Becoming a Bander
Linda is one of our newest members and was only too happy to share her experiences of joining the band as an adult learner. Thanks Linda, and it’s great to hear that you’re enjoying yourself with us! Keep up the good work!
I was fast approaching my half century and I found myself wanting a new challenge. A few years ago I taught myself to read music but it was only at a very basic level and I learned to play the violin to a standard that I was happy with. While in my mind I saw myself filling Sheffield City Hall with wonderful symphonic accomplishment, in reality I knew I’d never play the violin within earshot of anyone with a tuneful ear.
So, there’s the background. I now wanted to learn to play a brass instrument but didn’t really have a clue where to start or whether I’d be any good. I bought a cornet from a well known auction site thinking that if I didn’t take to it then I hadn’t lost much.
My cornet arrived, shiny and new, gleaming gold lacquer and mother of pearl buttons that looked like little pearls of wisdom. I could just press them and this wonderful music would erupt from the bell…. I have a good imagination. Sadly my pearls of wisdom didn’t seem to work and I quickly found out that it takes great determination, skill, training and above all patience… something I lack.
I googled the internet for local bands and came across the website for Woodhouse Prize Band. I emailed a declaration of truth… basic site reading, very much a novice and at that time able to get a ‘noise’ out of my new toy but nothing you could claim as ‘music’. I was overjoyed to receive a reply inviting me to pop along to one of their practice sessions, have a listen and see if it was for me.
I polished my cornet to within an inch of it’s life, oiled and greased all the moving parts… as advised in all the You Tube tutorials, and bought some lip balm. Then for a whole week I panicked! Were they expecting me to play? I mean, really play? For someone who’s normally over confident, outgoing and never afraid to make a fool of herself in public, I couldn’t understand why I had permanent butterflies and felt sick at the thought of me actually having to demonstrate my (lack of) prowess over my instrument! To top it all, on the day, I was late arriving, which then caused my knees to start knocking!
Outside the hall waiting for me was Jeannette who immediately extended the hand of friendship and a warm welcome. I spent the next hour or so sitting on the back row, clutching my lovely cornet, just listening to the members play. It suddenly occurred to me that the practice session was nearly over and I hadn’t yet plucked up the courage to play one solitary note…. so…. as the last note of the current piece was approaching I put mouthpiece to lips, took a deep breath and blew as hard as I could… a low ‘C’… yippee hurrah… I’d done it… I’d played my first note with a group of people I’d never met before and it felt so good! Who cares if it was out of tune or too loud!?!
After the session, a few people stayed to have a chat; David (maestro extraordinaire ), Jeannette (cornet – and one of 3 generations of band members!), Jo (flugelhorn) and a few others. The point is, that I was made to feel very welcome. They didn’t care about my current level of ability and not in any way judgmental. They were happy to have me and as the weeks turned into months (it was October 2014 when I joined) I’ve made new friends, learned much more about reading music due to the much appreciated tuition and support that I get every practice session and I’ve traded my original instrument in for one now befitting a person who has gone from not knowing how to blow a proper note to someone who’s played their first engagement with the rest of the band! And I’ve got an official band tie and a certificate to prove it!
Graham (baritone and senior member of the 3 generations of band members) told me at that very first practice session that “you can’t help someone to improve unless you can hear them”… that thought has stayed with me… and I try to make sure they can all hear me every week (lol).
I think the term is ‘being a bander’… and I’m so glad that I took the plunge into becoming one. It just goes to show that whatever your age, whatever your ability, there are bands out there who are happy to help you learn and grow in your chosen instrument. I couldn’t thank the band more. Playing the cornet and knowing that I’m improving each week gives me a great sense of achievement and it’s so much fun. I seriously recommend it to everyone of any age or ability. Woodhouse Prize Band will always welcome you.
As for the lip balm… yes, definitely, it’s a must to help soothe the effects of all that vibrating after a long blow! I still haven’t given up my red lipstick though, although there’s probably more left on the mouthpiece after a session than there is on my lips!
I’m very much looking forward to performing my own solo (other than the odd bum note that I manage to fit in when one’s not expected) but only if it’s ‘Annie’s Song’ as that’s my all time favourite.