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Thread: Why not play forever?

  1. I assume by the time one's skill and/or faculties have diminished as Gary described, most professional ensembles would give the boot. That's pretty much true of any job. So it seems like the consensus is: play professionally as long as they will let you, and play for hobby as long as you can. Sometimes professional ensembles (like military bands) give the boot before income-generating years are over, but there isn't anything inherent to the job that deteriorates some aspect of one's being any faster than a normal job or normal aging. Tangentially, the exercise of both sides of the brain through music surely preserves one's faculties longer than many other jobs or hobbies.

    Personally, I think I might be more like Gary's trumpet player who stayed than the euphonium player who left. I don't want to be a detriment to whatever ensemble I'm in (although sometimes I feel like that even now), but surely there's a place for people like him to plug into somewhere. John and others involved in New Horizons, do you encounter that scenario a lot? How is it handled, if at all?

    Next follow up: do you think euphonium-ing is a family-friendly profession? Obviously some jobs would require more travel and longer hours than others, but in general for military bands and municipal symphonies?
    Wessex Dolce

    "Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things -- trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones." - Puddleglum in "The Silver Chair"

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    1,984
    Quote Originally Posted by lzajmom View Post
    ... there isn't anything inherent to the job that deteriorates some aspect of one's being any faster than a normal job or normal aging.
    I'm pretty sure that in general one's physical abilities degenerate at a faster rate than one's mental abilities. This certainly applies to the level of physical performance required in any sport or in any "job" that requires fine muscle tone, motor skills, and constant physical practice -- as in the case of fingering, slide manipulation, embouchure, breath capacity and control, and hearing. I avoid 6th and 7th position (and play a double-valve bass) in part because of the consequences of shoulder arthritis. Of course, it may not be the job that causes such deterioration, but the deterioration limits the ability to perform the job before (and sometimes significantly before) affecting other jobs that you would be able to perform quite competently -- which is, of course, a primary reason that people like the euphonium player stop playing and why the trumpet player should stop playing -- at least in certain organizations.

    Also, Izajmom, I take it you've never "plugged into" a New Horizons band or you would have an entirely different perspective. While NH bands may vary in the capabilities of their players, most that I've encountered lean more toward collections of players along the lines of the trumpet player illustration -- often including players that have little or no experience as well, and that play primarily at a middle school level. A lot of people find it enjoyable to play in such ensembles, and I won't say that they shouldn't. But I don't.
    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)

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Sturgis, South Dakota
    Posts
    901
    Regarding New Horizons Bands, there is quite a range of talent and age. I have been associated with New Horizons for many years, started some, conducted some, taught at some of their summer camps, and played in several for quite a long time. Was the original webmaster for their website for the first ten years. There are some players in New Horizons groups (bands, orchestras, choruses) who are not very good and probably won't ever be very good. The whole premise of New Horizons was to find people a non-intimidating group to play in where "your best is good enough". And it originally was for those over 50 who may have played in school, then had their careers and family, and now they are retired and want to return to playing. Or some started playing for the first time in the older years. Sure, some of the groups are perhaps at the middle school level. But, there are also some groups that play pretty darn good, at least at the high school level. There are over 300 groups world wide. The group I am currently in is made up of retired band directors, a few who played professionally (I being one of them), some who played a long time ago, some who started in their later years. Our group is probably in the middle to slightly above middle in ability and overall group musical level in relation to all New Horizons groups.

    People tend to stay on in these groups. Some probably past the point where they are a productive part of the group. But I have also seen some voluntarily leave from playing over the years (I have been in this band going on 10 years). I enjoy playing in these groups, even though I have played in very good, professional groups throughout my life as well. I like being able to assist others, provide a strong foundation in my section, see others having a good time with music, and making many new friends (music in general has always been a great source for making friends for both Linda and me). I started a guitar/flute duet with a flute player in the New Horizons band (me on guitar). Several of the members are in other groups including a big band. So, lots of opportunities to do things musical. I play in a municipal band in the summer, and it is quite good. This is probably more musically rewarding for me, but I cherish my time in the New Horizons band and the program in general. I will stay as long as I can.
    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)

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    1,984
    What I said about NH wasn't intended as an attack on the organization or the people in it. One band I participated in for about six months was run (indirectly out of Duke University) by a very capable middle school band director from one of the local elite private schools (which two of my children attended for high school and one attended for middle school and early high school). That "concert band" had associated with it a "jazz band" and a "Dixieland band" that consisted of quite capable players -- but entry into those was highly restricted and they were really almost "private bands". There was in addition a "beginner's band" for people who had NO experience, and then the "concert band". While there were some capable players in the concert band, I'd say that no more than 30% would qualify for such a description. At one point while I was playing in it, it had eight (!) "baritone" players, and that section was pretty much of a mess. The trombone and tuba sections were okay. Percussion was a disaster. The woodwinds muddled through. The level of the music was at most grade 3, but what I'd peg as pretty much what a second-year middle school student would be expected to play (the tuba parts rarely wandered out of the staff, and never above it). There are several good reasons for playing in (or being involved in) a musical group. But if playing music is what you're really after (and by "you" I mean people reading this forum), then some things work and some things don't.

    The other NH bands I know of in this region (i.e., that I could drive to in an hour or even a bit more) are not as capable. I know that, nationally, there are some groups that are pretty darn good. I think this is very locale-relative and depends heavily on the community the band is drawing from and both who the conductor is and how the particular band is administered (which may be two completely different issues). Also, a NH band is subject to high player turnover. People die, people get sick and drop out, new people show up and then disappear, significant (sometimes laughable) imbalances in instrumentation can occur. And all of that happens with much higher frequency than in a normal community band or similar organization. A survey of what's typical in terms of music and performance can be found on YouTube (and keep in mind that what people post on YouTube is what they think is their best work). Just Google for "New Horizons Band YouTube". If you're interested in a NH band, the very best thing you can do is to first listen to recordings/videos that they have posted on YouTube or their site, or attend a concert and rehearsal. Then make your own judgement based on your own goals.

    In no way do I want to discourage anyone from participating in a NH band, but (particularly in the context of the membership of this forum) if you're thinking along the lines that a NH band is a community band for older people, you will likely discover that it's not quite what you're thinking of. As John has pointed out, the NH program was initiated with (and maintains) certain goals. Expect those goals to predominate in how the band is run.
    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)

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Sturgis, South Dakota
    Posts
    901
    Quote Originally Posted by ghmerrill View Post
    What I said about NH wasn't intended as an attack on the organization or the people in it....
    I didn't take it that way, no worries. I just wanted to elaborate a bit on the New Horizons program in general. I find that I can enjoy the music being played, I have an outlet where I can play a solo with the band usually each year (I enjoy that and the band members seem to as well and we have a very loyal audience in town), and I can practice things at rehearsal like breath control, intonation, tone, basically all of the fundamental things can be worked on even when playing some music that is overall not real challenging (to me). But we do play music that is pleasing. A lot of what a typical community band might play. Just not the real hard pieces.
    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)

  6. #26
    I think becoming That Guy varies so much. I have a section mate in the trombone section in the Big Band that I play in who is 89, I believe, and he is still playing at a pretty good level. He also is the local music director for the community theater for many of their musicals. Ed was a professional bass trombonist as a young man, but made the decision to go into academia and was a Musicology prof at the U of Iowa for many years. In his retirement he took up trombone and euphonium playing again-- he plays euph in the local community band and does a good job with that as well. He also builds beautiful harpsichords.

    So I guess it just depends on the person.
    Last edited by John the Theologian; 05-15-2019 at 01:47 PM. Reason: fixing typos

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