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Want to talk?

4BR checks out a new and exciting "Discussion Forum" on the web called "The Mouthpiece" and finds that it caters for brass band lovers of any shape and form.

It also has the added bonus of being run by people who have a love of the banding world and the technical knowlege to stop the idiots from spoiling it.

Setting up a web-based business to cater for people with a love for brass bands can be a fraught experience (the 4BR team now looks more haggard and grey than belies our ages). From what we’ve heard though there seems to be something of an insatiable appetite to discuss, argue, encourage and generally chat about our hobby and passion, and so we were interested to find out more about something new and exciting that is stirring in the internet banding community.

Catering for those people out there who wish to air their opinions is one heck of a responsibility, but we at 4BR were delighted to come across a discussion forum that caters for brass band lovers, and which has the added bonus of being run by people with brass banding at heart and a knowledge of how to administer and control a potentially volatile medium.

It is called www.themouthpiece.com and so, if you ever wanted to have your say on how the results of a particular competition were placed, or have thought that an adjudicator was a few sandwiches short of a picnic given the comments you received in your recent adjudication? Or, are you simply looking for an old banding friend long lost somewhere in the past who you would dearly like to get back in touch with, this is one place to go and visit for sure.

4BR has its own comments page, but for those of you who wish to put opinions to keyboard to generate threads of discussion and to generate ongoing immediacy to discussions and topics this is a very good place to start.

The idea for theMouthPiece.com was thought up by chap from Newport in South Wales, John Burns. (The Welsh get all the best ideas!!). John has been involved in banding for many years as a player and conductor and though no longer with them has recently brought the Cwmbran Band from the brink of the 4th Section into the 2nd section. When we spoke to John he told us “I recognised there was a requirement for an online banding community, a niche existed at the time, and I simply thought to myself… why not, let’s have a go and see how it goes!” So, in late November 2002, tMP was born.

The popularity of the site has taken John by surprise, but he feels it shows how much passion there is out there for brass banding and all it foibles, rumours and hot topics “I genuinely anticipated maybe 5,000 ‘hits’ and a few hundred articles within my first year” he said. “I simply can’t believe how far out these estimates are. (The site now has over 1000 members) I’m very grateful to the folks who are already members of tMP for making it what it is right now. I just provide the means; all our members provide the content”.

theMouthPiece.com is actually a dynamic, forum based website where all the content contained within it is provided by the viewer. One simply needs to register details such as e-mail address and viewing preferences, choose your online alias [name] and a secure password, and you’re ready to go – you’re then able to submit your own articles and reply to existing topics and threads.

4BR are aware that websites such as these are sometimes open to malicious, defamatory or inappropriate material and need careful management but it seems that John has this covered extremely well. John says, “As tMP grew, I found myself simply not having the time to check and look at all the posts and questions that had been submitted – I needed to find some people who were willing to give some of their time and become tMP Moderators for me. I have been extremely lucky to have found four fantastic banding enthusiasts who loved their initial experiences of tMP and each agreed to be Moderators and become part of the tMP team”, they are:

Roger Thorne from Shrewsbury. Roger is MD of the successful Wem Jubilee Band from Shropshire and is the owner of the successful Thornes Music Publishing.

Rachel Langridge is a teacher and cornet player from Nottingham who has recently taken up a teaching post at Smithills School in Bolton. Rachel also plays cornet for Flixton Brass

Ian Fishwick is a member of Lostock Hall Memorial Band from Preston and plays either Trombone or Euph.

Neal O’Kennedy is Principal Cornet player with Dungarvan Band in Eire. Neal works as a Software Developer and is fast becoming the technical guru on tMP!

The site is growing rapidly and they are always on the lookout for additional support and help, maybe even additional Moderators sometime soon. So, if you’re interested in helping out and would like you’re your name included on the list, drop an e-mail to john@themouthpiece.com.

John takes the management of theMouthPiece.com very seriously indeed. As well as holding regular online discussions, all of theMouthPiece.com Moderators meet up regularly, usually once every 5 to 6 weeks either face-to-face or via teleconference for review sessions to discuss current issues etc. John mandates that tMP is run in a family friendly manner and there are strict rules that need to be adhered to. Bad language, racist, sexist & defamatory comments, or bad mouthing is quite simply not tolerated – all posts of this nature are picked up by John or one of the tMP moderators and are moved to an offline area or are deleted. Action is then taken to address the culprit.

tMP Moderators read ALL submitted posts and can amend or delete these posts if they deem the content inappropriate. “To be honest”, John says, “the membership on tMP to-date is simply fantastic and everyone is aware that I try to run the site in a family friendly manner. As such, we get very few problems of this nature. Whenever we see anything dubious, it’s dealt with immediately. I also have ‘word censors’ that filter every post for particular words or phrases and amend them to a more appropriate choice!” he says. “I want to present an opportunity to all Bandspeople everywhere for interesting, stimulating and thought provoking discussion. If people don’t want this and abuse the site, they simply are not welcome. A family site it is and a family site it will stay.”

John also mentions that longer term tMP’ers are always looking out for posts from new tMP members and always remind people that tMP is a family friendly site and is open to people of all ages etc…. it’s a very welcoming online community. The site already have individual and band members from all over the world including USA, Australia and all parts of Europe – and ALL sections and standards of people/players are represented - from introductory and progressive learner bands through to the top class and outstanding bands of the day. As John said, “There are even a few of our famous banding colleagues making an appearance every now and then – no names mentioned here, you’ll have to take a look and find out for yourself !”

In the first 7 months of its existence, tMP has already been involved in many social activities. They were contacted by the BBC earlier this year whilst preparing for the recent edition of ‘Test the Nation” featuring Philip Schofield and Ann Robinson. John commented, “The BBC were short of some entrants for their ‘Musicians’ category and asked if anyone on tMP would be interested in taking part on the show.!”. A post was made onto tMP asking for anyone who might be interested in appearing on live TV and they managed to get 19 tMP’ers on air and on the show. We were not sure if they wanted us to publish how the musicians category actually performed on the night though!! They have also had other tMP members arranging scratch band concerts and events with much success as well.

There is are also a broad range of services on offer on the site - from promoting your own band concert or event, sponsorship, music sales and advertising opportunities etc through to an online e-shop where you can buy theMouthPiece.com promotional goodies and even sell your own goods.

There are also regular monthly quizzes with great prizes on offer. “We are trying to make the site as interesting as possible with new competitions and quiz’s, we don’t want to lose any of those new friends we have made!” John says, “…if anyone has any new thoughts or ideas, please feel free to contact me.”

John is delighted to announce that theMouthPiece.com has recently registered its 1000th official member. “I’m just amazed”, said john, “totally gobsmacked really… and some people who know me might find that hard to believe!!”.

4BR doesn’t and it is nice to report that here is a discussion forum that is professionally run and controlled, has interesting and entertaining threads for discussion and is proving to be a success as well. The banding movement needs more people to push the movement into the 21st Century and it seems here are people who are doing just that. All that and it’s the idea of a Welshman as well!!!

Go and have a look on www.themouthpiece.com

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