Players of the Revolution
Being involved in youth bands has been the rocket fuel for my progression as a player. Regular band rehearsals were useful for my development and working towards a goal, but workshops and youth band rehearsals allowed me to absorb so much more information in a short space of time.
During my time at Foden’s Youth, I really enjoyed the fast pace, as we rehearsed once a month and had to prepare challenging repertoire with only a few rehearsals. This crash-course way of learning vastly improved my sightreading, numerous aspects of my technical playing and my confidence. I’ve always had the greatest respect for the tutors who take these workshops and rehearsals. The knowledge, patience and enthusiasm they brought to every rehearsal was greatly inspiring as a player. I hoped one day I would be given the opportunity to be on the other side of the music stand and motivate other young players, as those tutors had motivated me.
On the 2nd of September 2018, I was given this opportunity. I was invited to be a guest tutor at the Lion’s Youth Brass Band Workshop and Recruitment Day. Lion’s Youth and Foden’s Youth have regularly shared the stage in joint concerts, and I’ve listened to this fantastic ensemble many times, so to be given the chance to work with them was a massive privilege. To be a guest tutor alongside Owen Farr, Martin Heartfield , David Hext and Kate Hext- all well-established and well-respected musicians was quite simply an honour. Finally the piece chosen- Brass Revolution by Andy Scott- was a piece that would inspire me as a player, as there is many a challenge and so much to learn from it (and it has a beltin’ groove).
Despite all this excitement, as always with me, there was quite a lot of nerves mixed in. As you guys know, I struggle with negative thoughts and self-doubt (a pretty pants combination when you’re looking to motivate other people) and I did worry that this would hold me back. Then, as I was studying the piece, the week before the workshop, I started thinking. As a player, my brain was over-crowded with negative thoughts and here I have the opportunity to help young players overcome these negative thoughts and enjoy their playing and hopefully avoid the negative spiral I had, which eventually caused a halt in my playing career. This opportunity could give me the chance to utilise everything I and this blog stand for and also an opportunity for me to learn and develop a skill I’ve never done before.
Coffee and Brass-Fuelled Excitement
As soon as I arrived at Sandbach School, with my cornet bag flung over my shoulder and score in hand, the nerves subsided and excitement took over. What happened next was simply the most positive, exciting, inspiring three hours of my entire time in brass bands and music in general. My sympathy went out to the cornet section who had to deal with a hyperactive, slightly over-caffinated, band-geek of a tutor, which at 10:30 AM on a Sunday, could have been a bit much, but they laughed at my terrible jokes and tolerated my coffee-and-brass-fuelled excitement, which I very much appreciated.
The piece, ‘Brass Revolution’, written by Andy Scott for the Love Music Trust, is a perfect example of youth band writing done well. It’s got plenty of challenging parts for advanced players to sink their teeth into, whilst still being accessible for those who are still learning to play. I especially appreciated the inclusion of a ‘Wider Opps’ part which made it truly inclusive piece for all members of the section, which considering the cornet section had a playing range of learners to higher section level players, this piece was the perfect choice for keeping everyone interested and challenged. Also, adding clapping and singing sections always goes down a storm no matter what section band you play for!
The cornet sectional began and with only an hour and a half to get this piece ready for the parents concert, I thought this might be a challenge for me also. However within the first four bars of playing, I really observed the unbelievable talent of this youth band. The sound and clarity they could produce was beyond impressive- no overblowing here! Their reading of dynamics was superb and their style was something I would expect from an older band. They literally blew me away. What I really found inspirational though, was their willingness to learn. To see such passion to improve and excel in these young players was so incredibly motivating and reassuring. There are times when I worry that this amazing musical movement will be lost in this modern age of iPads and Fortnite, but the enthusiasm and determination I saw in this fantastic group, dissolved all those fears. Finally I have to applaud the soloists, who demonstrated such confidence and ability in their playing. From the stunning tone of the simply outstanding principal cornet (a recent signing for the Robert’s Bakery Band, she’s one to watch) to the fantastic technical ability of the Soprano and elegant style of the Repiano, they’re already stars in my eyes, but definitely banding superstars of the future. Cornet players of Foden’s, Black Dyke, Brighouse and the like, you better watch your seats!
An hour and a half flew, time really does pass you by when you’re having fun and the smiles around the stand, as well as my own, proved that we really did have fun. The best was yet to come though. After a quick break for cake (yes, a cake break, this really was the best band rehearsal ever!) the whole band came back together for a quick rehearsal under the direction of Owen Farr, before the parents concert. I may have been a tutor, but I was not passing up a chance to play this piece, so I plonked me and my cornet in the middle of the front row…I think I can still pass for a youth band player! I just hoped I didn’t let the side down by plopping in a wrong note! Everything we had practised was now about to be tested and I couldn’t have been more excited to hear the results. The band sounded phenomenal and you could really hear the work that had been going on in every section. Before long it was time to show off the morning’s efforts to our adoring fans- the parents…including my own…I think I was the most nervous out of the band.
Rebellion in Brass
What a sound! The piece was performed with the exuberance, excitement and assertiveness that it needed. This really was a rebellion in brass. I could hear the constant improvement from sectional, to rehearsal, to performance. The result: an entire section of players, learning and developing independently as they actively listened and analysed their own playing, like one big, living, breathing, playing machine. The soloists were confident and clear, like musical beacons, adding that spark to an already impressive sounding ensemble. When we finally hit that final double bar-line, I was gutted it was over- a sign of an enjoyable day of music-making.
For those of you who, like me, have been worried about the future of brass banding, get yourself down to a Lion’s Youth Brass Band concert, you will worry no more. If you’re a young brass player living near the Sandbach area, grab your instrument and head down to Sandbach school on your next available Tuesday evening.
The future of banding is not only bright. It’s growing. It’s developing. It’s rebelling.
A Message of Thanks
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Nigel Birch and the Lion’s Youth Band organisation for the invite to tutor. It was a truly memorable experience that I will never forget and thank you for your hard work to ensure musical tuition and performance opportunities are accessible to all young people.
For more information on Lion’s Youth Brass Band click the link below.
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