Monday, April 19, 2010

Post-NABBA 2010

Fountain City was victorious.  We are the first band in NABBA's history to win four back-to-back victories, though that statistic doesn't have quite the luster it appears -- somewhere in the past, NABBA's anti-monopoly rule banning three-time winners from competing for a fourth consecutive time was rescinded.  But for now (and the next four years or so), we've secured a place in North American history. 

FCBB took first in the championship division with a combined score of 290.4 (sum of three judges).  We also performed well at the solo competitions, with Fountain City members placing in all four divisions.

Let's do a bit of a rundown of the good and band -- err, bad -- after a break.


--) The city of Raleigh and (some of) the facilities at the Marriott City Center and Progress Energy Performing Arts Center

Raleigh's City Center was a fantastic area. Pedestrian accessible, patrolled by eco-friendly bicycle taxis, and with a nice supply of easy-access eateries, it was a fantastic place to have a convention. With all the facilities of NABBA basically within a one-block radius, travel between venues was ultra simple. When I didn't want to take my bulky case and backpack into the awards ceremony, I had plenty of time to walk back to my room and drop it off. Lovely!

--) The old friends of brass banding

Nothing -- and this includes winning -- beats the comradeship and social interaction of the contest.  Fountain City has great people in it, so having to spend time working and rehearsing with them is never tedious or confrontational.  Apparently, it wasn't always like that -- but it has been as long as I've been a member, so bully for me!

In addition, I've been introduced to a wider audience of musicians and figures in the brass band world.  When I get handshakes and hugs from band directors who represent cities I've never visited and bands I only hear once a year, you know band creates fast and meaningful friendships. 

And it's great to see friendly faces in new places.  On the first night we were there, I heard that a tuba player who went on FCBB's U.K. tour was in the hotel bar.  As I approached, we glanced at each other and both burst into massive grins that didn't stop until we'd bought each other some drinks.  That makes an amazing recipe for good times.

--)  The new friends of brass banding

When we had finished our contest performance, I gathered my stuff from the storage room and walked across the lobby.  Even though there was a band after us (currently playing), the lobby was mobbed with people talking to the entering Fountain City Brass Band performers.  I'd shaken three hands and verbally acknowledged a few compliments before I'd even made it halfway across the floor.

When I set up shop near some other FCBB players who were relaxing and awaiting the start of the awards ceremony, I had a couple more people come up.  One was the bass trombonist from Oakland University near Detroit.  I'd heard them play that morning (they were first at 9:40am).  The university just started the band program in September of 2009, and they were already contest-worthy by April.  That's amazing.  The bass trombonist was a freshman and approached me to compliment the band and my personal contribution.  It was fantastic to get to play the rock star, even if it was only for a couple of minutes on a Saturday evening.

I got my own chance to compliment when I ended up behind the first trombonist for the Georgia Brass Band while waiting for gyros from the kiosk.  Our director, Joe Parisi, had flown to Georgia some weeks ago to give a clinic and tune-up for their competition music.  He came back saying good things about their principal trombone, and Joe and I heard their performance on Saturday which featured excellent contributions from all three section members.  I also feel kinship, solidarity, and fondness for any group that brings three trombonists instead of the ever-more-prevalent four (though we brought four last year).

--)  Fountain City presents "Over the Rainbow"

Whispers quickly passed through the band that located in the exhibitor's hall -- just past the t-shirt vendor -- there were copies of our latest "thought to be unreleased" album.  The whispers were dead on: there on the shelf of the Salvation Army CD rack were copies of the album we recorded in Morley Town Hall in November.  EEEEEEEE!  By the end of the competition, the rumors also said that all 12 copies that were brought had been sold.  I can neither confirm nor deny that all 12 copies were purchased by FCBB members too impatient for their own copies.

Apparently, the band will receive copies soon.  I'd link you to it, but not even the Salvation Army website shows it yet.  Besides, you should buy them from the band guys.  Because that makes us feel good.


--)  Not quite ship-shape at the convention hall

On Friday, the soloists competed in two rooms.  These rooms were the walled off opposite ends of one of those huge multi-purpose ballrooms.  In between the soloists was the exhibitor's hall, filled with mouthpieces, CDs, and instrument vendors.  It was incredibly convenient, except...

...that it meant that nobody could make any noise in the exhibitor's hall because it bordered BOTH contest rooms.  So all those fancy horns, but they couldn't be played.  "And how does that horn feel in your hands?  Good enough to buy?"


--)  Volcanic Ash Cloud Covers Raleigh

Actually, it covered England.  But it prevented one band from attending and prevented the arrival of Frank Renton, one of the judges.  Nothing to be done about it, but still unfortunate.  Hopefully fares and tickets were refundable based on this total flight ban.

--)  What are all these brass people doing here?

I ran into a local Raleigh high school band director in the balcony on Saturday morning.  He was really interested in the rules, the format, the bands, the instruments...  He had no idea this contest was occurring until an out-of-area band contacted him to request the use of his band room as rehearsal space.

This is a terrible missed opportunity!  Hopefully by the time next year arrives in Grand Rapids, MI, somebody has thought ahead enough to send a free email to all the high school band directors in the area that some of their brass kids MAY be interested in hearing NABBA.  Give them reduced ticket prices and rent out a bus or 10 to get some butts in the seats.  Have the local band volunteer a couple of clinics.  Anything, except relying on retroactive word of mouth -- especially since the contest now moves from year to year.

A missed opportunity.

--)  No news may be good news, but it's also no fun

I always get a kick out of the coverage of the leading international brass band news site,  Usually, they've got contest reports leading up to the events.  Even for the American contests, they often get reporting from on site, or at least do a bit of horse trading based on speculation and trends.

This year, nothing.  A single article went up in the wake of the contest, but that just has the divisions, awards, and points.  No theory, no aftermath reporting, no mentions at all.  Maybe it's because there were bigger things afoot in the UK, maybe their guy got stranded by the same ash storm, maybe those stories don't generate enough interest to warrant their expense.

I just missed 'em.  And let's be honest -- I just want to see names from the band with compliments or snarky observations about them.

--)  Raleigh, we have a problem.

The judges make audio recordings of their comments as the band is playing.  This allows them to comment verbally over the top of the music, making quick comments that are obviously connected to a moment in the music.  It's a great system and it's different enough from the British version (written comments only) that some people want to export it across to Her Majesty's shores. 

Unfortunately, all three judges tapes are largely useless this year.  Whatever recorder they were using gradually accumulates a stronger and stronger audio corruption as time passes.  By the end of the first tune (16 minutes out of 32 total), all three tapes have been corrupted beyond the ability to understand the words or even identify the music.

A disappointing destruction of what would have been helpful and interesting. 

That's all for now.


  1. The vendors could not have been happy. No one could play an instrument before 5 PM on Friday. On Saturday everyone was a couple of blocks away at the concert hall so there was very little foot traffic in the vendor area. There were only nine vendors with Getzen, York, and others not being there.

  2. I want that CD. Maybe they will be at the concert this weekend?

  3. I'm not sure when the CD will arrive for us, Josh. The guy from World of Brass Publications said he had only received them the day before he left for NABBA.

    I'll find out more at tonight's rehearsal. They're definitely close.