orchestra, Wind Orchestra and Jazz Orchestra, and Halifax Symphony Orchestra.
I went on to do a music degree at the London College of Music where I studied trumpet under Bill Houghton (Principal trumpet of the BBC Symphony) and Nick Thompson (Principal trumpet of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe). Although I was primarily classically trained I had a penchant for jazz and was fortunate to be the Lead Trumpet of the LCM Big Band for 3 years during which time I got to play alongside such jazz greats as John Surman, Pete King, and to trade solos with Johnny Dankworth.
After leaving college I went on to perform on cruiseships and in theatres as a freelance musician, however I soon realised that actually having to play for a living was not nearly as enjoyable as playing for your own enjoyment, and so via a brief spell in Glasgow I ended up at Chetham’s in Manchester.
Are you actively involved in playing a brass instrument with any band, or do you simply undertake the web design on behalf of a band?
I currently play on the front row with Sale after being invited down to a rehearsal or two by their MD (and my Chetham’s colleague and friend) John Dickinson, former Principal Trumpet of the Halle Orchestra.
How long have you been involved in web design, and how did you first get involved in it?
I first got involved with designing websites when I start my first job at Chetham’s which was as the Development Officer (Marketing and Promotion). Looking back at what my first websites looked like, I’m surprised they kept me on!
Do you manage/run any other web sites, if so, which ones?
I currently manage the Chetham’s School of Music website (www.chethams.com) – although we are currently in the process of going right back to the drawing board and doing a total redesign of this one – Brass-Forum (www.brass-forum.co.uk) and I also built and designed the website for the BBC Young Musician Finalist, trumpeter Huw Morgan (www.huwmorgan.net) .
What applications did you use to build your site and why did you choose these?
I use a combination of Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Photoshop. I think Dreamweaver is wonderful tool for beginners to professionals. If you are just starting out you can use it as a simple WYSIWYG layout tool and it writes the code for you. As you progress you start to understand the HTML code it is writing and you can then get braver and start tinkering with the code directly to really do great things with the design. Fireworks and Photoshop although both graphics editors are both excellent at different areas. Fireworks being particularly good at creating rollover images that integrate directly with Dreamweaver and Photoshop is simply the best image manipulation tool out there.
Please can you explain for us how you prepared and planned for the development of the site when asked to implement this for Sale Brass?
The idea behind the site I created for Sale Brass was initially just to update the look, make it more user-friendly and add a members only area as well. However, the more I thought about it the more I realised here was a chance to make a website that wasn’t just run by one person in the band, it could be a collaborative effort. With this in mind, I decided to have a go at making my own CMS (Content Management System) to sit behind the back of the site. This now gives any member of the Committee the ability to add News items or Concerts to the website without having any special knowledge of html programming etc. It is as simple as filling in a form. The use of a CMS also brings the benefits that the Homepage is automatically updated with the latest news items and the next forthcoming concerts (and past events are removed), making the website homepage always look up-to-date. I will (provided I get sometime over the Christmas Holidays) extend the CMS to cover more of the pages on the website as well, so player lists, information pages etc, can also be updated in this way, allowing the band themselves to keep the site up-to-date without having to wait for just one person (i.e. me!) to get round to altering it.
What content do you feel should be included on a brass band www site?
I think the most important things on a band’s website should be information about the band in its current form and a potted history, and then a Concert list THAT IS KEPT UP-TO-DATE so that your potential audience know when to come and see you (I see to many sites where the concerts list is still showing concerts that were 4, 5 or more months old and quite clearly haven’t been updated), and a news section that is kept up-to-date as well. The Band Personnel sections are often quite interesting, but I must admit to not seeing the need to know who each player is married to or how many kids they have…. Lets try to keep the sites looking professional to promote the bands and not just as an in-joke that only the band will get. (and before anyone says anything, Yes, I know that the Sale website includes some of my pet hates!)
Most importantly….. a Hire The Band page!
Do you use innovative ideas on your www site?
I wouldn’t say that any of the Sale website is particularly innovative, as it does things that many other websites also do, however I do think that little things matter and the simple fact the homepage is constantly up-to-date due to the CMS system is very important, and that our gallery is more than just a whole page of small images that you can click on – watching the slideshow scroll through with a little description of each picture is much more entertaining than having to click on tiny thumbnails in order to see a picture properly.
Why should people visit the Sale Brass www site?
Sale Brass Band is one of those true stalwarts of the brass banding world. It has been around (although starting as the Stretford Temperance Band) since 1848, and although in recent years hasn’t scaled the dizzying heights of brass band stardom, the band is still a central part of its local community, performing throughout the year at various events to help keep the community spirit of Sale and its surrounding areas going… so you should visit the site, find out when we are playing near you and then you can come and see what we are all about.
What do you feel is important when designing and implementing www sites…?
Accessibility and Ease-of-use. It’s no use have a stunning looking website, if it doesn’t actually look the same in Firefox, Safari or Opera, or the drop-down menus only work in IE7 not IE6 etc…. always make sure they work and look the same in as many different browsers as possible. Make them easy to use by ensuring links work, that you don’t have to go through 4 or 5 different pages just to find what you are looking for…. Aim for 2 clicks maximum to find the information you are after.
How long did this site actually take you to build?
Once the idea of the layout had formed in my head, it probably took my about 4 days to actual design the layout in Dreamweaver and write the code for the CMS…. Although I will be spending more time on it fairly soon in order to get more pages working via the CMS.
How do you see the influence of the internet assisting the banding movement over the next 5 to 10 years?
As the internet becomes the first port of call for many people looking for a particular product, then brass bands need to ensure that not only do they have a web-presence, but that it is a professional looking, informative and easy to use website. I know banding is an amateur hobby, but if we are wanting to go out and get good gigs and bigger audiences we need to promote ourselves as being able to do a professional job… unfortunately too many band websites look as though they are first attempts at website design… in this day and age that will not help your band and in the not to distant future you will find that the bands who don’t promote themselves very well/look professional through their websites will struggle to get the concerts they need to keep afloat as other bands who promote themselves better will get the gigs.
In most visited order, what are your 5 most frequently used www sites?
What do you do to relax and unwind?
Play with cat, go out for meals with the Missus, and grow veg and chillis.
Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know.
I was booked to play a fanfare for the opening of the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield. I wasn’t aware at the time that Patrick Stewart (of Star Trek fame) was doing the official opening speech. As I went down the stairs to the Green Room, Mr Stewart was making his way up them. As he went past I did a double take, spun round to see if it really was him, and in doing so belted him with my gig bag knocking him back down the stairs…….OOPs. What goes around comes around though… as I started to play the fanfare my waterkey spring snapped!