Trying to introduce Banding to the General Public


Active Member
On Monday full of band enthusiasm after the Midlands 4th section, I reported my result to the lower sixth maths class I teach. Being a Euph player I was used to the blank expression when I said what instrument I played, but I started on my usual explanation of 'small tuba' (I know Geordie Colin, that Tuba is a family of instruments, so Euph is as equally a Tuba as a EEFlat or a BBFlat ) only for this to be met with equal ignorance. This would not be so alarming but for the fact that I teach in Yorkshire!!

This set me thinking about the lack of knowledge that the general public has about banding. I speak from personal experience, as although I have played the Euph off and on for 11 years I was totally unaware of the banding community and contesting until a year ago. Has anybody any suggestions of how I can introduce brass banding to people (other than the Brassed Off soundtrack which my flatmates have banned from the house).

Also, has anybody any knowledge of sites with decent pictures of instruments on as I have promised my class a photo of a Euphonium.

Roger Thorne

Active Member
Don't bother looking for a photograph. Take your Euphonium into School.

Give the kids a demonstration or offer to play the Hymns in the next school assembly. Grab a few band members and put on a lunch time concert. Anything to bring Brass Bands to a wider audience.

. . . photographs of Euphoniums, you will do no better than to visit the following link.



Staff member
We have recently given a number of concerts where the audiences were predominantly new to brass bands, although quite knowledgeable about music in general. When mingling with them at the interval, a number were asking questions about what the various instruments were, particularly the horns, baritones and euphoniums. Maybe this could be borne in mind when planning and compering programmes, especially if, after introducing the instruments, you can play something that features the appropriate sections. I realise this doesn't answer the question of how to attract people in the first place, but it may encourage them to come back again.

One way that is available to broaden the appeal of banding is to contact various local groups - choirs, wind orchestra etc - and suggest doing some joint concerts. These groups, especially if youngsters are involved, are likely to bring along their own "captive" audience, and you only have to produce enough music to fill half a concert.


I think that this is quite difficult, as most people mentally file brass bands under summer bandstand music, and will sing the Floral Dance if you mention that you play. It often comes as a surprise to them when they hear that we play other stuff too!

The idea of pairing up with a non-brass group is a good idea, as this does bring a ready made crowd of music enthusiasts from other fields. School choirs are a very good way of broadening reach.

The other thing that is worth bearing in mind is that a significant amount of band music is quite contemporary in style (recent test-pieces come to mind) and whilst they don't necessarily appeal to traditional audiences, there is quite a large body of people who enjoy contemporary music and attend the various festivals around the country. If your band is into contemporary style music, you could try and get a concert slot in one of those events.

Brassed Off did certainly expose a large part of the UK population to bands, but in terms of the soundtrack it did kind of reinforce the image of "rumpty-tumpty" park music and (often not very good) arrangements of orchestral pieces being the bedrock of band music.

I think it is absolutely clear that there is some great brass band music about, but it is nigh on impossible to programme it, due to pressure on concert promoters (and bands themselves where they run their own events) to get "bums on seats".

New audiences though, are absolutely vital to us if we are going to survive and develop in the future. Schools are a great place to start, as there are less pre-conceived ideas there and sparking interest amongst younger people would go a long way to ensuring that we still have an audience to play to in 10 years. It is heartening to see the comments from PeterBale about the people they have been able to attract to their concerts - I hope that continues to be a successful endeavour!


Active Member
The contesting world is very cliquey and not really of interest to non-bandsman. I can see their point of view...why on earth would you want to go and listen to the same piece played 15 times!? They are not generally audience friendly!T his definately partly due to the lack of community type concerts....e.g. bandstands and fetes etc. It's like any type of music. You generally get an appreciation of it before you like it and how can they develop an appreciation if they are not exposed to it?! (god i am rambling). Basically my point is get out their in the LOCAL community and play music that is easy to listen to and that they will recognise. Going into schools is a good idea we used to do that around the local primary schools.....alot of them had never seen an instrument of any type before!and generally are really interested.


I remember a relative of mine telling me that he had never even thought of listening to a brass band until he bought the Acid Jazz cd by Williams Fairey a couple of years ago. He was absolutely amazed that brass bands could play that, and were so adaptable at different types of musis other than the traditional stuff.

By contrast i had a similar conversation with his father who told me he now listens to brass band music after buying a cassette recorded in the 70s to play in the car, and he was particularly surprised by the air varies. Grand Fathers Clock and Rule Brittania are now regularly played in his car!

A lot of the general public don't realise what a variety of music we are capable of playing, but two completely different band recordings appealed to different generations. The number of times i get the response "what's a tenor horn?!" is frustrating, and i must admit i usually end up using the "small tuba" explanation too! What an insult to have to be classed in a completely different section!!



I get the 'What's a cornet?', and usually end up saying a squished up trumpet. How degrading to the cornet!


Active Member
picju96 said:
I get the 'What's a cornet?', and usually end up saying a squished up trumpet. How degrading to the cornet!

I know, half of my school friends still don't know, so I have to say I'm a trumpeter ---- is that more degrading that calling a cornet a squished trumpet? ---- COuld start a whole new poll here couldn't we!

Ben ;)


My friends don't (didn't) know what a cornet was either. Then I tried explaining the Sop to them..........

But, school kids seem to be very anti-brass! I get laughed at (amongst other things) when I tell people I play in a Brass Band!!

A few years ago, the youht band I was playing in played a concert in schol time (we had the morning off because of this!). It went down quite well with them, and they were quite interested (most were teenagers).


New Member
Banding and the general public

As a student in upper sixth aged 17 I have also had problems when explaining why I am so enthusiastic about the brass band that I play in. However, I find that the best way to get people to learn about the banding world is to ask them to listen to some music that they will like. The best example of this that I have found is the YBS CD The Big Picture, which includes music from Titanic, Harry Potter and the Looney Tunes theme, a great listen for almost all people. Also, a good idea I recently heard to spark interest and to raise money for charity is to feature a sponsored playathon in the school. Why not get the students to sponsor or pay to come along, and see how long you can play for? Its bound to spark some interest.


I used to feel I was practically apologising for being in a brass band when I used to tell people what my hobby was.
The looks I used to get were amazing and it used to almost embarrass me!!
I'd feel I had to say 'we don't just play marches and in bandstands you know'
As for explaining what a Baritone is...well that was impossible. I used to compare it to Tubby the Tuba but say it was alot smaller!!!!
We did a Christmas Concert at a local school last year and with being a mother myself I knew alot of people who went. The thing was, those same people didn't know I played in the band.
It was interesting after the concert how many people saw me and said how much they had enjoyed the concert and can't wait till the next one.


picju96 said:
I get the 'What's a cornet?', and usually end up saying a squished up trumpet. How degrading to the cornet!

Anybody try to explain Repiano? Ever after explaining people seem to think it's a different horn. (Perhaps there's a market for selling special Repiano Cornets - Mark them up 50%....)

I thought it was just a problem we faced in the states, the Brass Banding is so much smaller and spread out geographically, we really feel alone sometimes, but I don't think the battle for public awarenes sounds really that much different.

The funny thing is that I got a degree in Music Performance and didn't know that the tenor horn (alto horn if it's know at all in the US) was anything more than a marching band instrument. Now that I've converted (yes, I'm a converted French Horn Player, but a completely converted one, not sitting on the fence) and I know how beautiful it can be, I've abandoned and am thinking of selling my French Horn to buy a tenor of my own. Which raises a whole other problem, they're virtually impossible to find here. I can always order a new one either through a local music store or over the internet, but I thought I might try getting a good used pro quality horn first, and I can only find used student horns (even in the UK) What's the deal? Does nobody sell a tenor horn once they've fallen under there spell?

Okay, I've drifted enough for one post.....


Active Member
I was really lucky at school, since the school had a brass band we used to play at all the concerts and stuff. In fact a lot of the kids were envious since we got to go off to contests and conerts by coach and get off the occasional lesson for school concert rehearsals. Once they figured that there was a potential scive in there they we queuing up to learn. Doesn't happen now of course (or not that I've heard of)...


I went out for a drink with an old school chum last night and she was telling me about this bloke she works with who is banding mad. She told me he would talk for hours about his hobby. I used to try to explain the joys of banding years ago and she still doesn't understand now - like going to contests listening to the same test piece - she must think we are insane!

I'm sure you all had similar situations?


Tell me about it Rasberry....

None of my friends are involved in brass bands or infact music at all and really don't understand the brass band lifestyle. If only they did they would realise that it isn't about being a music geek but it a social thing too. Its all about having a laugh and meeting new people. Plus it makes you a much more confident, down to earth person I think.... :!: point made!


A new Audience ?

We discuss the audience and how we want more of them, yet the ones we have got are generally seen as liking the lollipops that we play. Yes, they do like the lollipops, but most wouldnt be too upset at having one contemporary piece in the programme. There is a segment of the movement which believes that audiences hate new music, it is this segment of the movement which...sadly....will bring banding to its knees, if it isnt there already!!
We see other music as looking down on us and so have enforced a self isolation from anything. Again this is a general misunderstanding. I know a few orchestral players and they have nothing but respect for bandsmen and their efforts. I congratulate PeterBeale on his efforts in concerts, my band does joint enterprises now and then, mostly with Gilbert and Sullivan societies, choirs, folk groups and a comedians. We need more large scale collaborations with big choirs. We need to get into the big festivals, i.e like Grimey going to the Proms. I hope that they dont get too many people moaning about their going since it is on at the same time as the open.
As for contests, well, basically, "who gives a rats a**!!" about them outside brass banding ?? Surely it is time that the whole contesting structure be re-thought out. 15 bands playing the same piece, we play them and we dont listen to them!! So why should we honestly expect to get people in to listen to them. I read a quote from a book describing band music, the first quote was by John Fletcher ( Tuba soloist ) about Bass music, and this is followed by a quote by Bram Gay,

J.F = "Tuba concerti are written by tuba players for tuba players to play to tuba players."

B.G = " Now the brass band is getting perilously near the Fletcher definition - brass band music is being written by bandsmen for bandsmen to play to bandsmen, but the bandsmen don't listen, either!"

Although we get pieces now not written by bandsmen but mainstream composers, I get the impression that given half a chance there wud be people happy out there if we played the same type of piece for every contest!!
Isnt it time that contests over here follow the same lines as on the continent ? Own choice and set test pieces, cut the number of contests and have 4 a year in different locations. We claim to be the best at organising and playing, but in my opinion we could learn from the continent. An own choice style contest would at least have more interest for the general public, one band playing i.e Contest Music, the next playing Dances and Arias.
I cant believe we are stuck with the same contesting structure for about a 100 years!!
Sorry if I sound gloomy, but its not just me who feels like this, too many people in this movement have their heads buried so far underground their heads come out in Australia (like in the cartoons) and others are in it for themselves. We discuss options on forums, in letters and in the media yet these arent acted on for at least a generation!!
People say we should remember our roots, yes, fair enough. However, just to show how slow we react to anything, using an historical long did it take bandsmen to change pitches ??? It was in the 70's and other brass instruments in other ensembles played in high pitch!! That meant, at that point in time, bands couldnt play with other ensembles bcos the tuning was horrendous!! it took bands a heck of a longtime to change and basically they were forced into this change bcos the suppliers told them that they were not making the old band instruments anymore!!
As for band and music in general, I found an interesting quote in Gramaphone magazine about contemporary music in an article featuring Tatjana Vassilieva, ( a cellist regarded to be the next Rostropovich ) stating when asked on Contemporary music,

"When I propose playing contemporary music, concert organisers often hesitate and try to get me to change - they want more Romantic or Classical works. But I try to insist with my proposal because more often than not they don't know the newer piece, but I know it's a great one - and often it happens that at the end they are happy - as are the audience - with my choice."

Those attitudes described in there are those by which bands also befall.

I've rattled on loads and I said I was going to go on a words diet...I apologise..that is, if u havnt fallen asleep already!



(opinions I share are not those of the band)


Well, Richard, at least it was a lucid ramble. Funny that it seems the problems are relatively the same everywhere. Here, on one of the other continents, we follow the structure of one test piece and one (or two) pieces of the band's chosing (if you can fit it into the allotted time, you can programme it.) The only thing about that practice is that you still have largely test pieces being played. Everyone plays the prescribed piece plus something that was a test piece some other time, some other place. So, it's still bandspersons listening to bandspersons, and we have as many in our national competition as you have in one section in one area (There are going to be 5 in this year's Championship section - at least we can't finish 6th this year :wink: )

I think we need to continue to respect our audiences, play some fun things when appropriate, but also introduce the pieces that really show the breadth of our abilities and get out and really tell people we are here and playing. A lot of time people simply do not know we exist, but if you talk about it, they will at least feign interest.

Face it, brass banding will never be the dominant sound on the radio, or perhaps even in the concert hall, but if we keep trying to play the best performances of well written or arranged music and keep trying to tell people about us we will survive as a genre (if that's what we are now.)

Anyway, back to practice for me, under 4 weeks to contest for me now.


One thing I have noticed is that brass bands arent even mentioned in the national curriculum at school. Im now in my lower 6th at a college, and in lessons all we study are orhcestral pieces and a few jazz pieces. The same happened at school. What was interesting tho is when floral dance appeared on our GCSE listenin paper! but it was only briefly and out of all the pieces the exam board had to chose that! Maybe this has something to do with people not knowing about brass bands but just an idea.

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