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Thread: Community Band Questions

  1. #31
    My Community Band is mainly made up of Highschool students, some Community players and 4 music teachers playing secondary instruments. Some of the kids are actually fairly solid players and nice people. The bands playing has improved considerably in the last few years as the current band teacher at the high school has been more demanding of the students by having playing tests, having them listen to videos, going to concerts and interviewing Community players. She's doing in a such a way that it makes it fun for the kids. Occasionally, I had to play tuba which is not a huge issue other then not owning a tuba. I can get around tuba fine other breathing occasionally gets in the road of what I know what I want to do!

    The toughest piece we have in our folder this year is Circus Bee March. We are not dong bad with it. We're around half note = 130. I am having a bit trouble with it. Part of it its in between where I would try to double tongue the spots which the low brass have the melody to themselves. The tempo we are going so far is between the cracks of single and double tounging. I also don't quite have the air intensity in the first strain so I sound bit 'tubby' at times for my liking. Endurance gets the best of me once and a while too. Its minor stuff which 95% of the band wouldn't notice too badly but I keep challenging myself to improve.

    Once a year in March I go to small town roughly 40 miles west of Winnipeg for a 1 day Community Band Workshop, mainly made of Community players in Winnipeg and area. Its very high level playing which I can get my butt kicked a little bit but atleast I'm having fun with it.

    Sometimes one is best of just set the standard and hope it rubs off around your players. Be nice to them and that and give them gentle pointers eg. that 4th valve on the euphonium and tuba has a purpose!

  2. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by euphlight View Post
    Sometimes one is best of just set the standard and hope it rubs off around your players. Be nice to them and that and give them gentle pointers eg. that 4th valve on the euphonium and tuba has a purpose!
    Well said! Tactful pointers can work in most cases.

    When I first left the band and moved, I got into a brass band that was pretty good (but not as good as I was used to). But I played Eb tuba in the group, which was perfect. I had to work to get my skills in shape, but now and then my technical skills and range let me shine within the very good tuba section.

    We had a first clarinet player who had some really good abilities. There was a period when the standard in the band was not as high as it came to be later. This player said he found it best to practice enough to be at 85%. Then he could still be a good section leader and yet didn't get bored. That's how he explained it to me, anyway.

    I do sometimes play in small groups that have problems with pitch and ensemble, but I just do my best to set a good standard and figure I'm helping the overall output a bit. And in some cases, it helps my alertness!
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  3. It would be nice to play a group where everyone is as concerned about improving as I am. But, I realize that that group doesn't exist for me and it sometimes is real frustrating.
    Last edited by bpwilliams; 04-06-2018 at 08:33 PM.

  4. Quote Originally Posted by bpwilliams View Post
    It would be nice to play a group where everyone is as concerned about improving as I am. But, I realize that that group doesn't exist for me and it sometimes is real frustrating.
    That group might not be viable now, but it is possible to work your way into higher level groups. I didn’t touch a horn for 10 years after I graduated high school, and with time, practice, and networking I’ve been able to working my way into audition only wind bands and brass bands that compete at NABBA. Stick with it, work hard, and the opportunities you seek will present themselves!

  5. #35
    So, I've been watching this thread all week and haven't had a chance to respond yet. Here goes:

    Regarding Gary's points in general, I absolutely believe that, as a player, you need to know yourself and how you will relate to a community band. Different bands have different cultures. Some are proudly open to all, while others aim to be near-professional groups. Some tolerate working on details in the extreme, others get antsy if the conductor even tries to rehearse a spot that was just a total train wreck.

    Regarding Gary's points in particular:

    1. Speaking as a community band conductor, I really don't have patience for conductors who don't work to make the band better. That means they've done their homework beforehand. That means they take the time to rehearse and, if necessary, teach the band in problem spots. That means they pick appropriate literature for the group.

    2. Intonation is a tough one in community bands. Between poor hearing among older members, deficiencies in technique and embouchure, and instruments of varying quality and condition, many community bands simply have no hope of playing without some degree of intonation problems. However, acknowledging this reality is not the same as ignoring the issue and allowing the fixable intonation problems to go unaddressed.

    3. Regarding the "run through" mentality, the following comments are from someone who has successfully turned around a band that was being limited by it. The long-time previous conductor of the group tended to go through music very quickly with few opportunities to really stop and fix things. When I got there, it took a couple of years of doggedly stopping and fixing mistakes before the band got over their resistance to detailed rehearsal.

    Admittedly, it was tempting at times to say, oh well, that's just who this band is. In the end though, it was worth fighting the good fight. The band has a very different mentality towards music making now.

    But, having turned this around in a band, I believe the culture change has to be driven from the conductor's podium. If a band suffers from the "run through" mentality in rehearsal and it's not being challenged by the conductor, it's not going to change.

    In addition to Gary's three, I have a couple of musical bugaboos of my own that I'll list briefly:

    1. Bands where there is no attention to rhythm.

    2. Bands where there is no attention to balance.

    However, there's one thing that is a must for me in any band, community or otherwise: It has to be a group of people who are kind and decent enough that I want to spend time with them. After playing in a couple of groups where the musicality was good but the culture was toxic, I figured out that, for me, life is too short to play with jerks. I'm willing to overlook a lot of musical sins (including my own personal bugaboos) if I like the people.

    Finally, regarding the comment about musical ignorance being bliss as a listener, I can certainly agree. I've been at professional orchestra concerts where I've been listening to a piece and had my conductor's ear kick in when there was a minuscule problem in the ensemble. It took me right out of my enjoyment of the music even though it sounded perfectly fine to the people around me.

    It's somewhat analogous to the people who find that 4K TVs can actually show too much detail, such as imperfections in props or actors' skin. Unlike with a TV, the resolution at which we hear has more to do with how we've trained ourselves to filter and analyze the sounds we're hearing. So, more ear training has both upsides and downsides.
    Adrian L. Quince
    Composer, Conductor, Euphoniumist
    www.adrianquince.com

    Kanstul 976 - SM4U

  6. Quote Originally Posted by jkircoff View Post
    That group might not be viable now, but it is possible to work your way into higher level groups. I didn’t touch a horn for 10 years after I graduated high school, and with time, practice, and networking I’ve been able to working my way into audition only wind bands and brass bands that compete at NABBA. Stick with it, work hard, and the opportunities you seek will present themselves!
    I agree with you. I am playing with the best groups in my area.

  7. Quote Originally Posted by adrian_quince View Post
    However, there's one thing that is a must for me in any band, community or otherwise: It has to be a group of people who are kind and decent enough that I want to spend time with them. After playing in a couple of groups where the musicality was good but the culture was toxic, I figured out that, for me, life is too short to play with jerks. I'm willing to overlook a lot of musical sins (including my own personal bugaboos) if I like the people.
    This 100%. I don't care how good your band is -- if it has a elitist, toxic atmosphere, then I'm not going to be a part of it.

  8. #38
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    1,990
    A community band is always a cluster of compromises. The trick is to find one that's "close enough" to what you want, and where you're "close enough" to what it wants and needs. Different bands have different "cultures" and "shared attitudes and goals". There's even a kind of "degree of toxicity" or "degree comaraderie" scale, and one for "Are we here for music or for social interaction?" A good conductor and good band leadership (officers, board, etc.) contribute a lot to this. I've seen it change substantially over a period of one season with the departure of a poor conductor and the appearance of a good one.

    Another thing that (in my experience) greatly affects a band in several ways is the average age of its members. A band that consists primarily of people in their 60s and beyond (i.e., mostly retirees) will have both certain advantages and certain disadvantages compared to a band where the average age is in the 40s or 50s (and hence most members have jobs that can interfere with rehearsal attendance -- though they may be more able players). And I love having student-age people in the band (even some middle schoolers, as appropriate). But the students (even through college and graduate school) are almost universally (though not entirely) undependable in terms of their attendance and having what might be referred to as "adult habits and attitudes". It's always an adventure.

    And you have to have sympathy for the poor conductor who -- having crafted an excellent program that is entertaining, listenable, and challenging-but-not-too-challenging -- learns three weeks before the major concert that his first trombone player has to fly to China for a work assignment and won't be in the country for the concert. This actually worked out quite well (this past Saturday), but it's always something. People get sick, go on vacation, have to tend to family matters, go on business trips, have sudden work loads imposed on them, or just decide that they need some time off. A good conductor (at managing such a goofy group -- not just at conducting) makes all the difference, shrugs off these things, reallocates resources, and does his/her best. It's not exactly a thankless job, but few realize what goes into it.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  9. #39
    Wanted to share an update on my experience in case its helpful.

    A summary of how I recently joined a community band:
    -Emailing the conductor asking about availability and the opportunity to meet
    -Sitting in on a rehearsal (didn't play but followed along looking over one of the trombone player's shoulder)
    -Played a short audition for the conductor (prepared piece of my choice, scales, sight reading of music for the upcoming concert)

    They rehearse 1x per week for 2 hours in the evenings; perfect for people with full time work. Have 4-5 rehearsals before concerts. Constant collection of music to pull from when needed (holiday concerts for example) and variable selection of music to prepare for scheduled concerts. An extremely talented group of musicians where the majority have studied at the collegiate level. Some are students, professional musicians, music teachers, work outside of music, and people that have retired from one of the above.

    Everyone was extremely approachable throughout the process and encouraging despite me not studying music in college and not playing for quite some time. I did practice at least an hour a day for a month and a half to get what I could of my chops back before playing my audition.

    Thank you again for the tips and suggestions!
    Rudi
    Last edited by rudibred; 04-18-2018 at 11:36 AM.

  10. #40
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Posts
    3,124
    Rudi, that sounds like a very similar make up as our band. About 1/3 are either band dirs, music teachers, or retired professionals - with a few from military bands. About 8 to 10 are promising H.S. students with hopes of getting a partial scholarship to band camp and/or college. The rest are good amateurs with intent on improving their skills. If we have an opening in a section and someone wishes to join, they contact the Dir. to see if they can sit in or try out for the band. Our by-laws state they can play with us for 4 weeks so the Dir and section leader can hear how they play. If both are satisfied, then they play and audition. For the euph section it’s a duet with me and then a solo so Dir and I can hear their tone and phrasing. The Dir may ask for a couple of scales too. If satisfied, they’re then invited to join.

    We we just had our scholarship concert where some of the students got to play a featured solo with the band. All ticket proceeds go to our scholarship fund. Our band president announced to the audience that in the last 36 years (when the scholarship program started), we’ve given out $624,000 in scholarship monies... some to students, some to area schools with the donation of needed instruments. I think this is partly the reason we don’t usually have trouble selling tickets, which are $20 a piece. This is the part of the band I’m most proud.
    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
    When the Saints Go Marching In (arr. Mashima) at ACB Conference Ft. Lauderdale
    Cell phone video of : El Cumbanchero:

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