Women in Brass Bands

Ianroberts

Well-Known Member
There's a regular in our band pub, who props up the bar and gives unsolicited advice to other customers as to which guest ales cause him digestive difficulties (I paraphrase).

Yeah, I'm at Butlins. Might be busy, though.
Trying to impress, or just scoffing ? we will never agree on this so I suggest we leave it. Please feel free to tap me on the shoulder at Butlins though, I will be easy enough to find !
 

Euphonium Lite

Active Member
Just when you thought the standard of TMP had improved.....

Back on topic - and back to CoM band for a second. A lot of bands still had connections with mining and industry - the Conservative led demolition of the mining and manufacturing industries was still in full flow in the mid to late 80s and a lot of bands - which had previously been no more than working mens organisations - were struggling to adapt to the change. Ours is a fairly conservative (small c) movement after all.
Even in bands such as CoM that had lost its traditional connections a lot of players had come from industrial or mining bands and had that mindset. Thats not giving them an excuse, or saying they were correct - but is a possible reason for their reluctance to change. Most of the top level bands in the late 80s were still all-male and elite banding was a self perperutating cycle. It wasnt until bands such as Swinton, Huddersfield TeCol and (in NC terms) Salford College proved there were female players capable of playing at that level that a lot of the big names woke up

In terms of todays banding - Id say the problem is still there. Its not challenged through the courts probably only because most people dont earn enough from purely banding to make it worthwhile challenging legally. Its one thing to be able to demonstrate lack of earnings due to discrimination - and our English Legal system can cope wiht that - but another to prove you have lost out because you dont play for Grimethorpe. Things ARE improving - but probably more slowly than most people would like. I'd also suggest the only ones to lose out by overlooking female players are the relevant bands themselves

In terms of quotas that just wont work unfortunately.....any discrimination is wrong, whether or not its "Positive" - indeed Positive Discrimination is negative in its outcome - a female player taking the end chair at Dyke would be a great achievement, however that would be demeaned if they were picked purely because of their gender - and not because they deserved it. Maybe we would be better to challenge bands with imbalances - and ask them why. Maybe we should challenge females that feel they were passed over to stand up and shout louder. One thing for sure if no-one complains, we wont move forward
 

Pauli Walnuts

Moderator
Staff member
Some interesting points there - my own experience is based on banding south of the Thames and the banding background there is significantly different to the industrial and mining bands referred to. Which may account for what appears to be a smaller gender bias. Your point on the 3 College bands also interests me - particularly as the advent of these more brass band specific colleges also led to a demographic change with students arriving from all over the UK and not just from the traditional brass band locations.

(off topic but it's a sad fact for southern bands that many of the better youth players head north (or to Wales) and many never return to their band of origin.)
 

owain_s

Member
Even in bands such as CoM that had lost its traditional connections a lot of players had come from industrial or mining bands and had that mindset. Thats not giving them an excuse, or saying they were correct - but is a possible reason for their reluctance to change. Most of the top level bands in the late 80s were still all-male and elite banding was a self perperutating cycle.

There's quite a lot of similarity between a description such as this and the earlier example from Munich, despite the reasons for an all-male environment existing being so different.

Maybe we should challenge females that feel they were passed over to stand up and shout louder. One thing for sure if no-one complains, we wont move forward

Not challenge, but encourage.
 

owain_s

Member
(off topic but it's a sad fact for southern bands that many of the better youth players head north (or to Wales) and many never return to their band of origin.)
True, although one cannot blame them if that's where the better opportunities lie. Plus, the flip side is things such as the creation of Zone One Brass, filling a gap which the London music colleges had totally overlooked or deliberately ignored.
 
Why aren't there more women at the top?

(Disclaimer: I am a woman, have been all of my life. My band has men in top positions. They are very good at what they do - better than available women players imo.)

I don't think it's sexism and I don't think it's socialisation. I don't think it's physical either - my playing is not hindered by my breasts putting pressure on my lungs.

It is true in just about every situation: orchestral conductors, lead violins, for that matter, particle physics, astronomy, snooker, linguistics, investment banking etc, etc, that the very top tend to be men. It's not that women can't do it - they can, and some do, but very few.

IN GENERAL, women multitask better than men, men focus better than women. (Not true for every man and woman you might find, but it is a common trend). So, GENERALLY, a woman will be better at earning a living while also wiping bottoms, making sandwiches, and fitting in cornet practice and supporting her friend through divorce. She doesn't do them at the same time, she divides her time and diverts her attention quickly to the new task. A man will tend to focus more on the one thing (optional translation: obsess). He might earn a living and play cornet, but that's it. Find me those players who practice 8 hours a day and I will bet that MOSTLY they are men and they are not also responsible for wiping bottoms.

So men tend to rise to the top - or quit. Sure, there are mediocre players who are men.
 

Euphonium Lite

Active Member
The main problem with players heading up North (and I was one of them) was that Salford and Huddersfield were the only places that offered a band - related course rather than a more Classical related education. I agree many of the southern colleges missed a trick there - but then I think thats down to historic snobbery (you play a WHAT? A Tenor Horn? Ah, you mean an Alto Saxhorn. Bit of a Novelty instrument dont you think?)
OK I generalise but the feedback I got from music education pre-Salford was that you should play Trunpet - not Cornet - unless you were perhaps playing a bit of Berlioz

Then there is our movement itself which is still very Northern-centric (although theyve grudgingly had to include Wales in the last few years). Many players local to me still have the attitude of "We probably won't win xyz contest.....theres NORTHERN bands!!!!!". Flowers are doing a lot to dispel that myth (as did Cory and Tredegar before them).
But thats probably best left to another thread.....
 

Pauli Walnuts

Moderator
Staff member
True, although one cannot blame them if that's where the better opportunities lie. Plus, the flip side is things such as the creation of Zone One Brass, filling a gap which the London music colleges had totally overlooked or deliberately ignored.
Indeed - and I wouldn't ever suggest that they don't go - it's just a little hard on the bands that trained them to only have them for a short part of their banding career. Good luck to anyone making the move.
Zone one is an interesting one - not the first mind, Paul Cosh had a band if I recall based around LCM students?
I wonder if Moomin has any stats on where those ladies that do hold principal seats originate from!
 

Euphonium Lite

Active Member
Why aren't there more women at the top?

(Disclaimer: I am a woman, have been all of my life. My band has men in top positions. They are very good at what they do - better than available women players imo.)

I don't think it's sexism and I don't think it's socialisation. I don't think it's physical either - my playing is not hindered by my breasts putting pressure on my lungs.

It is true in just about every situation: orchestral conductors, lead violins, for that matter, particle physics, astronomy, snooker, linguistics, investment banking etc, etc, that the very top tend to be men. It's not that women can't do it - they can, and some do, but very few.

IN GENERAL, women multitask better than men, men focus better than women. (Not true for every man and woman you might find, but it is a common trend). So, GENERALLY, a woman will be better at earning a living while also wiping bottoms, making sandwiches, and fitting in cornet practice and supporting her friend through divorce. She doesn't do them at the same time, she divides her time and diverts her attention quickly to the new task. A man will tend to focus more on the one thing (optional translation: obsess). He might earn a living and play cornet, but that's it. Find me those players who practice 8 hours a day and I will bet that MOSTLY they are men and they are not also responsible for wiping bottoms.

So men tend to rise to the top - or quit. Sure, there are mediocre players who are men.
Which would possibly be a reason why a lot of women dont stay in higher level banding - though I know several women, with husbands, children, bottoms and divorced friends - that have done quite well in S1 and the lower reaches of the Championship section, especially in East Anglia

But as Moomin mentioned earlier, Elite banding (the Cory/Grimethorpe/Dyke level) is mainly a youngsters game, certainly not one easily filled by older women or men especially with young children. But there are plenty of very good young female players out there....and not all of them have husbands etc
 

owain_s

Member
Indeed - and I wouldn't ever suggest that they don't go - it's just a little hard on the bands that trained them to only have them for a short part of their banding career. Good luck to anyone making the move.
Agreed, it's never easy to see a promising player move on. But irrespective of whether they head off to study music in those places, the reality is that young people move around the country more than in the past. That means that anyone bemoaning 'too many bands, too few players' needs to be aware of what signals they give out, no matter who it is who walks into the bandroom. There's also the increased likelihood of good players moving into less band-oriented locations, and either finding a welcoming band or stopping playing.

IN GENERAL, women multitask better than men, men focus better than women. (Not true for every man and woman you might find, but it is a common trend). So, GENERALLY, a woman will be better at earning a living while also wiping bottoms, making sandwiches, and fitting in cornet practice and supporting her friend through divorce. She doesn't do them at the same time, she divides her time and diverts her attention quickly to the new task. A man will tend to focus more on the one thing (optional translation: obsess). He might earn a living and play cornet, but that's it. Find me those players who practice 8 hours a day and I will bet that MOSTLY they are men and they are not also responsible for wiping bottoms.
Absolute nonsense.

What better example of multitasking than conducting?!
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Why aren't there more women at the top?

(Disclaimer: I am a woman, have been all of my life. My band has men in top positions. They are very good at what they do - better than available women players imo.)

I don't think it's sexism and I don't think it's socialisation. I don't think it's physical either - my playing is not hindered by my breasts putting pressure on my lungs.

It is true in just about every situation: orchestral conductors, lead violins, for that matter, particle physics, astronomy, snooker, linguistics, investment banking etc, etc, that the very top tend to be men. It's not that women can't do it - they can, and some do, but very few.

IN GENERAL, women multitask better than men, men focus better than women. (Not true for every man and woman you might find, but it is a common trend). So, GENERALLY, a woman will be better at earning a living while also wiping bottoms, making sandwiches, and fitting in cornet practice and supporting her friend through divorce. She doesn't do them at the same time, she divides her time and diverts her attention quickly to the new task. A man will tend to focus more on the one thing (optional translation: obsess). He might earn a living and play cornet, but that's it. Find me those players who practice 8 hours a day and I will bet that MOSTLY they are men and they are not also responsible for wiping bottoms.

So men tend to rise to the top - or quit. Sure, there are mediocre players who are men.
Thank you soooo much for your post. You tell it has it is for you and your female playing friends - you've been there and got the tea shirt, etc. You're very possibly the first woman to comment on this thread too.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
I could be wrong here, but you give the impression of being in, or a product of, the modern higher education system.
It shines like a beacon out of some posts on tmp, people who refuse to debate and compromise, just state that they are right and everybody who doesn't agree with their opinion is a numpty.
Frankly, I don't care. I thought tmp had changed recently, but it hasn't. Still full of arrogant confrontational posts. Quite unpleasant.

~ Mr Wilx
I thought you where right then and now we are given an example; see a post or two back for 'what absolute nonsense .....' in response to a very informed post.
 
I thought you where right then and now we are given an example; see a post or two back for 'what absolute nonsense .....' in response to a very informed post.
Owain's post may be a little dismissive, but hey its his opinion.

Whilst we are assigning educational stereotypes, I think I will propose 2nd Tenor to be very much of a Public Schoolboy background. Almost certainly a prefect? Stalking each corridor and thread to impart his knowledge and opinion to anyone who didn't ask for it, making up the arbitrary rules as to what can be said and by whom. All with an air of total superiority. I suppose the only question that remains, is Eton or Harrow?

What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
 
Agreed, it's never easy to see a promising player move on. But irrespective of whether they head off to study music in those places, the reality is that young people move around the country more than in the past. That means that anyone bemoaning 'too many bands, too few players' needs to be aware of what signals they give out, no matter who it is who walks into the bandroom. There's also the increased likelihood of good players moving into less band-oriented locations, and either finding a welcoming band or stopping playing.


Absolute nonsense.

What better example of multitasking than conducting?!
I don't think you get multitasking - it is often not literally doing many things at once. It is flitting attention quickly between one activity and another completely different activity.

I haven't done any conducting. I am, however, a pianist, so I'm used to coordinating multiple voices, left hand, right hand, right foot, left foot independently. I think they are probably similar level of activities. Playing the piano is not multitasking, it is the one piece of music, even a fugue.

I admit I occasionally pause a chord to tell someone off, or give dinner instructions.

Conducting is something you get to when you're at the top of your game, which is why mostly men do it. In my opinion.
 
Thank you soooo much for your post. You tell it has it is for you and your female playing friends - you've been there and got the tea shirt, etc. You're very possibly the first woman to comment on this thread too.
You're welcome. I would hate to 'represent' women players, and I imagine many would disagree with me.
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Completely off-topicly, I've just realised that I'm pretty much the only person posting in this thread who's uploaded an avatar. Anyone else care to join me? It makes the thread much more colourful...

Flowers are doing a lot to dispel that myth (as did Cory and Tredegar before them).
But thats probably best left to another thread.....
Quick tangent - history shows that it takes more than a solitary star band to change perceptions in a lasting way. South Wales banding is a good example of how several strong bands can bring an area to prominence. Flowers are playing a lone hand here in the South - who else is snapping at their heels? Sun Life were in a similar position to Flowers for years, achieving some huge successes, most prominently the 1990 Open victory, but the strength in depth of the West of England area didn't come up to match them in national terms, and when they sadly folded, things were much as they'd been before. Other bands that have blazed a trail from the Southern two modern areas (noting that the regions were only defined in 1945) and then faded away into the long-term background include:
Hanwell (2nd in 1950 Nationals, 3rd in 1970)
Morris Motors (4 3rd places at the Open 1959-66)
Luton Red Cross (6 National and Open podium placings between 1902 and 1938, including 1923 National champions)
Both Camborne and St. Dennis have placed in the top 6 at the Nationals in the post-war period too.

It would be lovely if the current push in Southern banding grew into something stronger and more lasting, but history says that we have hardly started the job as yet. It also says that there were more bands from down here challenging at the top 60 years ago than there are now.

IN GENERAL, women multitask better than men, men focus better than women. (Not true for every man and woman you might find, but it is a common trend). So, GENERALLY, a woman will be better at earning a living while also wiping bottoms, making sandwiches, and fitting in cornet practice and supporting her friend through divorce. She doesn't do them at the same time, she divides her time and diverts her attention quickly to the new task. A man will tend to focus more on the one thing (optional translation: obsess). He might earn a living and play cornet, but that's it. Find me those players who practice 8 hours a day and I will bet that MOSTLY they are men and they are not also responsible for wiping bottoms.

So men tend to rise to the top - or quit. Sure, there are mediocre players who are men.
So Owain was unkindly dismissive in his response to this, which allows others to simply dismiss him in turn, which I'm sure is not what he wants. It results in a polarisation of the debate; people dig in their heels and close their ears.

But I do think that people often tend to overplay by a long way the significance of this multitasking-as-a-function-of-gender idea. Whether or not there's a real on-average male-female divide on this (*), it seems clear that it is small and dwarfed by the actual variation found within members of the same sex - otherwise it would be a no-brainer - immediately clear that it existed. The fact that we're debating its existence at all shows that we aren't talking about a large clear systematic effect, and that one would expect to find both women and men that multitask significantly better than the vast majority of the population. Equally, one expects to find both women and men that focus significantly better than others. I could point to a lot of really excellent female focussers within my profession - people with powers of concentration I can only envy.

That is to say that I don't buy it either as an explanation of an almost total absence of top level female MDs and a 5:1 M:F gender ratio over the top 10 4BR ranked UK bands.

(*) My lay understanding, bolstered by a quick flick around the internet, suggests that the jury is still out on this - while the top links that Google turns up all seem to jump on the occasional study that shows a small difference in the culturally expected direction, the real picture is more nuanced than the journalists like to present (who'd have thought, eh? Media in simplification-of-facts-in-order-to-sell-papers shocker...). Actually, as seems to happen more and more with technical topics, the Wikipedia page on the subject does a good job of presenting the situation impartially. It even mentions a study that on the basis of its dataset concluded that women were less good at multitasking. Clearly there is substantial professional confusion on the point. (*)

Conducting is something you get to when you're at the top of your game, which is why mostly men do it. In my opinion.
In my experience, becoming a conductor is not so strictly correlated to being very good as all that. Those that I have watched becoming conductors have done so for several reasons - there is a desire to move on to 'higher' things, there is a desire to lead, there is a desire to express musical thought, there is a desire to teach - but one universal is that no-one pushes themselves forward in the first place to become a conductor without the belief that they can do it. I'm not saying that you can't become a conductor without a sizable ego, but I am saying that it really helps to have one. It is definitely not always the case that conductors are the strongest musicians - I could name instantly a whole plethora of musically limited people who conduct within bands - some of whom conduct very well. And I could also name some more from another category - musically strong people whose lack of strength in the non-musical skillset required hinders their MDing abilities.

In plenty of cases (many? most? nearly all?) it is I think mostly an urge to leadership allied with a liking for display. I could imagine that a systematic gender hangover effect could be in play here - effectively the institutional sexism that was mentioned and rather misunderstood by some in the thread earlier. It takes examples to inspire people to replicate them, and there haven't yet arisen enough female examples for it to be commonplace for women to seek to emulate them. It's a bit of a Catch-22 situation - the whole thing is trying to pull itself up by its bootstraps. The only sensible solution is to educate and encourage consistently over a long period of time.

I wonder if Moomin has any stats on where those ladies that do hold principal seats originate from!
Not off-hand! And would also need to be contrasted with the same stats for the men. But the numbers for women are small enough that conclusions would again be difficult.
 

Bob Sherunkle

Active Member
Putting the petty squabbling aside for a moment...

I had always believed that a particular macho trait (borderline form of madness really) was required in order to make the prospect of conducting appealing, and that this was more commonly present in men.

However on reflection.

MDs need to be able to:-

1. Talk a lot

2. Possess an uncanny ability to believe they are right at all times

3. Enjoy telling others how to do things properly

4. Possess the physical strength to pick up a small stick in one hand

5. Wave arms when angry

So come on ladies (sic). What's stopping you ?

Surely you are not all wiping bottoms.

While I am here..

Jayne Murrill got a couple of mentions earlier on this thread. An excellent MD in my opinion, unhampered in any way by the lack of gentleman's parts. Lack of inches does exclude her from top band MDing however as she is just too short to conduct at this level, even when stood on a box. There was a most informative article in BBW magazine (editor P Harper, 8 feet tall) recently on this very topic.

I hope this helps.

And Merry Christmas.

Bob

PS Funnily enough I had just assumed that second tenor was a lady (sic) and possibly still do despite his (??) denials on this thread
 
...

But I do think that people often tend to overplay by a long way the significance of this multitasking-as-a-function-of-gender idea. Whether or not there's a real on-average male-female divide on this (*), it seems clear that it is small and dwarfed by the actual variation found within members of the same sex - otherwise it would be a no-brainer - immediately clear that it existed. The fact that we're debating its existence at all shows that we aren't talking about a large clear systematic effect, and that one would expect to find both women and men that multitask significantly better than the vast majority of the population. Equally, one expects to find both women and men that focus significantly better than others. I could point to a lot of really excellent female focussers within my profession - people with powers of concentration I can only envy.

...
Indeed, and if I have overstated the case, it's because I was fairly sure that I would be mis-understood, as has indeed happened. But I do want to make it clear, that when I'm talking about focussing vs multitasking, I'm not talking about what goes on in a rehearsal. Sure a woman can focus to conduct! But, when someone nails the job, you have to ask what they were doing in the 20+ years prior. There's not many men hang up their horns because blowing them will wake the babies.

There probably is an element of old fashioned historical conservatism - this is how it's always been and we're managing just fine and we don't have the imagination to do any different. Same thing when you see how many black football players they are but somehow at the right age they don't make it to management. Speaking of which, how many black band conductors are there?
 
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