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Does your band take a register?

#1
And if so, what do you do with it?

At our last committee meeting (I chair) we discussed committment to the band, and attendance.

There are two opposing views

1. We are a community band, where people can come for a blow and enjoy themselves in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere

2. We are a performing band, improving every year, and for rehearsals and peformances we need committment to each other to turn up and make ourselves available when reasonably possible for performances.

We are now having at least 2 enquiries a week from people who want to join our band, and most of the people wanting to join are excellent players. We generally put them on a waiting list as the chairs are full by current members - some of whom do not always turn up.

So we are thinking of taking a register to see who turns up, and how often.

And then, we have to think how we use that information. Do we ask them to leave if they come less than xx% of the time?

We could be open to everybody, and be selective about who performs (but this makes balance in rehearsal difficult, and exclusive when performing)
We could be closed to newcomers until a member leaves and miss out on improving the standard in the band.
We could kick people off the band if they are not committed, however that is defined.

What do you do?

Chris
 

tictactux

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#2
Our band (of which I happen to be the vice president) does have a formal register, because we are subsidised (just enough to pay the director a part time salary), and subsidies are calculated per capita, and the base of the calculations is the membership roster.
(New members are (formally) accepted in December, leaving members are dismissed in January as the reporting date for the subsidies is on 12/31.)

We do not have auditions. New candidates have a typical probation period from Feb..Dec before they are officially accepted.

We keep attendance records of every rehearsal and every performance, with the typical member having some eight absences per annum, with a bit over 60 functions (rehearsals and concerts) per year.

We have an online tool for absences so that we know in advance if and what to play. We do expect each and everyone to show up whenever possible, band is not a "whim and fancy" operation.

We currently have no surplus of candidates, thus we refrain from firing members, but sometimes it's necessary to have a word with the worst offenders.

I recommend to set up articles of association if you haven't done so already.
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#3
Chris we were in the same boat! It took me three years (I was on the director's board) to institute a simple audition process. Before that the audition was one question, "Do you have an instrument?" I wrote about what we did here.

What I didn't mention is that we grandfathered existing members even if they were not contributing much for a while. But as noted, as the music got harder, the really weak players moved on.

To your specific question, we do NOT take attendance. But we have section leaders who can suggest to the board that a player is not making enough practices. Just mentioning this to the band improved both the attendance and members notifiying us when something comes up rather than just not showing up.

As the sax section leader, given enough time, I bring in ringers who want to join the band to cover for section members who are absent. It gives people pause to think that if they left the band for a while, they might not ever get back in. So here is the rollup:

1. Institute audition but grandfather existing membership.
2. Play more challenging music and have the director have sections play alone when necessary to work on weaknesses.
3. Create section leader positions for auditions and recommendations to the board about the players.
4. Require that player make a certain % of practices.
5. If a player takes a break the next person on the waiting list is called up. If there are more than one, have auditions and pick the best.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#4
Tricky situation you have there. I have no suggestion but will offer my opinion.

I'm fairly proficient at a number of instruments generally in demand in concert band situations. I don't do auditions for any ensemble. I didn't audition for paying professional gigs on my main instrument - I stopped answering the phone for a few years because I was too busy too, I didn't want anymore gigs. If asked I will sit in with groups that I enjoy without any thought of getting paid, but if the group wants me to audition, I quietly walk away.

I know other fine players who also feel this way. There are plenty of passionate amateurs who will audition and donate money to musical organizations, but I am not one of them. Buying a band shirt is as far as I will go financially.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#5
Tricky situation you have there. I have no suggestion but will offer my opinion.
Or, as a friend of mine once said, "I don't know the answer, but I admire the question."

I've been a church musician for most of my playing life. All the members of the choir/band/orchestra were volunteers, except (in some cases) the piano player and director (i.e. me). I can tell you that there is no good solution. But I have some opinions:

* Written in stone: if you're going to do a piece that has, say, four trumpet parts and you only have four trumpet players, you want to get a commitment from the trumpet players that they will be there for X amount of rehearsals, will be there for Y amount of performances and will practice the piece BEFORE you hand it out. While X and Y can be sliding numbers, if you don't get a commitment, you don't do the piece. No sense in making the entire ensemble AND yourself suffer.

* If you don't come to Y amount of practices, you don't play. I've slid on this a bit for pro or former pro players that have legitimate excuses. Sometimes. I waffle on this one a bit: you've got a pro playing a grade 4 piece. He can probably sight-read it. However, if you want to play in the group, you need to have some commitment other than just "play on the performance date." If you can't come to practices, I can understand that, but other folks might rely on you to play your part so they can play/sing better. Hey, a really good performer can make everyone better!

* The idea of an audition to replace someone who doesn't show up is really a bad idea. It's too much of a real audition. Then again, the only times I've ever had too many people in one place has been in choirs (generally too many altos or, conversely, not enough folks singing the other parts), so it's not something I've had to deal with, much. However, even if you have a "placement" audition to just determine the person's level of ability, that can scare away folks. However, if you want to play something more challenging than a grade 4 piece, it's necessary. It is possible to have two groups and schedule one kind of music for one group and something else for the other. In high school, as I was the bari sax player, I got to play for both the "pretty good" band and the "very good" band. Of course, that means more work involved, tho.

* I've only had to talk directly with folks that didn't show up much a few times. Generally, it's a "show up a couple of times and not come back" or the section leader/other members take care of it. The major problem is when the section leader, himself, is the problem.

Community band: you get out of it what you put into it.
 
#6
Thanks to all for such well reasoned responses. All helpful as we decide what to do.

We do not have auditions, and do not intend to start.

The principles we want to adopt are that:

First and foremost any current player who shows commitment to the band has a secure place in the band. They may be expected to move their position depending on newcomers ability, but they will never fall off the end of the line if the section is full, and new blood is knocking on the door.

If a member, without good reason, attends less than xx% of rehearsals/performances they will be asked to reconsider their attendance record, or reconsider their membership. I am thinking 80% a reasonable figure.

The tricky bit is when it comes to "hard to attract" instruments (for us - oboe) and being more tolerant to them than we would be for a full to busting section (clarinets and flutes). The same applies for exceptional players who are outstanding and regular performers, but infrequent rehearsers.

I am grateful for the insight above which says that the band will improve and feed from better players in rehearsals, and their commitment is just as important as the improving player. So we may need to be tough with them too.

If anybody has the relevant wording in their band's constitution, I would be interested to see it (sorry Ben, has to be in English!)

Success will mean that we have managed to express the issue and introduce change without alienating members or making them feel threatened, or policed.

Chris
 
#9
I direct a community band, though we're only two years old so our process is constantly in flux. We don't take roll, but we try to roughly keep track of absences. I would say that 80% might be a little hard, but a good number to shoot for. On the other hand, several of our sections don't have anyone waiting in the wings, so I'm not sure what I would do. (As we speak, I have just given our bass trombonist permission to be late every week rather than lose him entirely.)

What we do is constantly exhort folks to show up, plus push hard for same-day notification of absence (I think that reduces skipping, as people don't want to tell you they aren't coming). It has worked to the point that we always have functioning rehearsals and I think we pretty much hit the miss-one-a-month target I set.

If you come up with a foolproof approach, please don't hesitate to let me know!
 
#10
a strong section leader who has their finger 'on the pulse' is a great thing. they can keep track of who shows up and who is playing well
 
#11
I belong to two bands. One keeps a register and unexplained absences are frowned upon. Too many and you are warned, and if the situation does not improve then the player is assumed to have left and receives a "Thanks and goodbye" letter. The other doesn't keep a formal register but the same general rules apply.
 
#12
The band I mostly play with (Westchester Band in N.Y.) does a 7 concert summer series. It is maybe 2/3 professional, but quite a few amateurs, including college students and even several H.S. players. Rule is if you can't make the rehearsal you don't play the concert. That goes for pros and non-pros alike. There is some leeway as to missing concerts--some people have travel plans in summer, or other gig commitments. But these exceptions are discussed well beforehand with the Director--so he can find replacements.
I once played in a strictly amateur winter band in Florida (we were "snowbirds"). People just showed up when the felt like it. As a former school Band Director, that would drive me nuts.
You can view our band on the Westchester Band's group facebook, and several tunes on YouTube.
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#13
I forgot to mention that in the Seattle area there are more bands of every ilk than you can shake a stick at. I'm guessing there are more than 30 big bands and 20 community bands. So if a community band decides to take it to the next level, we have many people waiting to get in and draw from. The three community bands that are premier for example are, the Washington Wind Symphony, the Seattle Wind Symphony, and the Tacoma Concert Band. Those three have mostly teachers, pros, and high level students in them.
 
#14
What you choose to do needs to be customized to your particular situation and culture.

I am in 2 Wind Ensembles that play college level music. One tries to limit membership to music teachers, college trained musicians, and musicians that played professionally. They take attendance and require 2/3rds attendance to play each concert. Their avg attendance is above 90%.

Another one is a college alumni based group with others to fill out holes. Their by-laws say to take attendance for voting privileges only. 50% is required but the time period is not specified. We vote on new officers every few years. Officers select a new director if the position becomes vacant. They rehearse twice a month on Sat morning. So several HS band director members have less than 50% attendance during marching band season. They are often the first chair players. This can be frustrating to the other members. But the reality is these members can play the parts better with less than 50% attendance than most other section members with 100% attendance. So the music director is allowed to run the group this way. The director actually prefers that we do not take formal attendance and they just keep a mental attendance impression.

A third group I occasionally help out plays middle school and some HS level music. It does not take attendance. The first chairs are mostly by seniority. This is very frustrating and several entrenched members are pretty poor musicians. They can not play in tune or with the proper style and bring down the music quality. But they have fun so the ensemble exists for their pleasure.
 
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