My recent interview with the Detroit Party Marching Band was fun for many reasons, but not least because it mined old memories of my own band experiences.
Around 1989/1990, I joined the Wilnecote branch of the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade Brass Band, in the West Midlands, UK. I was 14-15 years-old, and my interest in the music was limited. I really joined because I wanted to spend the time with my dad, who played drums in the same band. I remember going with him and having the opportunity to pick my instrument. I went for the E flat bass (a tuba).
I didn’t take it particularly seriously, but I did have some fun. Practice was very regimented, but the break in-between the two hours was great because a local soccer team played on the field right by our space.
My dad always reminds me of the time when our band was on a march. My tuba had a little sheet music clip attached, and I had to concentrate harder than most on following along. Unfortunately, that meant that I wasn’t concentrating as much as needed on where my feet were heading. I veered off from the group and walked straight into a van, leaving my parents laughing themselves silly. They still laugh hysterically when the subject is brought up, which it often is.
By far the best experience that I had in that band, however, was playing alongside both my father and his dad, my grandfather. Granddad Ted loved his brass band music, and so on one occasion he guested with us. He was immensely proud to be playing with his son and grandson, even though he could tell I wasn’t very good. He’s no longer with us, but that will always be my fondest memory of him.
When my dad left the band because of work commitments, I left too. I didn’t care about carrying on by myself. I once won the “Young Musician of the Year” award at a group ceremony, but that’s because I was the youngest musician in the band, I think.
Looking back, I’m glad I was part of a brass band once in my life and, aside from a bad college death metal band (Sarcophagus – I played bass guitar badly) and a bad college alt-rock band (Mary’s Day – I sang badly), that’s my only band experience. It’ll do.