Bill's Musical Notes
Making Things Happen
The other day, a friend, Graham, who is also a key promoter of Newent Classical Brass, came to mine for a coffee and a general chat about the future of this group, how to help it to grow, and how to nurture a relationship with its parent body, our Newent Orchestra. We didn't have an agenda for this session, just a free-ranging talk about how things were going, etc. It was a great meeting and set me to thinking wider about the Newent Orchestra's current situation and how it might change in the future.
Some things will stay the same. Our constitution is built on the aim of rehearsing for and presenting concerts, of involving musicians to support their music making, young and old. It has been doing this for 75 years.
Some things change. In recent years, our secondary education system for music has suffered from ever-dwindling resources and we are in a situation where support from organisations such as ours becomes, correspondingly, more important. I speculate now on how changes can be fruitfully encompassed and what follows is up for debate.
Our orchestra is growing in terms of membership. The fact is, it's getting bigger. At some point, it may become unwieldy. Also, there is the question of the quality of the music that we are making. Should we simply accept what we produce, or should we be striving for improvement? My penchant is for the latter, with the proviso that it remains an enjoyable social experience.
It's not within our ability or constitution to provide any structured education but what we can do and are doing is develop the individual music groups within the whole: brass, strings, woodwind, music appreciation. It's the definition of what these groups are all about, what they can achieve and how they might achieve it that needs to be discussed, developed and defined.
At present each group is offering something completely different: the brass, not part of the main orchestra is running independently; woodwind has after-rehearsal sessions trying out new pieces of music; strings has its 'sectionals' and monthly meeting at Pauntley; the music appreciation group also runs independently. All these have considerable room for development.
To make this happen we need individuals, like Graham and also Ginny from the appreciation group, to step forward and take up this challenge. For example, both the woodwind and brass groups need their own leaders/conductors. I've spent some effort on doing this myself but always as a caretaker until others come along and take up the baton. This is because my own focus, as orchestra leader, should be on the main orchestra. One thing that struck me when reading Ofsted reports about music education in schools was that, whatever the financial situation, if the head, the school's leader, was involved, informed and keen, then its musical establishment would thrive. If disinterested, no matter how good the department head or teachers, it would not do well.
After circling around my original proposition that grass roots music has a role to play in supporting music making at whatever level, I simply see our role as encouraging participation and commitment. As the orchestra grows, its human resources increase. Let's make good use of these. The question is then, what can you do for your orchestra?
Bill Anderton, November, 2015
Find out more about Bill's work:
The Final Score - book
Exploring the powerful effects of music and features the Newent Orchestra. Read more or even purchase at billanderton.uk
Alchemy in Music - CD
The CD, "Alchemy in Music", composed and produced by Bill.
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