Train the Trainer
On 24 February 2018, band instructors young and old, new and experienced, gathered in Atherstone Warwickshire for BYBA’s Train the Trainer day. The event brought together bands from all over the UK – Concord from Sheffield, Revolution from Queensbury, Stafford Brigades, Liberty from Northampton, Ibstock Scout Band from Leicestershire, Grafton Scout Band from South Northamptonshire, and hosts, Phantom Knights, from Nuneaton.
We attracted really high quality trainers – Jon Bilby (visual) who has taught at DCI corps The Cadets as well as drum corps in the UK and is a school teacher by profession; Dave Stones (mallets) who has taught at several UK bands, most recently Cadence, and had a long career in Army music; Carl Curtis (battery percussion) who has taught at 37th Kingswood and The Colts in the US; and Neil Wright (wind) who is a music teacher and has taught traditional, showband and drum corps style units in the UK.
Separate sessions ran on snares, mallets, wind and visual, all with a focus on how to teach rather than how to play and march. The need for warming ups featured strongly in mallets and brass – most participants came away thinking they could do better in their own bands and corps. For visual the focus was on a relentless pursuit of uniformity – the style doesn’t matter, it’s everyone understanding what is being asked of them and doing it the same way that’s critical. The wind class covered a wide range of topics including articulation, phrasing, breathing and mouthpiece choice.
BYBA’s roving reporter and Midlands BYBA Chair, Barbara Leach, spoke to the participants about their experiences.
I caught Adam and Lloyd, two of the least experienced instructors at the event, having their lunch on the stairs. They help out with Phantom Knights cadets’ percussion line and although they had no idea what to expect from the day, by lunchtime they’d already learnt new techniques to help them teach the younger members. Adam said, “I’m finding it really useful – I can help the members understand what their drum teacher is telling them, and I can help them with proper stick and arm position.”
Josh, Elliott and Georgia are from Liberty. Like most people, they weren’t sure what to expect but had been really impressed by the standard of teaching, saying that the teachers were really knowledgeable and that they were finding the day really
helpful. Georgia said that she would apply the tips Carl Curtis had given about how to teach different types of people to help bring out one particular young member’s confidence. Josh, also in percussion, found the lesson on how to teach arm and stick technique useful. Elliott was in the brass class and appreciated the fact that Neil had taught lots of different types of band, commenting, “I asked a question about splitting notes and how to minimise the risk. Neil was really helpful. We are not doing enough breathing exercises as a band and the teaching about that was also useful. And I’ve learnt that we probably leave it too late to teach articulation – we should teach it at the same time as learning the notes.”
Leah, Amelia and Katie from Phantom Knights were also impressed with the day. They were in the wind class and were particularly taken by the lesson on transposing music Neil had given them, saying it will help them a lot teaching the Phantom Knight cadets. Katie also found the session on teaching articulation helpful, while Leah, who is also the drum major, found the focus on warming up useful, saying, “A good warm up helps with everything else – if you don’t do it you notice the difference” and the focus on breathing, commenting, “I play contra and that needs a lot of air.”
I collared John and Stuart from Revolution as they had their lunch. Stuart is the overall director of the junior band and was taking the battery percussion class with Carl Curtis. He was really happy with the morning session, saying, “It’s been a while since I played snare and I’ve picked up loads that I can take back, and there’s so much more I could learn.” John is a brass instructor for Revolution; he commented, “I have picked up lots of little things – it shows you how integral everything is. A day like this is all about expanding your knowledge.”
Gaz and Stacey from Phantom Knights took the visual class with Jon Bilby. I asked Gaz, an experienced instructor, what the most useful thing was he’d picked up and he talked about the Hindu technique which takes six points in the body and practises aligning them vertically. Stacey spoke about the stance hooks, imaginary hooks on your body and how if you imagine someone pulling on them all at once, they should all move forward together.
I spoke to Leanne and Jodie from Ibstock Scout and Guide Band. They’d come along hoping to get tips and learn techniques for teaching. They had realised that they don’t have effective enough warm up routines. For Leanne, who attended the wind class, the most useful learning was about posture and embouchure. She commented, “This is stuff we know, but we don’t necessarily do. It’s good to go back to basics and refresh your learning. It’s about the members not picking up our bad habits.”
Brendan, also from Phantom Knights, who took the wind class, said, “I’ve picked up lots of points that I can take back and put into action immediately. The section on articulation was informative and the way this creates uniformity, everyone playing the same. I can implement that straight away.”
Jane and Louise from Grafton Scout Band were the only representatives from a traditional style band. Louise said, “I wanted to come to see how other people do things in their bands. I haven’t done anything like this – it’s useful to know that what we are doing is right even though we are self-taught. The key thing for me was the importance of warming up.”
The day was fantastic value for money at just £3 per participant for BYBA member bands. As an instructor myself, I came away with some new ideas and reminded myself of some of the things I ought to be doing but which seem to get forgotten when the reality of running a section hits you. I’ll definitely be booking onto the next one as a participant, and I would advise every other instructor, however experienced, to do the same – you can never know too much, and you are never too old to learn something new.
Midlands BYBA Chair