Entering band festivals is like when your Gran sends back you and your cousin’s birthday cards with the spellings corrected. There’s good intentions there, certainly, but the motivations can be elusive and the judgements opaque. In spite of the rancour you know you’ll do it all again in a year’s time, when hope will once more triumph over experience and your best laid plans be sacrificed to expediency and pragmatism.
In time I’ve managed to view my own reactions to the SBF on my own kind of diurnal Kubler-Ross scale; first at comes denial ( 7am: ‘I feel fine”) , then anger (9.30 am “why didn’t they practise?”), bargaining(12pm “gold- ’ll do anything for a gold!”), depression (3 pm “ a bronze -why bother?”) and finally acceptance (5 pm “ok, but next rehearsal I bring the pencils and they’re gonna write the fingerings in!!”).
It’s tough. Really tough. But then learning experiences usually are and I’ve honestly never come away from a festival without having learnt an awful lot. This year being no exception.
The adjudicators really know their stuff and it’s a total privilege to have someone like the wonderfully name Marty Mumford and Debbie Dietz listen to us play. Pretty much everything they have to say is on the money and the depth of knowledge and experience there is humbling.
But it is tough; particularly when Marty knows your conducting in four when it should have been two; Arghh!!!
With three Silver Medals (Junior Concert, Junior Stage and Senior Stage bands) and a Bronze (Senior Concert Band) our results were very respectable considering the size of our program and the rehearsal times available. Particularly pleasing was the attitude of all the students on the day; without exception all the members were cooperative, committed and well behaved – and well turned out! On at least two occasions mention was made of our smart appearance and excellent posture, details that were not lost on this conductor and his ongoing campaign to enforce the ten most important principals of band sound (posture, posture, posture… and posture).
Highlights for me included the Junior Stage Band’s courageous performance after only two rehearsals with a full ensemble; the JCB’s performance of Jungle Dance, the SCB’s performance of Perpetuation and the SSB’s performance of In a Mellow Tone. Even the less edifying pieces were just measures, beats, semi-tones away from greatness!
However; while I have never claimed to be Zubin Mehta there is very little I can do to improve something that hasn’t been practised. Unfortunately, and partly due to missing a workshop on the first day of term, there were some very underprepared members in the bands. I’m surprised that high-school students can draw such poorly conceived time lines between rehearsals and performances, or processes and outcomes (I’m assuming they do care). It amazes me that the belief persists that things will improve without working on them (again, I’m assuming the students do care). I must also confess to a kind of grim satisfaction, on hearing the adjudicator mention things that have been discussed ad nauseam, in rehearsals, but that seem to have been lost, or ignored, or treated with indifference; “I know Marty! I’ve told them that. IVE TOLD THEM THAT” I want to cry out.
For me, this day is our Grand Final, and on balance it was a great day, the culmination of all the rehearsals workshops and camps we have throughout the year. I would like to thank all those students who turned up on the day and treated it with the respect it was due, many of whom had other commitments that they had to forgo. Special mention goes to the year 12 students, Danielle, Shoshana, Stephen and Zac who came and attended for at least half the day and on the eve of what is one of the biggest and most stressful periods of their lives. I will post the recordings for listening and I’m sure you will all agree that there are moments of brilliance and sparkle in all the performances and that you will share the same pride that I feel in what they all achieved. Here’s looking forward to next year…
Please follow this link and enter the member log in to listen to each performance from the day: http://schoolbandfestival.org.au/members/index
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