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I Can’t…I Can…I Did- North West Regionals 2020

I genuinely can’t believe that the North West Regional Contest is over for another year. I’m glad to be moving on to ANY piece that isn’t Legacy, I’ll be honest. I did reach the point last week where I was longing to play something else. Don’t get me wrong I love preparing for contests. I am one of those people that used to like tests at school so I had something to show for my learning, so I do like learning a test piece and then putting all my hard work on stage. However you do reach a point where you’re singing it in you’re sleep, humming it whilst you’re walking around the office and picking at every little detail in the rehearsal room to the point where you start overthinking. Before you know it, you’ve convinced yourself that you’re playing the entire thing wrong, you’ve not got time to fix it, alarm bells are ringing, sirens are going off and THE WORLD IS ENDING!!

This is where our story of the North West Regional Contest starts.


Friday night was when I realised old habits die hard. I’ve talked so much about getting better with my negative attitude towards my playing. I’ve written articles, given advice, had conversations where I’ve told you not to be hard on yourselves or to give in to negative thoughts in your head. Yet, if it has been part of your thinking process for so long, it can be a difficult thing to kick in the touch. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made. I keep saying, a couple of years ago I wouldn’t believe I would be where I am now, but there are days when this doubting negative mindset creeps in and I’ve been very good at telling it where to go, but wobbles happen.

One curse of learning a test piece is working on it for so long you start seeing cracks in it everywhere. You know the piece inside out that you start becoming over-critical. By the time we got to Friday, a week of leaving work, having 15 minutes to myself before traveling nearly an hour to get to band, rehearsing for two hours and getting home for 11 pm had begun to take its toll. I was tired, so there was the odd clip or split or something that I didn’t play maybe as well as I could, but with every mistake, I got more and more tense, angry and panicky.

To add insult to injury, I started experiencing performance anxiety before my solo lines in rehearsal and this that was the tipping point on Friday. I’ve had two panic attacks since the start of the new year, which may not seem like a lot, but with the most recent one only being a couple of weeks ago, the fear of this happening on stage (something I thought I’d got over) became very real again. By the time I’d got in the car, I’d convinced myself that I am not good enough for this seat, I’m not going to deal with my nerves on Sunday and I CAN’T DO IT. It all boiled over and a meltdown occurred where I blurted out all of this panic to the other half on the way home. Honestly, you wouldn’t have thought I was panicking over having to play a piece of music in an opera theatre, but this non-disaster seemed like a very severe crisis in my tired, emotional, sick-of-playing-Legacy state of mind. After many words of encouragement from the other half, who pointed out in his very logical manner why I had nothing to worry about and a text from Natalie (one of the Three Banding Musketeers) telling me the recording of that night’s run-through made her cry (for the right reasons, I hasten to add!) I went to bed feeling calmer about the whole thing…albeit with a slightly snotty nose and panda eyes from the banding tantrum I’d had in the car.


Saturday’s rehearsal was much better- it’s amazing what wonders a decent night’s sleep can do! I’ve now decided that the day before every contest will be spent watching Disney films and playing board games with a couple of beers. The cornets were shoved in a corner and forgotten about whilst we spent the day chilling- something that has been a foreign concept of late! I was not only ready for whatever Sunday had to bring, I was looking forward to it- a far cry from the person I’d been less than 24 hours before. That was until I accidentally broke the shower screen at the other half’s parents’ house and we had to ring them whilst they were on holiday to explain what had happened (I would like to formally apologise to Claire and Tim- your son is going out with the female equivalent of a Chucklebrother!). There is nothing like a small disaster the night before a contest to put what panic is into perspective…


I’m not a morning person. You’re already aware of this. So let’s just say when the alarm went off at 6 am on Sunday, I was less than impressed. So unimpressed, that I dropped back off to sleep and the other half had to coax me out of bed by wafting food under my nose. If there is one thing I love more than sleep, it’s food. Mantras were said, the battle playlist was blasted and a quick rehearsal in Freckleton was completed and somewhere underneath all the doubt I started to think, maybe I can do it. We were ready for action.

We were drawn last in our half of the draw, which meant a couple of hours of waiting about. I don’t do waiting very well and I don’t like listening to other bands before I’ve played- I can overthink myself into a stupor without that. Finally, it was our turn to take to the stage. Playing in the opera house was quite a big deal for me at the weekend. Ok, it hasn’t got the nicest acoustic to play in, but from being 13 years old, I watched all the ‘big bands’ line up to go in there and one day I wanted to be in a band that played in the Opera Theatre. I thought I’d ticked off that childhood dream when I played in there with Leyland a couple of years ago, but lining up to go in knowing I would be sitting on that end chair was quite the bucket list moment for me. Some people dream of going to the grand canyon, some people dream of playing principal cornet in the Opera House at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool- to each their own.

We sat down and the nerves started to flutter. I just kept trying to remind myself that I managed a couple of weeks ago in Warrington, I can do it again. I could not have asked for a better performance from the band. I was proud to share that stage and that performance with each and every member sat around the stand. I felt the flutter of nerves with every solo entry but I kept them at bay and just like I did at Warrington- I enjoyed it! I came off stage with the biggest smile on my face. I did it. Childhood dream ticked off. Performance I was happy with. A pint within touching distance- life was good.

We came a respectable 7th out of 16, which I was more than happy with and I was so proud of my friends at Eccles Borough coming 4th- yes, you can be happy for bands that have placed higher than you, that is a thing. Overall it was a weekend of many different emotions, but one I will not forget. Some Area contests have become a blur, but this year’s will stand out for the rest of my playing life.

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