School Bands

Should school bands be a compulsory part of education for musicians

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six pints

Active Member
Naruco said:
six pints said:
if you force people to do summik they dont want to do they will just mess about, hence annoying people who WANT to be there.

They do that anyway...
Years 7-9 Music lessons spring to my mind...
In fact, most lessons in those days spring to mind!


primiary and secondary school system is strange- keep the three tier system alive.

ahem, anyway, but at least then you know that you have some kind of superiority over everyone else! they still use one finger when playing the keyboard! the ones who mess about the most (in music lessons) *tend* to be the ones who are completely unmusical, whereas if you forced music people into *extra lessons* (cos they might see it that way) then they would mess about as well, hence even worse disruption.


Supporting Member
:oops: :oops: :oops:
Thank you for those kind words John. I'm quite embarrassed by your praise.

Seriously, though, I think I might also have been hit for the last few years by a number of our younger players not coming to my school. At least in the past they've already known what a push-over I am and cope with my form of wit without being over (or under) whelmed! :D

This thread has taken on more life than I expected. But I'm pleased with the wide variety of opinions that people have expressed. Some of them have even been very helpful in getting me to think about how I can change the situation at school.

I'd like to thank everyone who has responded to the poll and who have let me know what they think. ALL your comments are appreciated.


Active Member
I wish you would come to our school Mike! It sounds like you have done so much for the school - buying music, trips abroad etc, so it must be so frustrating for you when its not appreciated. you say that the kids like doing solos with piano at concerts, have you tried letting them solo with the band? Obviously they couldn't all do a solo but it might encourage them to come along.


Supporting Member
groovy said:
I wish you would come to our school Mike! It sounds like you have done so much for the school - buying music, trips abroad etc, so it must be so frustrating for you when its not appreciated. you say that the kids like doing solos with piano at concerts, have you tried letting them solo with the band? Obviously they couldn't all do a solo but it might encourage them to come along.

What a lovely offer groovy. I do like Scotland very much, when it's not raining :). However, it's a bit far to commute. At the moment, there are so few that they all probably could do a solo. Sadly two of them are absolute beginners and (having asked them) I know they would be too terrified just yet. Maybe in a year or two. :dunno


Active Member
At my school there would have been no way on god's green earth that you would have been able to play a solo at a school concert unless the music teachers were satisfied with your attendance at school ensembles. For example when I was in year 11 there was a guy who played the flute and he was denied a solo, because he didn't play in the orchestra. His mum came in to our GSCE lesson and had a dingdong with the music teacher, demanding that her son (who wasn't in the class at the time) play a solo because he was "quite clearly the best flautist in the school" to which the music teacher replied "I don't know, I haven't heard him this year".

Are the kids in question playing in outside groups? If so, then you might just be pushing your luck - they might just genuinely be busy. If not, then it is your duty as a musical educator to bring to the attention of the parents of that child that they are doing the child a great musical disservice by not making them attend an ensemble. Ensemble playing skills are vital to a child's musical education (as I'm sure you know). I would be tempted to take a tougher line at some point. I was forced in to playing for a particular brass group at school, once I got there I found I actually enjoyed it!


mikelyons said:
louise0502 said:
I think it's a brilliant idea to make it compulsory to take up an instrument.
Now Louise, I wasn't suggesting making playing compulsory, only making it compulsory for people who play to join a school band. In fact, on the whole, I'm against making children play any instrument. I think they should have the opportunity to try instruments, but if they haven't got the interest in playing they shouldn't be forced to. That's the reason I hate the piano now!

Sorry, i didn't make it very clear. I was actually referring to this:

Naruco said:
I've voted yes on this one...
My brothers school had compulsory for music... Every year 7 student had to take up an instrument


I would not have stuck at playing had it not beeen for the school band.
As a teacher I would also say that it does the power of good for young Musicians in general.


School bands and chocolate!

Mike. A fantastic read mate. Just spent the last hour reading comments.
Here we go with mine if you don't mind!
Growing up in the north west, playing with local bands, moving onto better bands and now playing with a great band, i can see some serious problems in schools and the system involved with ensembles.
I am a Director(posh or what) of music in a school in Preston. When i arrived last year there where 2 brass players, a handful of guitarists and a few singers. Poo or what.
However, with a lot of shouting, praying and work, we now have some 120 kids learning instruments. 30 brass players no less, but only 12 in the brass band.
Trying to get them there is the hardest job.
I promise them time off timetable, trips out to primary schools and even a day paintballing.
It is a constant struggle but when it does work, and you get results(using good old Jock McCenzie books of course), they all love it and can't wait to come back.
So, the moral of the story is this.
I drive 80 miles to band and 80 iles back again. I have nearing 60 engagements a year in some of the best venues in the world. I love my banding, BUT there is no substitute for those kids loving their music and performing their little hearts out.
12 kids, 4 kids, 50 kids. It doesnt matter. Its about their fun.
Keep at it mate.
It will work, and if it doesn't, pay them with chocolate and paintballing. Bribing is not illegal.

All the best bud,

John Doyle
Director of music at Lostock Hall Comunity High School.
Previous trainee at West Leigh High School(that was tough) and Thomas More High School(even tougher)
Flugel Horn with the Black Dyke Band


couln't agree more John :p
Parental support is v important (and sadly lacking) at our gaff :evil:
C u in the Vic M8 :p sometime........


Supporting Member
Thanks for your comments guys. I nearly went for that Preston job last year, but decided it was too far to fight through the traffic. :) I'm not the world's best driver. :oops:

Keep up the good work. I'm looking forward to our trip to Barcelona on Tuesday, with the quartet and 2 new people who I've been giving free lessons to who might - if they work hard - be good enough to join the band next year.

It seems to have been a long year, but I'm keeping going and hoping things will get better. Maybe after the summer things will start looking up again.

"Keepin' goin' wit' th'ed down", as they say round here.


i can remember when i was at highschool that way too much pressure was placed upon the music students. They were expected to play in every band that their intsrument could possibly play in, leaving many of the students there after school everyday involved in some rehersal. Other subjects had to be fitted around the rehersals, when coursework was concered and many other teachers asked why you could not come back after school, and this was due to music rehersals. It left many students have to choose between either sport or muisc which was unfair. It also left many students being physically shattered, when like me had rehersal everynight, along wth a youth band and main band 2 nights a week along with coursework which had to be fitted around this all. It was all too much when i was princiapal cornet in my last year and taken out of school for a week by the department for christams concerts around the community it was concert after concerts for school, youth and other bands. We even had to give up weekends to play for school. I was left phsically drained and very ill over the christmas break brought on by it all.
Even thouh i do have to say that my muisc department was fab, and i enjoyed every minute that i was there with them. many huge experinaces were gievn to me through them, with private tutors brought in such as bret baker , and shoena white too guide the brass players rather than having the peripertaitc muisc tecahers which only had an over all view of brass rather than a specialist tutor who they would find in your particaluar instrument, which the school would then subsidse the lesson heavly so it cost very little. As well as oraginsing workshops and joint concerts with huge bands such as black dyke and ybs , which were free to students and allowed the brass players to excel further, ,meabing the choo, had an amazing repuation for its brass band, with a full band of 28 players who made cds and played in many high profile concerts , along with attending competitions.


Active Member
Re: School bands and chocolate!

jd said:
(using good old Jock McCenzie books of course)

Jock mckenzie! What a legend!
Sorry back on topic - hope your trip to Barcelona goes well and encourages a few others to join up seeing this kind of oppurtunity. I would!


Supporting Member
Thanks for your comments, Fifi. Sadly, I'm only asking for 1 hour per week plus the occasional concert (maybe 3 a year). I would give students the choice between sport or music - life is a series of choices - but whatever they chose, I would then expect them to honour that choice.

It's like being asked to 'dep' with a band other than your own. If there's a job on the same day, you honour the original commitment.

BTW, the Awards evening went very well last night with my trio. Not too many mistakes. Well done Ashley and Greavesy.

:bounce :terrier :bounce


Active Member
At my school, it is compulsory to go to at least one ensemble if you get free lessons, which I think is only fair. Also, I think playing in a band when you are learning is beneficial, I was ina band wiv my dad as soon as I can play and it really helped.


Active Member
If I remember correctly (and it was a long time ago...) when I was at school we were expected to play in the groups. I didn't see it as a chore at all, I enjoyed it. There was the orchestra (until I took up the trumpet I played 1st trumpet parts on flugel :lol: ) and the brass group, 2 choirs, wind band, and the Saturday morning music centre. All of these, combined with the local brass band have helped me to learn things like listening to other players for style and intonation (ok I don't always do it but at least I know I should be doing it).

I think it's important and that young people should have a requirement to attend and contribute to groups where the local authority/school has provided an instrument and lessons.

Also, when somene has been playing for a few years these groups provide an opportunity for them to set an example to the younger players and also to help them along by giving hints and tips. All these things help in later life - not just in musical situations but in the workplace too.


Active Member
Yeh, I agree, I rememebr starting the bands in year 9 and looking up to the lead trumpets who halped me, and hope that the beginners now in my section do the same to me.


Supporting Member
Still sorting out how th UK education system works, but I would like to see everybody get to try an instrument in school.

Here in the Ohio (USA - Each state has its own standards and curriculum), Students will often have art several times a week in primary school. They get a chance to paint, draw, model clay, etc...

They also take physical education where they have the opportunity to learn baseball, football, real football (soccer), etc...

We also have general music classes. Typically students only listen to music, sing and sometimes fool around with a bit of percussion. I think it would be neat if for 1 semester (maybe around age 10 or 11), students played six weeks of woodwinds, six weeks of brass and six weeks of strings.

I think there are many students that have musical talent that never find out because it is not compulsary. I ended up begining brass at age 15 pretty much as a fluke. (I needed an excuse to get into the fall football games for free). Normally students start voluntarily at age 12 and if you want to start later you are not afforded that opportunity. If it was compulsary I would have been able to try out brass at age 12 like the others and enjoyed more of my youth in banding.


Supporting Member
The trouble is, Kirsty, that because they now pay for lessons, we don't have that handle on them. It's also sad but true that the present crop of y8-11 are very selfish as a group. They are not interested in being a role model to others and seem to think they lose street cred if they are a member of a school-based ensemble.

It's not all doom and gloom, of course. There are still people out there who are brave and clever enough to do it - thank God! The school orchestra (Strings/woodwind + persecution) is in reasonably good nick. The choir, sadly, is mostly girls. Very few boys come forward, even when they develop their bass/tenor voices.

PJ, If you can work it out, please let me know. I've been working in it for the last 18 years and I'm still lost :)

Music is often not given high priority in the education of our children. I think people still want to try to return to the days of the great British Scientist and Inventor. Unfortunately I think they're passing water into the wind! However, as a "Technology College", far too much money goes into science and maths and far too little into developing the other subjects - even English. Mind you, English is a foreign language in Wigan :D

A lot also depends on your headmaster. I was very depressed to learn from another music teacher that his head had just given him a 6 figure sum to upgrade his department's facilities and that all of the y7 children are made to take up an instrument (even if only violins and recorders).

Ah well. Back to my packing! (Barcelona here I come! :guiness )


Active Member
I'd be interested to know how much they pay for the lessons, and whether they would be more expensive to get them outwith school, and whether the school provides instruments, and if so, whether they have to pay for that facility also. Also, if they refuse to join in with extra curriculur activities, could the argument be made that the instrument and lesson time should go to a student who is interested in contributing? Music isn't a personal thing, at some point any musician will have to play along with others in one capacity or another...

We were very aware when I was at school of the amount of time that teachers put into all the extra curriculur activities, and we were grateful. Have things changed, or was my school an exception to the rule?


Active Member
The school pay about £20 per lesson I think from what teacher sed, partly subsidised by the county. The instruments are available free on loan for 2 years when you start from the county music service. No charge is amde to students for lessons, but the school ask that you take part in at least one ensemble.

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