Editorial ~ 2004: March

1-Mar-2004

This month we give our views on meaningless titles, the need for consistency and good brass band coverage.


Meaningless titles

George Bernard Shaw had it right about people who glory in titles. "Titles", he said, "distinguish the mediocre, embarrass the superior, and are disgraced by the inferior."

Just a quick glance through the jobs pages of any major newspaper will give you examples of ludicrous job titles which are meaningless to all but those who really wish to apply. The worst offenders are usually to be found in the Public Sector Local Authorities especially are fertile breeding grounds for pedantic politically correct lexicology, but it seems that our burgeoning university sector, and our brass teaching courses is fast catching them up. The horribly ludicrous General Adi Amin of Uganda for instance, once bestowed upon himself the title of "King of Scotland" for no apparent reason other than he once went to the Edinburgh Tattoo when he was in the British Army. Now it seems, just about any player who has decided they can teach someone else to play an instrument can call themselves a "Professor" of the cornet, horn, euphonium, trombone, maracas or even the triangle. It is becoming laughable.

Becoming a Master, Doctor, or Professor in education is a long and sometimes tortuous process one that makes huge demands on the practical as well as theoretical skills of the person involved. The people who final receive them are invariably talented and committed practitioners of their art or craft, those with a hunger for more knowledge and the passion to explore new areas of expertise in their chosen field. Their works usually form the basis of detailed research as well as the foundations for the development of further teaching of their field for future generations of students.

Those who have achieved these universally recognised standards of excellence are revered in their field, and we are very lucky in the brass-banding world that a small number of these talented people have rightly been recognised for their academic achievements.

Why then do those same educational establishments then throw around laughable epithets, monikers and titles like some sort of confetti in order we presume, to try and attract budding students into thinking they will be taught on their individual brass instruments by teachers of the very highest quality? (The Collins reference English Dictionary describes a Professor as "teacher of the highest rank in a university").

If brass band courses are to be taken seriously then they will have to take a good hard look at what they are trying to portray themselves as. Just because a cornet or horn player happens to rehearse twice a week for one of our best brass bands, does not mean they are worthy of the title "Professor", "Visiting Professor" or any other title other than "Tutor". Teaching is a truly great profession it doesn't need the meaningless titles to make it sound better than it is.

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Consistency required

An interesting couple of stories reached us at 4BR in the last week or so which highlighted the rather haphazard way in which the brass band movement runs itself on a regional basis.

The first involved a player who was found to have forged a signature on a form for a contest, thus breaking the rules and resulting in a great deal of problems for the bands involved. The case was taken through what was assumed to be the correct procedure so that their appropriate Association could deal with the offender in the proper manner.

The second also involved a player who this time left a band on their own accord to join another in time for the Regional Championships, but because of some friction due to him leaving the one band, they refused to release his registration and the case was also taken to the appropriate Association to sort out.

Guess what?

Neither case has resulted in any of the parties involved being satisfied with the outcome. This in itself may not be too uncommon, but the concern from at least two of the parties involved whom spoke to us surrounded the somewhat obvious inconsistencies and the lack of application of given rules that should have been invoked.

Given that problems with players registrations occur on a regular basis, why we ask, isn't there a common
structure in place that covers every Regional Association in the country, so that disputes of whatever nature can be sorted out with recourse to previous precedent?

Leaving the decision process of disputes to the Associations themselves does not work it seems. Given the problems the movement has encountered over the years concerning these matters, hasn't the time come for this murky area to be sorted out once and for all?

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Starting to get good ceoverage

With all the problems the BBC have had heaped upon its lap in the last few months, it is nice to note that there are still some people within the venerable organisation who are trying damn hard to get brass band lovers value for their license fee.

The success of the inaugural "Radio 2 Young Brass Soloist Competition" has been achieved in no small part by Al Booth and her team from "Listen to the Band" who since taking over our flagship programme has injected a variety and liveliness into it that has attracted many new listeners. In addition the BBC will also be broadcasting the Brass Semi Final and Final of the Young Musician of the Year on BBC 4. It's not quite back to the halcyon days of old perhaps, but there is a sense that there are people in the BBC who are on our side at last. Al Booth, and not forgetting Paul Hindmarsh have been two real Trojans in trying to maintain and develop brass band coverage at the BBC.

Meanwhile, there is a whole plethora of new magazines that are staring to flood the market to cater for brass lovers everywhere.

In addition to the established weekly "British Bandsman", the excellent monthly "Brass Band World" and the quarterly "Brass Review" we now have the "Essential Brass" magazine and "The Brass Herald" both of which are printed on a quarterly basis. Add to that 4BR and the web forum "the mouthpiece" and brass lovers everywhere have plenty to get their teeth into.

All we need now is some bright young thing to tell the television executives that it would be a great idea to televise the European Championships in Glasgow and we would finally start to get the coverage our movement deserves. We are getting there slowly it seems lets hope it continues.

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