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Inclusion in the Brass Band Movement (and Wider Musical World).

This is not a topic I ever thought I would write about, but it is nice to follow what is happening in the world and to have a view of my own on my site.


There is an argument that this title might have been a bit more interesting. What is wrong with being a hard working, kind, white, male musician? A bit too controversial perhaps and in no way designed to offend but sort of appropriate. Read on to find out more.


A lot of recent fuss has been created by this photo below.


RNCM panel

The photo features four respected musicians with international reputations, who have all committed their lives to pursing music at the highest level and inspiring others to do the same. The photo is taken before potential music students audition for a place at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK.


I get it, I really do. I serve as a governor at my daughters primary school. Every member of the team is white, British. Every meeting we discuss the potential of new members to join the group and how we would like to accommodate someone who represents a minority group. This conversation isn't prompted by any lack of care or attention the current members give, but it is something on our minds because a more inclusive team can only benefit the school and community. You cannot however, force someone to do something, especially in a volunteer capacity.


My Experience with Inclusion on Musical Panels.


I have been on audition panels or competition juries before. The following photo is an example from when I worked in Singapore.


Me in YST

If this was the panel auditioning students in the UK, would this cause any outrage as the previous photo did, probably not? In Singapore, is it possible I was invited to this panel because I am male and white? I hope I was invited solely for my skill and experience in music.


When I lived in Singapore, I did experience to a certain extent, what it feels like to be in a minority group (albeit in a modern age). I always caught the bus to where I was going and was almost always the only Caucasian person on it. Local people did stare, and I often wondered what they were thinking. They were always friendly and perhaps they wondered what was in my musical instrument case and why I was in their country doing a job that many Singaporeans were equally skilled to do.


Singapore as a country, has a lot to teach other places about inclusion. I personally never felt threatened, I felt welcomed, but I always did my bit. There was also a lot of good humour surrounding the topic, something which is a grey area in the UK. I would give up my seat on the bus to anyone more needy and would contribute positively to the community and society. The four men in the photo above, I am certain, contribute positively to the world.


Shocking, but Common Sense.


Sometimes in Singapore, you might see an advert for a room to rent. I was always shocked when it said something like "Looking for an Indian male". But it makes complete sense. People are all different and we are entitled to spend our time with whoever we want. Sights, smells, foods, beliefs, habits and many other factors come into play when living with someone else, so why shouldn't you prioritise your needs.


The RNCM are prioritising their needs by having this specific audition panel for brass auditions because they are the best suited to the job. I guarantee this panel would not be the same for vocal auditions or any other instrument families. I am confident also to say that there are probably other auditions around the world where four different white males would be making up the panel. I am sure there are others which are all female. Is it really that difficult to see the bigger picture here?


Keyboard Warriors Ruin The Pursuit of Happiness and Success.


Sadly, nowadays there are too many people out there looking to cause trouble from behind a screen. Not unlike terrorists really because they seem to use intimidation against innocent people in the pursuit of their own agenda. An agenda, which curiously is often already supported by professional musicians, such has equal rights, meaning their actions serve no purpose.


To make matters worse, the person who seemingly started all the fuss with the photo above actually describes themselves as 'Shrill', 'Too Aggressive' and 'a Rabid Feminist'. Real terrorists think they are doing good for the world as well I presume, but also manage to suck people into areas they know little about. I do hope these sorts of 'attacks' do not stop professional musicians posting new content.


An Example of Inclusivity Discussion Gone Wrong.


As a result of all the fuss over the photo, someone decided to do a search to find out current members in some of the top UK brass bands. They found that no solo euphonium seats in top bands were occupied by women. For the band I play for, Grimethorpe Colliery, the following comment was made.


Comment

The 'man' being referred too, is me. The baritone player referred to as 'some woman' is Sarah Lenton (just one of the best baritone players on the planet) and it is not that hard to find out this info. To make the comment 'I can't tell' is outrageous and is surely far more offensive to women than the lack of women on the RNCM audition panel photo.


Not only that, this comment thread, which can be found on Facebook, does nothing to celebrate the many brilliant female euphonium players occupying solo euphonium seats in other brass bands at all levels, all over the world!


Positive Examples of Changes with Inclusivity in the Musical World.


Grimethorpe Colliery Band have a long history of being a band with only men in it. It is also amazing that it was only in 2010 that the first female player was allowed in the band. That doesn't really feel that long ago does it!


For the Brass in Concert Competition in Gateshead, UK in 2023, the band featured five brand new compositions by female composers. Plus, featured guest Indian dhol drummer, Jovan Singh in part of the performance. You cannot change the past, but Grimethorpe as a band, like all other brass bands and musical groups are fully in support of inclusion and equal rights, why wouldn't they be, this is clear as day. Just because, in a photo it could be suggested otherwise, it simply is not true and I urge anyone to be nice, look for good in other people before making useless comments.


This really sums up the point I am trying to make. Judge people on their kindness, their ability to make good decisions at difficult times, their eagerness to help others and their overall contribution to their community, society and even the world. Do not judge people on their sex, race or skin colour, how many times has this been said in public I wonder! When you see something in the media or social media, do your own due diligence before getting involved because clearly, some people are just out to cause trouble.


My Experience of Inclusivity in Musical Education.


I have had a varied career as a teacher. I have taught in a variety of settings and never once can I say, have I ever witnessed anyone be against equal rights. When I am looking for new students in a primary school, I want as many new students as possible. I promote brass instruments to anyone and everyone. I encourage the youngsters, regardless of sex or race to have a go and to learn that with the right effort, playing an instrument is easy and fun. If only boys sign up (which is very rare), there is not much I can do other than crack on with my teaching.


The Entrust Staffordshire Music Service offer free lessons to disadvantaged children, as do most other music services. This means in the world today, the potential for growth in music, based on students living the most challenging of lives, is huge!


As a final thought, I want to make an offer. Regardless of gender, race or age, if you have a desire to play solo euphonium in a top brass band, get in touch with me, I will personally help you attend a rehearsal with Grimethorpe Colliery in order for you to see what it is like. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone below grade 8 standard. That should be your initial benchmark and a way to show that you have potential. If you want a lesson with me, just get in touch.


Inspiration, Passion, Drive and Believe in Yourself.


If I can inspire anyone, then I will feel good inside but will also answer some of the questions people had about the photo in question, with regards to "What are these men doing to be inclusive?". A question that is impossible to answer from looking at the photo. Two of the individuals in the photo above have personally inspired me a lot along with many many other people, from all walks of life around the world.


I know many female euphonium players who can or have, played in top bands. No one will get in their way if they have the drive and passion to do it. If they don't have that drive and passion then, as I said earlier, you cannot force them.


I had a dream as a teenager, that one day I would play in a top band. If you have those same dreams then it is 100% possible. I never had those opportunities growing up. I never had anyone pushing me to do music when I was younger, my parents supported whatever I decided to do. I was never more than an average player. I had interests in fishing, gaming, football and these interests often made music a lesser priority. Overtime though, as I learnt more about myself, I found my own ways to progress and to cut a long story short, I am unbelievably privileged to be in the position I am today. Something that hasn't just landed on me through no amount of hard work.


No matter your background, your race, sex or age, you can achieve anything that has been achieved by anyone else.



Marcus


I am going to leave this article with a brilliant quote from Marcus Aurelius. A Stoic philosopher who may have contributed to the very begins of human rights and equality.


“Waste no more time arguing what a good man (or woman) should be. Be One.”


Thanks for taking time to read my post. If you like it, please sign up and share with friends.


Mark Glover

18/11/23







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