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Thread: Community Band Questions

  1. #21
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Anderson, Indiana
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    225
    Quote Originally Posted by ghmerrill View Post
    "There are primarily three things that will drive me away (and have driven me away) from a community band:........."

    Gary, I agree with all of the above and would add another: A conductor who insists on taking a piece faster than the band can comfortably play it. Just because Sousa recorded "Stars and Stripes" at a breakneck speed, doesn't mean everyone can or should play it at that speed. Sousa had professional musicians. Few of us in community bands are that skilled. I would always prefer to listen to a musician or group of musicians playing precisely and musically, even if a bit below professional tempo.

  2. Quote Originally Posted by ghmerrill View Post
    There are primarily three things that will drive me away (and have driven me away) from a community band....
    Gary, your musicianship is impeccable. Your patience with others leaves a lot to be desired. Most players never achieve the performance accolades you have. For most people who pick up a horn, a community band is their only outlet to express their music. It is in these ensembles that your musical expertise is most needed gently help them along. I conduct a group right now where I have a player who is exhibiting the same, er, let's just say opinions, as you have expressed, to the detriment of our brethren, since we need him as a good trombone player.

    I strongly suggest you reflect on this quote from the Kipling poem, IF:

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

    You have walked with the kings of band musicality. Have you lost touch from whence you came as a beginning player and had trouble remembering the fingering for a Bb scale?
    You need work on your ability to talk with the crowds, the commoners who play their horns for the sheer joy and enjoyment, without condescending to them.

  3. #23
    The pace of that band you describe is certainly unusual for a community band, unless most of the players have a pretty deep background. Personally I would love it! Sight reading is fun and it is a skill you can practice for.

    Once I retire from my day job I expect I'll find a band to play in. I could see myself not being happy if the performances were really rough, but I know I would have to adjust my standards down from the Coast Guard Band's level. There, playing a piece in a concert with only the briefest of run-though ahead of time was not too unusual, but the band could handle it very well.

    So you'd have to judge by outcomes AND by audience reactions. You might even stroll around the audience and solicit (or overhear) opinions. If you thought it was bad but the audience really enjoyed it, you need to understand that disconnect.

    In any case, you're probably hoping for an experience you'll enjoy. If the band's outcomes or preparation pace are not enjoyable for you, there are at least 3 options:

    1) Adapt, adjust, learn to love it...or at least to be OK with it.

    2) Consider the gig temporary until you can get placed in a better group (assuming your area is large enough that there is a better group). Then make the most of your current gig to improve your skills in all ways.

    3) Leave.

    You could also start a small group, like a quartet or quintet, with the better players from the band. It's possible to get gigs with such an ensemble. Lots of options for you!
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
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    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by enhite View Post
    Gary, I agree with all of the above and would add another: A conductor who insists on taking a piece faster than the band can comfortably play it. Just because Sousa recorded "Stars and Stripes" at a breakneck speed, doesn't mean everyone can or should play it at that speed. Sousa had professional musicians. Few of us in community bands are that skilled. I would always prefer to listen to a musician or group of musicians playing precisely and musically, even if a bit below professional tempo.
    I had to grin at this one. In our community band I have taken it on myself to find YouTube performances of the tunes that we are doing for any given concert, and then to pass those links on to the rest of the band members, so they can hear the piece [hopefully] played well. One of the pieces for our upcoming concert is "Them Basses", and the performance that I found was by the Eastman Wind Ensemble, which, as some of you may already know, is famous for playing circus marches at warp speed. I "triple-dog-dared" our director to match the EWE's tempo
    David Bjornstad

    1923 Conn New Wonder 86I, Bach 6 1/2 AL
    2018 Wessex EP100 Dolce, Denis Wick 4ABL
    2013 Jinbao JBEP-1111L, Denis Wick 4AM
    2015 Jinbao JBBR-1240, Denis Wick clone mouthpiece of unknown designation
    Cullman (AL) Community Band (Euph Section Leader)
    Brass Band of Huntsville (2nd Bari)

  5. I had a conversation with one of my conductors about how "ignorance is bliss" when it comes to musical expectations. The more your ear is trained, the harder it is for a group to sound good.

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    West Palm Beach, FL
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    3,220
    Quote Originally Posted by jkircoff View Post
    I had a conversation with one of my conductors about how "ignorance is bliss" when it comes to musical expectations. The more your ear is trained, the harder it is for a group to sound good.
    Hmm? Not sure I understand what you mean here. We need to listen and play in tune.
    Last edited by RickF; 04-05-2018 at 04:25 PM.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    Russian Christmas Music (Alfred Reed)
    El Cumbanchero (Rafael Hernández) cell phone video

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by RickF View Post
    Hmm? Not sure I understand what you mean here. We need to listen and play in tune.
    I am thinking jkircoff means that as you become more proficient, experienced and nuanced as a musician (or a listener), you will be more critical of groups. You will learn what is good, what is in tune, what is musical (in many ways). So, the group that may have sounded "pretty okay" to your previously untrained ear (lacking musical maturity and skill), may now sound not so good.

    This is an interesting thread. I started to write something, but I needed much more time to do it right and say what is on my mind. But, for now, I, like Dave, prefer to play in groups with excellent musicians playing enjoyable, varied and highly challenging music. With a no nonsense conductor. But I also play in groups that are at the far opposite end of the spectrum (very amateur with a few experienced folks). I can always learn and improve, no matter what the music or skill level of the group, and I immensely enjoy watching others get so much enjoyment from making music (including my amateur percussionist wife, Linda), and I also like trying to assist, encourage, stimulate, etc. others along the way. So, I can be happy in the very best and very "not so best" groups. And it is surprising what type of comments you get from the audience from my "not so great" group. They love it. Probably not a very musically sophisticated audience, but who can doubt their sincerity when they are all smiles, taping their feet, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. I should expand on all this, but I would need a lot of space.
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
    Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (Bass Trombone), Powder River Symphony, Gillette, WY (Tenor Trombone)
    Black Hills Brass Quintet (Tuba)

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Posts
    3,220
    I get it... ignorance is bliss from an audience perspective not from those performing.

    Thanks John.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    Russian Christmas Music (Alfred Reed)
    El Cumbanchero (Rafael Hernández) cell phone video

  9. I use community bands to hone my ensemble skills. It is very challenging to play in a band with multiple pitch centers and tempos. It is a John Cage dream.

  10. Some years ago I was playing in a community band on tuba. The section was frustrating to me. One person had no clue as to pitch. Another had no clue as to timing, and the necessity of locking with the bass drum to set the foundation. Another had no clue as to why ensemble rehearsals were even necessary except for dress rehearsal.

    As my frustration mounted, I was blessed with this insight: as I posted above, I have had the great privilege to perform with many different ensembles from garage band to national television broadcast, on more than one instrument. I remember 5th grade band and the frustration of learning my preparatory exercises. The realization that kicked me in the side of the head: none of the folks mentioned will ever get to perform outside of the greater municipal area than where we all live. Why should I deny them their moment in the sun?

    In response to Dave's post, I do not lower my musicianship standards. But I do not artificially impose them on others. If there is a problem, I play softer so the director can hear the situation and resolve it. That's not my job as a player. With the requirements of the day job, I don't necessarily have the luxury to choose which community ensemble I sit in with. So I live with it. I am not sure I would call it a "John Cage dream," because that can also be misconstrued as a condescention of the other players.

    Here is what I do with the ensemble I direct: I always compliment their best efforts, and I give examples. For example, at our last rehearsal, one of the pieces we play has a point in the middle of the piece where the melody is played in octaves by - get this - trombones and clarinets! That's just never going to work well and blend well due to the inconsistent physical attributes and intonation characteristics of the different instruments. So I took a few minutes, explained the balance problem, asked them to listen across the ensemble, and reassured them that it was not their ability, but the nature of the instrument that the clarinet throat tones would tend to be sharp and thin while the trombones easing off might go flat with breath support issues, and please listen. By the end of that five minutes of rehearsing that particular sixteen bars, they were sounding quite good together.

    I truly believe that many of the intonation issues that players complain about in community bands are as a result of their former school band directors not explaining why intonation issues exist, more than any fundamental deficiency of the player. I was lucky. My school band director was Navy trained. So he would explain why the intonation issues existed, and what to do to fix it. The most obvious example is when trumpets have fanfares in octaves, and the D at the bottom of the treble clef tends to be sharp with the 1+3 valve combination, which needs a slide adjustment down, combined with 4th line D 1st valve, which being a 5th harmonic, tends to be flat, needing a lipping adjustment up. So he instructed the 2nd part to kick out a slide and the 1st part to lip up or use alternate fingerings. Many school band directors I know don't instruct on that sort of thing, and wonder why they only get II ratings at state contest instead of I ratings.
    Last edited by iiipopes; 04-06-2018 at 08:54 AM.

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