10 Things I’ve Learned From Banding
I started playing when I was seven years old, so I can’t really remember my life before banding. I’d say something profound like ‘my life meant nothing before banding’, but the truth is I can barely remember what happened last week, let alone fourteen years ago…god, I’m getting old.
It’s fair to say that if you’re so passionate (read as: incredibly sad) enough about something that you decided to set up a blog about it, it’s clearly had an impact on your life and banding definitely has.
From banding gossip, to how to deal with a hangover- here are the ten things I’ve learned from banding.
1. You want a seat? You have to earn it.
Nothing worthwhile in this life is given to you without hard work and banding is no exception. Top seats aren’t given for free. Wishing you were sat on a solo seat or playing for a higher band, without doing the work, will do as much good as willing a stuck tuning slide to move through the power of telekinesis rather than actually looking after your instrument. It’s not like sitting on a ‘tutti’ seat is a bad thing anyway. I wasted time, as a younger player, feeling frustrated that I wasn’t sat on a solo seat until I did this magical thing called practise and observing what those better players could do that I couldn’t and thus I progressed onto those solo seats and was a better player as a result. Practise makes you a better player, who’d have thought?!
2. You will find out so many things about yourself…from other people.
Want to get a message out to a lot of people quickly? You could create a national advertisement campaign, share a Facebook post or form a massive Whatsapp group- or just tell a couple of banders. I’ve said it before: the banding jungle drums spreads gossip quicker than nits in a primary school and eventually it does get back to the person concerned. I’ve heard a plethora of ‘facts’ that even I didn’t know about myself. The fact that gave me the most amusement was that, I’m a diva apparently. I know flugel players have a reputation for being a little vain, after all there’s only one of us in the band, we’re special and part of me wishes I had the personality to be a diva, that would be pretty cool. However if you’ve actually met me, you’d realise that I’m a clumsy, slightly foul-mouthed, pint drinker from Wigan…I’m hardly Cher.
3. Milk Thistle is magic.
Disclaimer: I don’t know how damaging the side-effects of constantly using this are and I accept no responsibility for your potential, untimely, milk-thistle-related death, but if you’re prone to over-indulging in the bar after a contest, this stuff is a life saver.
Actual real-life study into the effects of Milk Thistle, scientifically tested by Liv Appleton and Eccles Borough Band et al 2015:
Prior to an afternoon/night of downing cider and cheap, luminous spirit (all in the name of science) after a contest in Troon, Scotland, which resulted in the test subject (me) having chucking up in a bush (keeping up that, classy diva image), I took Milk Thistle on the recommendation from our Solo Horn player at the time. We then had to travel four hours back to Manchester the following morning and I didn’t have to endure the heavy hangover I should have had- utter sorcery!
4. Contesting is as predictable as Donald Trump’s train of thought.
What seemed like a good performance to you can end up at the bottom of the heap and what seemed to be a less than average performance sometimes turns out to be the winner, it’s all down to the people in the box. You can believe the predictions if you want, but if you’re one of the bands predicted to win after you’ve played and then you don’t win, this has the potential to sting more than accidentally putting Original Source Mint shower gel near your nether regions.
5. Learn your march music to save a trip to A & E
I love Whit Friday as much (if not more) than the next person. However, if you are a clumsy as me, it’s can be a real threat to life. Speed bumps, pot holes and don’t even get me started on going around corners. At 5ft 10, that’s a long way down if you end up falling over. Learning your part for Whit Friday is a must anyway- wind, rain, puddles, drunken debauchery can all lead to a lost or ruined part. However learning my street march part allows me to watch the road and potential hazards and has saved me many a trip to A&E. The odd pothole has gone unnoticed until it was too late, resulting in a stumble and that awkward skip you do to get back into step- but it’s the greatest free show on earth- it’s all part of the entertainment. Thankfully no major casualties has occurred due to a pot-hole, yet. What’s the betting this is the year I fall on my arse, now I’ve said that? Great…
6. You will make friends that become closer than some family members.
I’ve shared so many awesome times with friends I’ve met during my time in banding. From stealing hats from the players of The Kings Division Army Band at Whit Friday, to jumping out the fire escape of a parked coach in order to run to the loo after an afternoon’s drinking, to dancing to terrible Euro-pop in a weird club in Austria.
I did worry about coming back into full-time banding and whether my anxiety was going to ruin my playing again. However (as is the case with 99.99% of things I worry about) I needn’t have worried when I play for a band who has helped my confidence in my playing in every rehearsal. More importantly, people always say it’s when you go through a tough time that’s when you find out who your friends are. When you have friends that are ready and willing to sit down with a gin and listen to you rant about what’s bothering you, have gone out of their way to make you smile and give you a hug whilst saying they’re here for you (you guys know who you are), you realise just how amazing the banding world is, when it can bring people like that into your life.
7. Book the day off after a contest.
It’s sod’s law that when I’ve not booked time off after a contest, that’s the day I’ll be dealing with a monstrous hangover at the office. After the 2017 Area Contest, when I was sat regretting every single pint from the day before, I vowed I would never make that mistake again…booking time off, not the drinking obviously!
8. Top flight banders are just normal people.
If you think this is a pretty obvious concept, click here to read my last article and all will become clear. Take it from my experience, don’t act like they’re celebrities when you’re around them because you look like an utter loon.
9. You will get funny looks from people when you’re blasting band music in your car.
Picture this. Warm sunny day. You’re stuck in traffic with the windows down. Most people are bopping along to current pop hits from Radio 1, the feel-good tunes of Heart Radio or the random musical cocktail that is BBC Radio 2. But not you. Oh no, you’re bopping along to Gaelforce, headbanging to Macarthur Park, or (if you’re really going to go for it) dancing along- with all the actions- to this version of the YMCA. You’ll get used to people staring at you as they walk past, as you have accepted the fact that you are indeed a nutjob…or maybe this is just me.
10. No matter what people say, banding is awesome.
The banding world sometimes feels lie exactly that- our own little universe and you’re either in it or you’re not. Most non-banding people don’t understand it or why we dedicate so much time to it and of course us banders do have the odd moan/whinge about it (by the way can we stop moaning about adjudication methods now? We ALL know it’s flawed, we’ve known this for a long time and the chances of it changing after all of this time, is about as likely as Britain getting a suitable deal for Brexit before the next millenium- you’re not telling us anything new…apart from your band obviously didn’t win your area- yes, I went there! Here endeth my rant.)
I’ve never missed something, as much as I missed banding, when I took time out to sort my head and not being well enough to play full-time was the most frustrating time of my life. The friends, performances, trips and every opportunity I’ve ever received from banding- even the negative things, they were learning curves- I’m incredibly grateful for.
Yes, I am a band geek and immensely proud to be so.