Stalham Brass Band’s successful new youth training section helps secure its future

A resurgent brass band has recruited more than 50 youngsters as it builds a youth team to secure its future.

The scheme at Stalham was spurred on by musical director Tim Thirst's desire to revive its youth section for the Jubilee and make a 'training band fit to perform for the Queen.'

It has been boosted by two grant awards of �10,000 to enable sessions, including masterclasses from top bands, to be free for local youngsters.

Mr Thirst, said a year ago the band, like others in rural areas, was suffering a drop in the number of players due to lack of tuition in schools, and youngsters moving away for education and employment.

He said: 'I knew exactly what I wanted to do to ensure the long term future.' It involved a new training programme over three years and costing about �35,000 - and so far Mr Thirst has raised �29,600.

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Two �10,000 sums have come from Grants for the Arts and the Norwich Town Close Estate Charity, with a further �1,000 from the Norman Jones Trust, done through the British Federation of Brass Bands, where Stalham is a member.

Mr Thirst said 50 new recruits had signed up at a local junior school and other schools were due to join in over the coming months.

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Pupils had been assessed for their choice and suitability for particular instruments. Weekly classes in school would follow with after-school and weekend activities scheduled for later.

Trainees would also have visits to, and master classes run in cooperation with, championship bands and musicians from the Corps of Army Music.

The initial three-year time scale was designed to eventually become a rolling programme for eight to 16-year-olds in the area with more than 100 participants in the scheme at any one time.

'Tuition, instrument hire, band membership and other support activities are funded by the grants and are entirely free,' he added.

British Federation for Brass Bands liaison officer Terry Luddington said he had been working with the Stalham band for nearly a year, and praised Mr Thirst for exploring more than 40 applications to produce an 'amazing' total so far.

The scheme echoed the federation's aim of putting brass bands back into the community, where they helped bring people of all ages together, attracted people to take up a new interest, and encouraged other groups and individuals to support the band, even if they were not musical.

He added: 'We very much look forward to monitoring the progress of the Stalham Brass Band training programme and see how we can further develop and replicate the best practice results in other rural communities around the country.'

Stalham Brass Band is the longest-established brass band in East Anglia, formed in about 1870. It has played for the Royal family at Sandringham at Christmas, was awarded the Queen's Golden Jubilee Award for Voluntary Service in 2004, and in the last New Year's Honours list Mr Thirst was made an MBE, just like his father Gerald who ran the band before him.

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