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Winds of change: why everyone wants to be in a band

The good news from events such as the Schools Prom and the National Festival of Music for Youth is that more and more young people are experiencing the thrill of playing in good wind bands with as many as 100 players.

"It seems to have reached more than critical mass now," says composer, conductor and adjudicator Colin Touchin. "There are some really excellent local authority youth bands, in Northamptonshire, Kent and Bromley, for example. There are good schools, too: Smithills in Bolton, for instance, Christ's Hospital (in Horsham) and Coopers' and Coborn (Essex)."

He puts the growth down to the influence of music colleges, particularly the Northern College, and the hard work put into organising events, workshops and festivals by groups such as Music for Youth, the British Association of Symphonic Wind Bands and Wind Ensembles and the National School Band Association.

The challenge for schools and music services is to meet the demand from pupils and provide the full range of wind band instruments. Colin Touchin says: "If a department has pound;2,500 to spend, will they buy one bass clarinet, or use it on resources for a wider range of students?"

With the typical military band or concert including at least one of the following - flute, piccolo, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone horn, cornet, trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, double bass, percussion - that can amount to a significant investment.

Colin Touchin feels, too, that music teachers need more support. "Students are playing ambitious music to a high level, and it's just assumed that a good music teacher will be a good conductor. But it's not always the case."

RAFMusic Services: www.rafmusic.co.ukBritish Association of Symphonic Wind Bands and Wind Ensembles: www.basbwe.orgNational School Band Association:.www.nsba.org.ukSchools Proms and National Festival of Music for Youthwww.mfy.org.uk

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