Community music: opportunities for all

You don’t have to be a professional musician to enjoy the benefits of music-making with others.
Have you ever thought about the community music opportunities available to anyone who can play an ensemble instrument? Have a quick search around the internet and you’ll find a multitude of concert bands, wind orchestras, jazz bands and small groups like clarinet choirs and sax ensembles, all waiting for you to walk in and join them. Some may even be right on your doorstep, and you may have had no idea they existed! Most of them operate a no-audition, open-to-all policy – although they sometimes stipulate Grade 5 standard or above to keep up with the repertoire – and there’s something in almost every town and something to suit all kinds of musical tastes.
These organisations are generally run voluntarily by their members but usually have a professional music director at the helm to guide them. As well as the musical learning opportunities, they can be a fantastic place to meet other people with similar interests, which in this day and age of busy lifestyles when it’s so difficult to forge friendships outside the office, especially in big cities, can be crucial to peoples’ well-being. Weekly rehearsals, summer bandstand gigs and formal concerts can all foster a fantastic community atmosphere of support, mutual encouragement and music-making, and you often get to learn new skills for your CV too by helping out with the running and organisation of the bands.
Of course, to have this wonderful world open to you, you need to be able to play an instrument. As someone involved in the community music scene for over 30 years and passionate about its aims and ethos, I firmly believe that learning an ensemble instrument (brass, woodwind, strings, percussion) as a youngster (or even as an adult – it’s never too late!) opens up a whole host of musical and social opportunities for the future. Even if you choose not to pursue it as a career, your new skills will ensure that wherever you end up in the world, you’ll always have somewhere to go, something to do, and people to meet, which is worth its weight in gold.
Check out http://www.amateurorchestras.org.uk/ for details of organisations near you.