With a long history serving our community at many special events, the Armidale City Band is now in its 139th year of service and on the hunt for new recruits. Focus chats to long term member and current Musical Director Robyn Shanahan about the direction of the group and how you can get involved.
Tell us the history behind the Armidale City Band; how long has it been running?
The Armidale City Band has been providing musical entertainment to Armidale and district citizens for 138 years. The band is believed to be the oldest continuous running brass band in NSW, and possibly Australia. From its beginnings in December 1878, the band has weathered the highs and lows of the past 138 years, including two World Wars and a Depression.
What are some of the community events and activities the band gets involved with?
The band takes great pleasure in performing at many special and civic ceremonies, especially ANZAC Day ceremonies, HMAS Armidale and Australia Day celebrations. It is always generous with its support of many fundraisers, especially where it can entertain the sick and elderly. The band is central to the enjoyment of many Christmas celebrations held in the city. Overall, we have at least 20 local performances per year, but as well we like to work towards attending the occasional state contest, for which preparation plays an important part in team building, improving relationships amongst members and of course, improves the overall musical standard of the band.
It must take a lot to maintain, transport the band etc. How do you source funds to keep the group alive?
Maintaining a band does require a significant amount of money. The purchase and maintenance of instruments and uniforms, insurance, the salary of the Musical Director, cleaning and maintenance of the Band Room, the purchase of music and photocopying costs are the main items of expenditure in the band’s annual budget.
The band works very hard to support itself financially. It holds two major fundraising activities each year, these being the Breakfast with the Band run in conjunction with the Autumn Festival, and the Christmas raffle. Members and supporters of the band run the raffle, and we are extremely grateful for the loyal support that the local service clubs have given the Breakfast with the Band over 35 years, allowing the band members to entertain the public.
Unlike many other musical groups in Armidale, the band does not charge for performances. However, it occasionally receives a small (always welcome) donation for its services. The Band does not charge huge membership fees, because there is an expectation of service to the community. The band provides families with the cheapest means of learning a musical instrument in Armidale, with the Musical Director providing expert music tuition at minimal cost.
You’re looking for new recruits. What skills do participants require, and who and how can people get involved in the great community spirited group?
It is almost two years since the band’s Musical Director of 15 years, David Brown, retired due to personal reasons, so our immediate task is to engage the services of a new Musical Director who will then be able to develop the current members to their full potential but more importantly, recruit new/junior members who are interested in learning a brass instrument or percussion. It is so important that we have a junior band, which will then be able to feed into the senior band and therefore firm up the band’s future. New recruits with brass experience are always welcome; all they need to do is come to our rehearsals, be issued with an instrument of their choice, and then they can begin playing with us immediately.
Should anyone be interested in being the Musical Director of the band, there are other benefits, as well as a modest remuneration such as the use of our bandroom and extensive equipment for tutoring and private lessons.
Senior band rehearsals are from 7pm ’til 9pm Wednesday nights, and our door is always open to new recruits and visitors.