How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

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ttf_sirisobhakya
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_sirisobhakya » Sat Jan 20, 2018 6:57 am

Sorry, I posted on a wrong part of the forum (intended for Music Miscellany). How do I delete the topic, or move it?

This thread is long, but please bear with me.

As some may have noticed, I am from Thailand. I am working in Japan, and playing with the city’s concert band. However, I want to go back to Thailand because of many reasons, homesickness (and Thai-food-homesickness) to name a few, and hopefully I can go back soon. I want to continue playing trombone, first because I love playing, second I love my horn, and third selling the horn in Japan usually not worth it, let alone in Thailand.

But the problem is: there is no amateur/semi-pro band in Thailand. I can say at all. We are not a “band” country like Japan, Europe or the US. This fact can be seen in Youtube; search with the name of a popular song and “concert band” or “wind band”, the suggestion pops out immediately when type in Japanese, with many videos, but almost zero when type in Thai. The active wind bands, or any types of band at all, are professional bands (I believe only three are in normal operation, Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, and Thailand Youth Orchestra, not including bands of the armed forces), and school/university bands. Some kids from those band graduate to pro band if they teally love music, but most abandon it completely. A few buy their own horn and play it leisurely or, if extremely lucky, assemble/join an amateur chamber ensemble like brass quintet, but still no “full” band to play in. Most other people just don’t care about classical music, or classical musical instruments at all. Even Thai traditional musical instruments suffered the same fate, until a small resurgence occured 15 years ago (the situation is anyway still dire.)

So, to be able to continue playing, I may have to find a way to “build” or “stimulate” band culture in Thailand.

Obstacles:

1. Musical instruments are very expensive relative to our salary base. For example, a newly-graduated engineer’s salary in Japan is around $2000, in Thailand it is around $250. (Thailand’s salary increases faster than Japan’s, and when normalized by cost of living Thailand’s mid-life and end salary is arguably much better, but the price of horns are the same in both country so...)

2. Since there are not many people playing, used instruments are rare.

3. Even so, we are more picky than we should be. There are very few Thai who are willing to buy Chinese instruments, even those filtered by professionals like Wessex (I don’t think we have Wessex’s agent). Some even don’t want to buy Yamaha, preferring Bach or other mid-to-high-end brands, which is much more expensive, or not buying at all.

4. and the most important: Because of the high cost involved, and the professionality of the active bands, symphony orchestras and wind bands are seen as a thing of the upper class. The pro bands do not, or very rarely, play popular musics (You also can’t expect Berlin Philharmonics or Chicago Symphony Orchestra to play Gangnam Style or Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits, right?) And since most people do not play, or even have no knowledge about the band and the instruments, they have no empathy and don’t want to watch, even when a band plays the most popular tunes.

Any way to overcome these? I know that one man can hardly change anything, but at least I would like to try.

Thank you for your answer.
ttf_vegasbound
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_vegasbound » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:07 am

Try and link up with British/Aussie/kiwi or American expats.....you may find amateur/ brass band players amongst them....and if you get a nucleus of players that is your starting place.

You did not say what type of band you wanted?

ttf_sirisobhakya
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_sirisobhakya » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:12 am

Quote from: vegasbound on Today at 07:07 AMTry and link up with British/Aussie/kiwi or American expats.....you may find amateur/ brass band players amongst them....and if you get a nucleus of players that is your starting place.

You did not say what type of band you wanted?


Thank you for your answer.

I would like to be in concert band/wind band the most. I don’t quite like Jazz so big band is not quite my type.
ttf_bonesmarsh
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_bonesmarsh » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:25 am

siriobhakya,

Your question is brilliant. Well thought out and based on much observation. I will offer some of my own observation from Canada, which may give you more to think about, and possibly give you more information to inform your answer.( There might not be an answer for you, but BETTER QUESTIONS are any logical person's goal-- not answers.

I live in a smaller Canadian prairie city. Imagine an outpost in the Arctic or on Antarctica, but with contact with the outside world by all of the modern electronic means, as all modern cities have.
All modern cities are islands, but islands connected by the internet to all the other islands instantly.

Our local brass band attempted to play some concerts at a local outreach center for local Natives. ( You would be more properly possibly be familiar with the term "Indian", which is now considered very racist, and factually incorrect.)

The brass band played on the best quality brass instruments. No applause. The band performed very very well. Complete indifference and nobody watched. The gig ended. The band was asked not to return, as the audience was not interested in music as it was performed by the best quality brass performers, well steeped in about 150 years of brass band traditions.
There was no applause, but on a positive note--- nobody had their tires slashed on vehicles and no vehicle windows were smashed either.

****
Now-- for the purposes of your question, consider a few more points:

Most of the commonly heard classical compositions as performed by modern symphony orchestra were performed and composed in a time period of 50 years within a radius of about 50 miles from Vienna, Austria HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO. They are museum pieces. ( Brahms, Beethoven, Wagner etc. etc.)

North American and Western European societies themselves have a very difficult time maintaining interest in school age kids to study the brass instruments, but it is a valuable thing for them to do because it opens their minds and gives them a great experience about their own worth and potential.

Strangely, the North American native culture-- as now exists-- uses for it's inspiration rap and hip-hop. Both a cross cultural fertilization from American Black culture. To my ears I do not hear melody or harmony in that music, but it might be because my ears were trained to listen for Western European clues when listening.

sirisobhakya, your question is a very difficult one to answer. You will likely need a forum of ETHNOMUSICOLOGISTS to even begin to answer it, not a forum of trombonists.

A forum of trombonists is already sold on the idea of a life of brass playing. But, we were born into it, it is a culture that is dying, and a culture that cannot support itself, sadly. You'll do well to ask your question at more general levels. Possibly to ethno music specialists.
ttf_watermailonman
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_watermailonman » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:43 am

Thanks for sharing this. I had no idea about those circumstances. It is hard to belive that it takes about two months of salary to afford an old eBay instrument. I have bought a couple of used Old's trombones for about the same price. It's to bad Yamaha is neglected in other case I would recommend a  354 or 356 with valve from eBay. I've bought some cheap horns there for about $500.  That's a start and who knows what that could lead to. A whole band seems like a very tough mission to accomplishe on those terms

/Tom


ttf_robcat2075
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_robcat2075 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:43 am

Getting a whole band culture going would be a daunting thing, even just a brass band culture.

OK... just brainstorming here... thinking of ways to do it rather than reasons to not do it...


How about scaling the goal down to a trombone choir culture?

That would be a real thing. The music exists. It's mechanically simpler. They're typically more economical than other instruments. You only need four to get started.



Quote from: sirisobhakya on Today at 06:57 AM3. Even so, we are more picky than we should be. There are very few Thai who are willing to buy Chinese instruments, even those filtered by professionals like Wessex (I don’t think we have Wessex’s agent). Some even don’t want to buy Yamaha, preferring Bach or other mid-to-high-end brands, which is much more expensive, or not buying at all.

This seems like your #1 impediment

When you go back... bring back two trombones.  Your good one and a cheap one. Show people that you really can do the same stuff on both.

You could also use the second one to give someone their first lesson to see if they're interested.

You're in Japan... making money?  Do they have pawn shops in Japan or Craigslist where cheap but usable trombones are sitting around looking for a new owner?...

Maybe... bring back several cheap trombones and rent them to students for some nominal fee.


Just brainstorming and throwing out ideas.


ttf_harrison.t.reed
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_harrison.t.reed » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:56 am

Have you seen "The Music Man"?
ttf_BGuttman
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_BGuttman » Sat Jan 20, 2018 9:20 am

If I recall correctly, Siamese (can I still use that word?) music is very much into tuned percussion.  Could you add a trombone part to a Gamelan type orchestra?

Given the expense of buying, you may need to set up an instrument rental (maybe rent to own) to equip your Brass Band.  You'll also need music.  And LOTS of publicity.  Once you get one ensemble up and running maybe others will follow.  You may need to do this under the aegis of a school where there would be more resources to draw upon.
ttf_pompatus
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_pompatus » Sat Jan 20, 2018 10:01 am

When I was younger and looking for additional playing opportunities, the local Salvation Army brass band was an option that presented itself and proved to be a way to enter the world of brass band playing.  It was an option in my area, that may or may not be available to you, but I mention it specifically to say all of the instruments were Yamaha.  I think they may have worked with Yamaha in those days on some kind of deal, or there may be an educational deal from Yamaha.  It might be worth your time to check with a dealer like Wessex, or even Yamaha or any other, to see if they may be interested in some type of sponsored ensemble where they provide instruments or a discount for the publicity.

There have been some great suggestions, but as noted, there is a cultural issue underlying the endeavor that bears further investigation to overcome.  You may consider putting ads out locally looking for musicians or gauging interest, and build from there.  In any circumstance, best of luck!
ttf_bonesmarsh
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_bonesmarsh » Sat Jan 20, 2018 10:27 am

A friend ended up teaching as an international teacher in an international school in Dubai. He is a great trumpet player, ex professional with high chops to burn. He won the principal job in the local
Dubai symphony orchestra. Lots of formal and ceremonial gigs for diplomats etc etc.

They'd bring in a conductor from Monaco to lead the orchestra, as there was no call for a full time Western orchestra in Dubai. Soon they'd figured out that it was more economical to just bring a full orchestra WITH the conductor from Monaco to do gigs.
Bye-bye local players. Bye-bye local opportunity for advancement in your art.

Consider what happened in Western Europe with the Berlin wall fell and a lot of communist block countries opened borders......bye-bye local musician's unions and bye-bye Western European professional aspirations for a living wage for professionals.

At some point in any culture of local players of wind/brass/orchestral/string playing there has to be a place at the top for local professionals to aspire to.
As long as your personal local culture imports players wholesale from outside your country this will keep your beginners and locals from playing for recreation.

These are all grim facts, but I must point out that according to the latest American Federation of Musician's newspaper ( The Union Paper) the Cleveland Orchestra, one of the famed Top Five in America, posted a loss last year of $5 million. Beginners aside, even in a culture like the culture of the USA, at the top there is no financial profit in orchestral music.
And this trickles down to the beginners as well.
ttf_sirisobhakya
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_sirisobhakya » Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:28 pm

Everyone, thank you for your insightful answers.


bonesmarch: The incident with the Natives sounds very depressing. However, I think I understand how they feel. I also am not that enthusiastic when someone invites me to string orchestra or string quartet concert. "Playing" that kind of instrument has considerable effect. Nevertheless, they should have applauded.

And thank you for the information on the situation in the US and Europe. I didn't know the brass playing are dying there too. Can it be because younger generation prefers something simpler and less formal (like some songs today that has almost no melody, just rapping and rhythm) and orchestras just cannot adjust to them? Not many orchestras are willing to do pop music.

I think when I go back to Thailand, I would talk to my former band director, and perhaps using his connection to talk to other musicians and band directors. Maybe that leads me somewhere.


watermailonman: To be honest, even I have worked in Thailand from the start I would not consider the YSL-354 myself. Maybe because the mentality of "if I have to buy that expensive thing, buy one good one and don't buy any more". I would still choose a Yamaha, though, maybe the YSL-448 or the YSL-620. I think because of this mentality some abandon music altogether ("if I can only buy that instrument, I would rather quit"). The history of Yamaha may also have a role to play. Most schools' Yamahas are old, maybe up to 40-50 years old, and older Yamahas don't have very good reputation, at least in the band directors' mind, and that passes on to students.


robcat2075: I don't make that much money in Japan. Although the salary is quite satisfactory ($1900 net, up to $2200 with overtime), I can save only little, around $100-$300 a month. Normally a good used Yamaha is around $1000, so it is still a tough decision to make. Still, I would like to buy and bring back another trombone. Maybe I'll try reducing the amount spent on food. Healthy route Image I would definitely try to start from trombone choir or brass group.


harrison.t.reed: No, I haven't seen it. Did you mean the movie version, or the broadway version? Hopefully the movie version can be found at rental DVD store.


BGuttman: Yes you can still use the word Siamese. In fact there was also a debate around 60-70 years ago to change the name back to Siam, or use other names. Some said Thailand "sounds like the name of a western colony".

You are correct. The wooden xylophones (The Ranat, which is the main protagonist of Thai traditional band) cannot be re-tuned, so whenever western instruments play with them the western instruments have to tune to them, which is 7-tone equal temperament. But adding trombone to that is quite difficult. The main reason being the Thai traditional band is not that popular by itself, maybe even more so than western symphonic band or symphony orchestra. The resurgence (from the 2004 Thai movie "The Overture") mainly makes people want to see, and for some be, soloist. Nobody cares much about the background band. There were, and are, many sociopolitical reasons behind the lack of interest in traditional music, and traditional culture in a whole, but that should be a topic for another thread.

I still have some connection to my former school band. I plan to help teach the students there, and I know some upperclassmen and underclassmen who do play leisurely (though rarely). I'll try to start from there.


pompatus: Thank you for your blessing! I'll definitely consider ways to talk with Yamaha Music Thailand (I have the high-end model after all, despite buying from Yamaha Japan). They sponsored many musical events, mostly school, but I don't know yet whether they also sponsor instruments or not.
ttf_robcat2075
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_robcat2075 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:30 pm

I just looked through all the craigslist/Japan musical instruments for sale ads... lots of keyboards... lots of guitar pedals...not one trombone!

I'm surprised. There ought to be lots of trombones sitting in closets of former school band players.

Here in the US you can find decent old student trombones for under $100


ttf_sirisobhakya
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_sirisobhakya » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:52 pm

Quote from: robcat2075 on Today at 04:30 PMI just looked through all the craigslist/Japan musical instruments for sale ads... lots of keyboards... lots of guitar pedals...not one trombone!

I'm surprised. There ought to be lots of trombones sitting in closets of former school band players.

Here in the US you can find decent old student trombones for under $100



There are many classical music instruments specialist stores. Maybe that’s a reason. However you can also find some on Amazon Japan and Rakuten, for example. I am regularly searching “トロンボーン 中古” (used trombone) on Google. Many look good, but I have to wait until next round of bonus, or until it is decided that I can go back. I am in job hunting right now and likely have to spend at least $700 for a flight back for interview. I wish a company allows me to do job interview on Skype...
ttf_LowrBrass
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_LowrBrass » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:47 am

Quote from: sirisobhakya on Jan 20, 2018, 06:57AM3. Even so, we are more picky than we should be. There are very few Thai who are willing to buy Chinese instruments, even those filtered by professionals like Wessex (I don’t think we have Wessex’s agent). Some even don’t want to buy Yamaha, preferring Bach or other mid-to-high-end brands, which is much more expensive, or not buying at all.


This is a branding problem.
I bought my Wessex bass trombone for half-off in 2015, and I have become a great living advertisement for Wessex instruments in the Philadelphia area.
Here in the U.S., here's how the conversation about my horn usually goes:

"What's that?"
"A Wessex."
"Never heard of it."
"Chinese. Headquartered in the UK."
"Ohhhhhh, a Chinese horn, mmhmm, right."
(They're not into it.)

But over time, they hear me play it.
I'm not much of a bass trombone player, but I get a pretty good sound out of the horn.
And over time, as I get more skilled on the thing, and slowly learn to make it sound better,
  and as they see that the horn isn't mechanically falling apart on me,
    AND when they catch news of some other half-decent musician who bought a Wessex and likes it just fine,
they slowly open to the idea that these horns are OK, and maybe they'll buy one for themselves.


(Caveat: The primary market around here seems to be for secondary instruments that won't see a lot of use-- like, you're a tenor trombone player, but sometimes you need a bass; you're a euphonium player, but sometimes you need a baritone. People around here still aren't totally into a Chinese-manufactured horn. But they're starting to come around.)


This doesn't solve anything, but just something to think about. Chinese horns have an image problem in the U.S., too, that we haven't really overcome yet.
ttf_watermailonman
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_watermailonman » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:15 am

My hungarian teacher in the 70-ies was very suspicious when the Yamaha trombones came. I remember no one could understand why this company who manufactured motorbikes suddenly thought they could make trombones. What is the relationship between a motorbike and a trombone? Idiotic! That was how we looked upon that. Later in the beginning of the 80-ies when I got a professional musician for a teacher I learned he had a Yamaha Student Bass and had been using that instrument for his main instrument for several years on hundreds of recordings and claimed it was the best instrument he had. His sound on that trombone was excellent. It made me look upon things differently.

Now when I'm a collector with lots of instruments from all brands and skilled enough to judge whether an instrument is bad, good, great or outstanding I can investigate what's the truth (for me). To be honest they did some VERY good student horns early that was well worth the money. Their bass trombones 321 and 322 were great horns as well as the 356 dual bore tenor Bb/f. Today the 354 is one of the most popular student models, a very well regarded student small bore over here. What's good is there are lots of them because every student was recommended to buy one. What happens with most students on trombone? Well, they quit (not because of the horn). What happens with all those Yamaha 354's? They are sold as used horns, and they go pretty cheap. A friend who is a professional player, bought one in condition as new for $100. That was incredibly cheap and it sounds great when he uses it. On eBay they can go for $100-$150, but may be beaten up. If you are lucky you could get a decent for less than $200. Compare those horns with other student horns from the same era and they are well worth the money. People said the Yamahas should fall apart. The lacuer should come off. Well, Conns have "conn-waer", Bachs lose lacuer, Shires "blead" and now I'm talking expensive old pro horns. My student Yamaha bass from the 70-ies is still as new. The talk about Yamaha was simply not true. I'm sure the first may have had problems but allready back in the 70-ies the quality was high. Today the Yamaha student horns are very well regarded over here and even the old ones. I think the same suspicion happened with Jupiter, and now it is the Chinese horns. 

And what is the relationship between making good motorbikes and making good trombones? The answer is good quality control  Image

/Tom
ttf_JohnL
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_JohnL » Sun Jan 21, 2018 9:34 am

Quote from: watermailonman on Jan 21, 2018, 06:15AMThe talk about Yamaha was simply not true. I'm sure the first may have had problems but allready back in the 70-ies the quality was high.I think a lot of the negative perceptions of the early Yamaha brass instruments resulted not from them being necessarily "bad", but from durability issues in the hands of students. Other student horns of the era (Ambassadors, Directors, Clevelands, etc.) were built like tanks. Yamahas were lighter and (at least from what I saw) made of softer brass. The horns sounded good, but the little "oops" moments that most American- or European-made student instruments would just shrug off could cause serious damage.

Yamaha also had some issues with valve corrosion and rapid wear of slide plating. Growing pains, of course - but they left people with negative impressions. Jupiter had similar valve corrosion problems in their early days.

But back to the question at hand...

I suggest you focus your efforts on getting people currently in school to keep playing once they graduate. Once someone stops playing, it's hard to bring them back. A few years out of school and their lives are full of work, family, and maybe some activity other than music. They're also terribly out of practice, and a lot of people just don't want to go through the pain of trying to get back into shape.

As for instruments? Do you have any contacts in the military bands of your country? Do they ever sell off older, but still playable, instruments? If so, that might be a source for affordable, quality equipment. You should look into surplus school instruments, as well.

You mentioned contacting Yamaha Thailand. That's a great idea. See if you can sell them on some sort of sponsorship deal - though you'll need to have some sort of band already up and running so they'll believe that you're serious and not just angling for a cheap instruments. If Yamaha isn't interested, try some of the others.

One thing you're likely to run into is that most modern wind band music doesn't lend itself to being performed by a small band. It's also pretty expensive to purchase. Look around on bandmusicpdf.org; it's all public domain and most of the pieces can be played with a small band. It's mostly marches, but there are some other things, as well.
ttf_bonesmarsh
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_bonesmarsh » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:48 am

I realize that my posts painted a very grim picture. I just wanted to show that even in the societies with all of the advantages you could possibly want ( lots of instruments, lots of players, lots of history, the support of school systems) it is still a struggle to continue as an adult playing in a concert band.

Used instruments are plentiful, but sometimes not in the best condition. Even the best local community bands rely on a lot of luck to keep their stocks and store of playable instruments current.

Don't forget that any community ensemble will require the addition of band-owned instruments like percussion and the low brass like tubas and possibly euphoniums. This adds a huge cost to any community band-- insurance, rehearsal space with permanent storage space etc. etc.

As someone has already pointed out, sponsorship is the answer. If you can partner with a service organization, or a community charity or community public support organization, they might have facilities and resources to assist you in finding a venue or large sums of money.
In Western Europe and North America lots of community bands have ties to churches, which provide space to store goods and space to rent for rehearsals.
ttf_Stan
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_Stan » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:52 pm

You’re in Japan?  Set up an appointment in Hamamatsu with someone from Yahama’s education wing.  They may have bespoke band programs ready to go.  You’re in absolutely the best possible place, really.  Japan has an immense band culture, possibly even bigger now than the UK.  I would talk to Yamaha Japan, and not Yamaha Thailand, and I’d specifically seek out resources in their education division.
ttf_Stan
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How can I build a band culture in a non-band country?

Post by ttf_Stan » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:52 pm

You’re in Japan?  Set up an appointment in Hamamatsu with someone from Yahama’s education wing.  They may have bespoke band programs ready to go.  You’re in absolutely the best possible place, really.  Japan has an immense band culture, possibly even bigger now than the UK.  I would talk to Yamaha Japan, and not Yamaha Thailand, and I’d specifically seek out resources in their education division.
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