By Lynda Williamson
This weekend, the 24th and 25th of November, will see over a thousand young musicians descend on Perth as they take part in the great festival of brass music that is the Scottish Youth Brass Band Championships.
Excited kids who make up the 45 different bands and ensembles from all over Scotland have been hard at work rehearsing for their big performance on the magnificent stage at Perth Concert Hall.
The competition, which stretches over the full weekend, caters for all level of players with the very youngest newcomers in the Preparatory Class through to the cream of Scotland’s young brass bands in the Premier Class.
Bands in each class will be awarded a bronze, silver or gold certificate with one band from each class selected by the adjudicators to be crowned overall champions of that section.
The Scottish Brass Bands Association, which organises and hosts the event, are delighted to welcome some special guests to the event this year including Fiona Hyslop MSP Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Andrew Dixon CEO of Creative Scotland, Annabel Ewing MSP and Pete Wishart MSP.
This year’s record number of entrants is a 22% increase on last year which is in turn a 25% increase on 2010. This is all the more impressive when you consider the slow decline which had beset the brass band movement in Scotland up until a few years ago. In 2006 there were only 6 youth brass bands in the whole of the country.
Without young players to feed into the adult bands, the future for the brass band movement looked bleak. This situation so alarmed the Scottish Brass Bands Association, the oldest brass band association in Europe, that they put in place their Youth Development Programme.
Funded partially by the Scottish Youth Music Initiative, through Creative Scotland, and partially by the SBBA itself, the programme has been so successful that in the six years since its inception the number of youth bands in Scotland has increased from six to sixty four, involving nearly 2000 children.
This dramatic result was achieved for an average investment of less than £5000 per band, the five year programme up until 2011 has cost £240,000.
This represents a pretty impressive return on the investment when you consider the benefits which music can bring both to the young musicians and the wider community. Educationalists frequently highlight the positive effect that involvement in music has on academic achievement, social skills, behaviour and self-esteem.
George Burt, the president of the SBBA , said: “The development methodology itself is fairly standard and works in many contexts – it was developed about 25 years ago when I was working in the new social enterprise field, has been adapted for movements in many countries and obviously works in the arts sector.
Apart from that, all it takes is vision and a willingness to grasp new ways of working. We have been hugely fortunate in Scotland to have a membership and it’s representatives ready to look to the future”
The current focus areas of the Youth Development Programme are the Highlands & Islands and inner city areas. New bands have already been set up in Craigmillar, Coatbridge, Crieff, Lochgilphead, Kinlochleven and the Gorbals.
Lauren McCormick and Helen Douthwaite who jointly run Gorbals Youth Brass Band which launched earlier this year said
“It has been amazing. From having just an idea we now have a band, instruments and a wonderful collection of young players who are showing an impressive level of commitment to their new hobby!”
Unsurprisingly, there is much interest from within the UK and further afield as to how the SBBA has achieved the results it has. Presentations have taken place in Wales and Denmark with another planned for Norway in April.
Much praise is given to high profile music projects in Scotland and this praise is well deserved, any programme which brings the benefits of music to young people and their communities should be celebrated.
We musn’t, however, forget the wonderful job being done by the music teachers and volunteers in our towns and villages who are doing such a sterling job in attaining the outstanding results highlighted above. Their efforts and achievements often slip under the radar and when they offer such great value for money we should give praise where praise is, most definitely, due.
Brass Bands have been part of Scotland’s culture since the 1850’s and, thanks to the SBBA and their Youth Development Programme, the future for brass music looks bright.
Newsnet Scotland would like to wish all of the young musicians taking part in the championships this weekend the very best of luck.