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Marching into the New Year: 5 Brass Band Resolutions

Updated: Jan 10

How I'm Planning on 2024 Being the Best Musical Year

Happy New Year!

How’s the diet and gym regimen going? After cheese forming the main food group of my diet for two weeks, I’m sad to say I’m back on the rabbit food for the time being - I give it a week or so before I give up, but God loves a trier! Alongside the typical - ‘I’m going to get fitter and healthier, drink less beer and become an all round better person’ challenge that I set myself every year and give up on around 3 weeks into the new year, I’ve also set myself some new year resolutions relating to the musical part of my life that I’m hoping I’ll have more of a chance of sticking to this year! I’ve tried to stay away from the generic ‘practice more’ - type of resolution and instead looked at more specific, easy-to-measure targets that should benefit all aspects of my musical endeavours, including performance, practice and technique, as well as enjoyment and writing about music. 

So, let’s take a look at what I want to work on in 2024 - feel free to steal any resolutions that would be helpful or look interesting to you!

1) Plan My Practice Session

I did get to a stage after the pandemic where I became quite disciplined in my practice sessions and dedicated a little bit of time at the beginning of a practice session to sit down and plan what I wanted to work on. I would then note down my progress and use this to plan the next session. The results of this?

  • Better concentration - no more flapping about wondering what to work on next, procrastinating or being easily distracted

  • Progress - noting down what went well and what didn’t, allowed me to identify areas that were weak and needed more targeted practice

  • More enjoyment  - seeing my progression in writing within my practice notes; in rehearsals; and, most importantly, on stage provided a real sense of achievement

Now, I know you’re reading this thinking ‘duh, of course planning your practice sessions would make them better and would improve your playing’. I know, but life got busy post-pandemic and I went from having a disciplined approach to practice, to an ‘ad hoc practice session is better than no practice at all’, to ‘I’ve got two weeks before the next contest - I better get my instrument out!’ approach.

Throw in feeling a little uninspired in my day-to-day banding and not really enjoying it for a bit due to various reasons (mostly non-musical and more to do with other factors going on in my life) and you have the perfect recipe for a lack of practice. However, just before Christmas I had a little injection of enthusiasm for playing again (I’ll write more about that another time) and over Christmas I decided I wanted to throw myself back into playing again and really put some effort into my practice. 

So, in 2024:

  • Every session will be planned 

  • I will outline my goals, practice material and note down my progress

  • I want to film my practice sessions, so I have something to look back on - and share them, in case they’re useful for anyone else 

2) Less Focus on Contest Results and More on Enjoyment

Since my first contest at the age of 13, my enjoyment when it comes to playing have relied too heavily on contest results. No matter which band I’ve played in, contest results have had the power to:

  • Dash the pride in a performance when they have not reflected how we think we’ve played

  • Cause numerous problems within the culture of the band

  • Be the source of players and conductors being ‘sacked’ - which I think in this day and age is just ludicrous and a practice we, as a musical entity, cannot afford to keep doing.

On a personal level, I’ve walked offstage being happy with both the performance and progress I’ve achieved with a test piece only to go backwards and judge every note I played on stage when a less than perfect result comes through. 

No more. 

Working towards putting down the best performance I can on stage will be the goal and if I achieve that, I will be happy, regardless of the number placed next to my band’s name in the results. Of course, if that number is favourable then that is a cause for celebration (obviously) but if it isn’t, I’m not going to suddenly re-judge my performance as bad, if I was proud of it when leaving the stage. 

I’m also prioritising actually enjoying the crafting of a performance, spending time with bandmates, the social aspect of contesting (which is the best bit really), and generally enjoying the experience of being a part of a band rather than putting pressure to achieve the unknown requirements of a person (or a couple of people) sitting behind a curtain judging our performance. 

3) Stop Neglecting the Blog

I’ll keep this resolution short and sweet, because it’s not really playing-related, but it is a resolution that I really want to fulfil this year. I enjoy writing about brass bands almost as much as I enjoy playing in them, but I keep finding myself in ruts where I don’t write for ages and regret it. This is for various reasons, one being I write and create content for a living, as I work in marketing in my day job, so sometimes I’m a little drained of ideas when I get home. However, I always get to the end of the year and wish I’d done more with the blog and considering It’s Not a Trumpet is reaching its 10th anniversary next year, I reckon now is the time to stop faffing around. 

I also want to experiment with a few other different types of content across social media and videos, but I’ve always been a little bit nervous of moving away from written content. I don’t know if it is some form of imposter syndrome or worrying about what people will think, but I’ve come to the realisation that it really doesn’t matter. I write a blog about brass bands - it’s not brain surgery or anything that is particularly ground-breaking, so why not just have a go?

4) Less Pressure, More Progress

I’m a very self-critical person. There is no adjudicator on the planet that would be as critical of my performance as I. I’ve also developed this horrid habit over the years of comparing anything I’m doing with what other people are doing and putting immense pressure on myself or feeling that I’m not doing enough. Don’t get me wrong, a little bit of ambition driving you forwards is key for progress and being inspired by the talent of others is also important. However, constantly flogging myself mentally for not being as good as X person and piling on the pressure has achieved nothing productive and instead has been more of a hindrance. So, we’re scrapping that mentality in 2024 and instead I’m going to focus on staying in my own lane - not comparing what I’m doing to anybody else and instead focussing on my own progress, which I think will be a much better use of time. 

5) Attend More Concerts

As a member of a brass band, of course I’ve spent a lot of time sitting on stage at concerts and there was a time where I used to spend quite a bit of time in the audience with my Mum watching various other band concerts too. However, since the pandemic ended, I haven’t attended many concerts that I haven’t been playing in myself and I want to change this for a few reasons. Firstly, I’ve written and talked about wishing that the british brass band movement was more widely supported by our local communities and society in general. All over the country there will be countless bands preparing wonderful concert programmes filled with wonderful pieces of music and these concerts will offer an opportunity to explore pieces I know well as a player and be introduced to new pieces I haven’t heard before. I wish more people would attend our (banding as a community) concerts and explore our music, yet, I’m sitting here knowing I’ve not attended another band’s concert for quite a while, which is rather contradictory. I can’t really claim to be an advocate to our community if I’m not attending other band’s concerts myself, can I? Most importantly, I used to really enjoy sitting in the audience of a brass band concert. From exposure to new pieces of music to being inspired by the talent displayed around the stand and gaining inspiration for new features and ideas for the blog. 

So, if you’re playing in a brass band in the North West and you’ve got some concerts coming up - let me know! 

Let’s Do This!

I’m not going to lie, 2023 was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I had some really wonderful times, don’t get me wrong. I got engaged to my wonderful other half, Robert, which was a major highlight! I shared some wonderful musical experiences with great friends. However, the lows were most certainly low this year. The loss of my Grandad, who was always a big supporter of my banding, hit hard and towards the autumn of 2023, for various reasons, I have to admit I was getting a little bit weary with my banding and had put steps in place to take a break from full time playing. Then towards the end of the year, I had a few experiences with a band that re-ignited my love of playing and generally being a part of a band - so I decided to join them and I am absolutely loving it, so far!

We’re just over a week into the new year and I’m already feeling hopeful that 2024 will be a brilliant year. I’m ready to do my best to make it the best musical year I’ve had for a while and if I stick to my new year’s resolutions, I may just have a chance! 

New year, new band, new attitude - let’s do this!

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