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Spotlight On: Wantage Beginner Band

18 Feb 2024

Judith Atkins, MD of Wantage Beginner Band, reports on the latest news from the band

Wantage Beginner Band provides a first step into brass banding for new brass and percussion players. We currently have a band of around 30 players aged seven years to around sixty years old. The band provides its players with the opportunity to learn in a supportive and fun environment. We play a good variety of music which includes marches, pop tunes, classical pieces and folk tunes.

Our players arrive with very little experience.  Most have had lessons for a few months and have learnt a handful of notes. Once in the band they learn to play with others and read their part independently. Fortunately, we have some dedicated helpers from within the WSB organisation who help out every week, giving our novice players support and confidence. When a new young member arrives, a parent is often encouraged to join in. We currently have four sets of children/parents in the band.

During the year, the band puts on a number of performances. We performed at the joint Christmas Concert with Youth Brass and Training Band, in the Market Place during the summer, and at the WSB Annual Celebration Day in October.  Most of the children enjoy the performance opportunities and have very few nerves. This is not always the same for the adults! Our players are also encouraged to take part in the Solo Series concerts as another performance opportunity.

This year, for the first time, Wantage Beginner Band is participating in the National Youth Brass Band Championships. We will be performing in the Besson Prodige Showcase Section. This section is non-competitive, offering an opportunity to take part and contribute a great performance without the pressure of competition.  We have been working very hard on our programme – Karen Burton’s WSB March (arranged especially for our band), The Rose featuring baritone player Rosie Rogers, Can-Can and Baggy Trousers (the band’s favourite!).  Band members are expected to take responsibility for learning their own parts (some from memory) and have had a sectional, therefore learning skills and good habits which will help them on their journey through the band structure of the organisation. 

A new venture this year has been to introduce our ‘Ready for Band’ course. I became aware that some new players were arriving at band and were a little overwhelmed. To make the transition to band a little easier, ‘Ready for Band’ eases players in gently with simple music, fun backing tracks and a small group of players, all of a similar ability. The players who have transitioned to the band through this route are all progressing very well.

I am particularly grateful for the help we receive from our regular helpers. As well as our adult helpers, we also encourage our Youth Brass players to volunteer. For some, this has formed the volunteering requirement of their Duke of Edinburgh bronze award. Our young players look up to the teenagers who, in turn, learn how to work with and help our young players.

Judith Atkins, MD Wantage Beginner Band

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