The vital role that school band programs can play, not just in fulfilling the child, but in creating a lifelong musician
“I was 8 years old when the band master at my primary school invited me to join the school’s brass band. I asked my mother, who granted permission, and until I was issued with one from the band store room had no idea that any such thing as a Euphonium existed. I struggled along for several years, learning by ear and with some rudimentary instruction from other band members – no such things as private tutors or YouTube where I came from – before my break-out season at the week-long band camp for the first community band I ever joined at the end of year 6. That week of intensive practice really convinced me that I could play.
"Throughout high school and into my early 20’s, band was my preoccupation. By 15 years old I was in the school band and three community bands on a regular basis as well as seasonal appearances in local musical society productions and orchestras playing euphonium, trombone, and tuba. Looking back, this was a huge commitment and I don’t know how my parents kept up except that there were always older musicians to ferry me around to rehearsals and gigs. Some weeks I was out at band every night of the week and I don’t seem to remember paying much attention to school work. Music and band membership provided me with such a marvellous focus during my teenage and young adult years. It was a constructive pastime that kept me off the streets and out of trouble. Young people need that type of connection to a community, a place to belong, and a context in which they can develop and show off their skills to build confidence. I cherish those years and experiences.
"By my late twenties, marriage and work began to take priority and time to practise and attend rehearsals and gigs dwindled. I didn’t play at all for about 10 years before starting again with small ensembles – not in public. Frank [a BMCB past president - ed.] kept on at me for quite a while to persuade me to join BMCB. I was wary of committing to a band again, remembering how much time and energy I had spent on it when young and wondering if I still had that level of interest. I’m glad I joined BMCB. I love the feeling when the whole band is really focused and we work together to produce a great sound. I love the feeling of being in the moment when playing music that I rarely experience when engaged in other activities. And I love the feeling of escape during a performance when I can create the illusion that I’m out of reach of the worries of the daily grind – can’t answer the phone or check the emails when Garry counts us in. This really is an activity for all ages that I can see myself undertaking for the rest of my life. If any young person asked me, like I asked my mother, whether they should join a band, I’d say “Yes! Not to do so is out of the question!”