Back in the Bandroom
So, if you’ve been following this blog for a while (you troopers!) and you’ve read the title, I suppose you’ve probably guessed what this post is about.
Just over a year ago I wrote a, rather lengthy, post (click here to read) about my issues with having an anxiety disorder and how it affected my playing to the point that, in the autumn of 2017, I decided to take a break from the banding world. I hoped the break would only be for a couple of months and that I would be back in full time banding by the 2018 Regional contests…but that wasn’t to be.
Regionals 2017 with Leyland
Apart from the Brighouse March Contest, 2018 was the first year in nearly 10 years that I hadn’t participated in the contest circuit. Now, I’m not going to lie, my life being free from rehearsal schedules, sectionals, concerts and contests, was a novelty at first. I read books, I learned how to paint. I went to the gym…ok, that activity was bit short-lived, but never mind. For a while (I’d never thought I’d say this) it was nice to not have to utter the words ‘I can’t, I have band’, every time somebody asks if I wanted to go and do something. Yet, as events like the Regionals and Whit Friday came and went, the novelty wore off and that’s when I became more frustrated than Theresa May in a Brexit meeting.
I was INCREDIBLY fortunate that I was still being asked to dep for these competitions and I hadn’t been forgotten as a player…so why didn’t I play? Honestly? I was scared. Yep, I completely wimped out, but I have a very good reason…honest. During my time away, I’d experienced an increase in panic attacks. Now, those of you reading this who’ve experienced a panic attack can understand when I say, the thought of going on stage and suffering from one is enough to fill anyone with fear. Plus having a panic attack in the middle of a performance is not really going to go down well in the adjudicator’s comments is it?
“The band sounded unbalanced against the sound of excessive wheezing and hyperventilating. If you kept the panic attack at pianissimo, half way through the second movement, I would have awarded a higher score.”
After turning down a dep job for the Regionals, I’d been out of banding for a total of nearly five months and I thought that was going to be it. I was too scared to go back and this was going to be another thing I’d let my mental health take away from me.
However, despite these fears, I had serious banding FOMO (stands for fear of missing out…if you’re like me and had to google this ‘down with the kids’ acronym). The more banding events I missed coupled with the pictures I saw of my friends, with their bands, taking part in these events, the more I missed it. Like I said in my original post, I started depping with a local band (Golborne) and slowly, with every performance, I started to get my confidence back. By July, I’d played a concert and at the Brighouse March and Hymn Contest, both sat on Principal Cornet and I managed to hold my nerves. I played the Last Post in front of over a thousand people in Wigan. Despite having more nerves than I was used to in years gone by, there was no panic attacks and whatever anxiety I had, I managed to deal with it during the performances- so that was a massive confidence boost.
Simultaneously, events happening in my personal life (which I won’t bore you with) meant I had no choice, but learn to deal with my day to day anxiety, in order to cope with those events. I learned how to control a panic attack (well the best I can anyway, the odd, pesky ones slips through and I just have to put up with it), which I’ll write a post about, in case it helps anyone else. I got to the point where I knew I wanted to back into full time banding again, I needed that part of my life back- it was just a case of the right opportunity arising.
Fast forward to 2019, it’s Thursday night and I’m in my onesie, binge-watching another Netflix series (standard Rock and Roll life) when (in the words of the Love Island bimbos) ‘I GOT A TEXT!’
Eccles Borough Band 2015
‘Would I like to join (well re-join) Eccles Borough band on Flugel for the area?’
Now, bearing in mind that Eccles is a band that I’ve had some of the most outrageous and enjoyable banding adventures with and made up of some of my favourite people on the planet and flugel is the instrument I love the most…don’t tell my cornet- if that’s not the universe telling me it’s time to go back, I don’t know what is!
Apologies to the lactose intolerant, as I know it sounds incredibly cheesy, but stepping back into the band room, felt like I’d travelled back in time- it’s like I’d never left! The flutter of nerves I’d been harbouring all day (mostly about whether I was actually going to get a sound out of my flugel, due to being horrendously under-practised) just disappeared and I actually just enjoyed playing.
I’m not completely out the woods, I still have an issue with dwelling on mistakes or parts I could have played better- I did throw a little tantrum on the way home from a sectional…just a little one- and I don’t think that aspect of me will ever really go away, it’s just part of who I am, but keeping that negativity at bay is something I can keep working on. Overall my mindset in the rehearsal room has been pretty positive and that’s solely down to the people I play alongside.
Planning my life around rehearsals again, singing my part whilst at work (I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to my work colleagues, you’ll be suffering through Symphony of Marches with me), playing in a band with people who make me laugh every rehearsal, looking at potential solos and pieces and actually wanting to play them- it just feels like I’m slowly finding the person I was before my brain took over my life. My bottom Cs on Flugel still sound like a honking goose and my sight reading leaves a bit to be desired, but some things never change and you can’t have everything!
So, to the girl who, this time last year, was convinced that she’d never walk into the Winter Gardens with an instrument and a test piece in her hands- on the 24th February 2019, you will. You’re probably going to have to deal with some form of anxiety on the day, but most people will…it’s a contest! You’ll more than likely split a couple of notes, but the world will not end! The parts that went well, you’ll keep in your memory to look back on and the parts that could have been better will be placed on your practise stand to work on, not hung on the wall for you to stare at and pick apart.
It’s another rung on that ‘onwards and upwards’ ladder and whichever way the performance goes, it always ends with a beer in the bar anyway!
See you in Blackpool!