A plea for 2009 - Local Band Associations need your help

23-Dec-2008

Steve Chislett of the Wessex Brass Band Association makes a plea for help - for the benefit of all in the banding movement.


There is a sound and well known business strategy which, in summary is “if you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same results”. Sometimes doing the same thing a second time when it hasn’t worked the first time  is indeed just foolish. 

But sometimes it can be shrewd.  Perceived wisdom consists, in part, in knowing the difference. Flexibility in its’ application can be an important virtue, but in many matters, flexibility properly kicks in only after one has given persistence a good chance.

2009 plea

My plea for 2009 is for all bands from the top of the championship section to the non contesting bands to physically support their local brass band associations in the most positive way possible. It would be such an excellent example for other community groups if brass bands were to show the way by bands committing to the principal of what can we do for our local association, rather than what can our association do for us.

Local associations and area committees are run in the main by a combination of banders who choose not to play regularly anymore, music educators  and very occasionally conductors.

Majority

The majority of these individuals feel that it is important to freely and selflessly give back some of their time each year to the community, which has given them, like all banders a hobby offering years of musical pleasure  and often free music education .   

For most associations, whether in brass banding or other non musical organisations, the same diligent and selfless people continue for many years, sometimes even into infirmity in order to help keep an association going. This fine principle and selfless attitude is often unrewarded by the community that they support by even a simple thank you.

Attitude

The attitude in many aspects of voluntary unpaid work within our banding community today of ‘It is ok for someone else to do it because I cannot spare four or five evenings a year or the occasional Saturday morning’ , must change if associations are to survive and flourish into the future.

This brings me back to my first statement. If you keep doing the same thing nothing will change.

Positive shift

I would like to see in 2009 a positive shift, for the better whereby ALL bands appoint one or two members who are forward thinking and have new progressive ideas, to attend local association meetings and to assist in the organisation of new events or perhaps even more importantly, to offer to join the local committee for a two year rolling period.

The most important aspect for your local association is that every band should want to be involved in the communal good. Banding is a great, enjoyable, sometimes time consuming  and overall, a relatively cheap hobby and we should all do positive things for both the banders of the present and  to safeguard the future.

Brass banding of course, is not the only activity where lack of participation and wanting to give something back is a problem. In many other organisations, it is always assumed that the same person will carry on indefinitely, whilst the non participant and receiver of their benevolence will continue to be a non participant and inevitably, consistently moan that nothing changes.

Things to change

For things to change, you have to push the wheelbarrow yourself as well as filling it up with new ideas.

Why not make 2009, the first year that you, the non participant make a difference for the good of the banding community as a whole by volunteering to be the bands attendee at your local association meeting or better still offer to join the committee.

Pause for thought 

If you are a player in a band without a committee role, how often during each year do you show your appreciation to your band secretary, treasurer or librarian by a simple verbal thank you or perhaps buying them a lemonade at the local hostelry after rehearsal, as a small appreciation for the work that they are undertaking on every other non participating members behalf.

Are you possibly one of those players who moan about things that are not right, but will not lift a finger to help change it for the better? – Do something positive-give up your own spare time!!

Positive

If you are in a band that does not pay its musical director/ conductor adequately for his musical education of the whole band during the year, can that be right?

The expertise of the MD covers a whole gamut of activity, skills and knowledge, including score reading, advanced aural awareness in being able to distinguish, balance and put right the individual musical parts, advanced teaching skills, technical musical proficiency, developing a high level  of performance psychology skills in order to get the best out of each player, knowledge of new and old brass band repertoire, being able to compile an entertaining programme, good PC skills, being a good compere for concerts, being an ambassador for the band in its own community and many other important aspects.

The possession of all or most of these skills to a high level is a rarity and takes many years of practice and development. Perhaps a band should work and fundraise harder to find a way of properly compensating this level of expertise.

Competitions

If a resident conductor is good enough to provide positive and good musical education for a band for 50 weeks a year, is it morally/ethically right to replace his perceived ‘lack of ability and knowledge’ for the bands contesting activities with those of a ‘professional’.

Are the banders making the decision to replace him with a ‘professional’, for the contest, musically qualified to make such a call on the residents’ or professionals’ competency and do they consider at all what it may do to the other players’ perception of the resident for the rest of the year.  Does this also undermine the work of the resident for the other 50 weeks? 

Taken for granted

Could it possibly be that the resident is being taken for granted by the players and the perceived difference in performance is only due to levels of player concentration and an edge of the seat attitude for the contest and the ‘professional’. In a society of constant change, stability is good for everybody, perhaps we should respect our resident conductors more and always give them the same level of concentration as the part time professional.

The National Contesting Council was formed as a limited company, just prior to the national championships being placed back into private hands.

The council now has no official mandate, yet still meets occasionally, paying out expenses to the participating officers and originally had funds in excess of £17,000. Should this money   rightly   be passed back to the individual area committees for the running of the area contests. Can someone please explain why this has still not yet been done and the justification for keeping the company going.

Amazed and concerned

In my forty years of banding, it has both amazed and concerned  me that we do not have the national finals run by our own banding community. The national finals has always been run by private enterprise. This private enterprise has the benefit of 8 unpaid regional committees who are each offered about £250 annually to  run the area contest on its behalf.

This figure has remained constant for as many years as I can remember and is now insignificant in the true cost of running a regional event. If our regional committees are deemed competent enough to run the regionals, why can we not put that same trust into them to run an alternative finals on a banding community basis. The finals could be passed around the areas on a rotational basis, with each individual area and its representative bands benefitting from the profits of the contest in turn.

Fairness

It would be fair to all participating bands in terms of distance travelled and sponsors could be found as is the existing arrangement provided by instrument manufacturers and other related businesses for hall hire and prize money. 

Perhaps now is the time for our regional councils to get together to implement this once and for all, for the banding community to take the championships out of the hands of private enterprise and profit and place it back where it should belong, in the control of our bands. 

The acquisition of a different national title would be necessary for such a venture, but without the support of the regional committees, the private enterprise that runs our finals could not succeed and profit at bandings expense. Is a healthy change due for 2010??

What do you think??

Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous new year


Steve Chislett CFP Cert.Ed, LLCM (TD) ,TMCF
Chairman Wessex Brass Band Association 1983 to the present
Past Chairman and Treasurer, Council of West of England BBA 1985-2002

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