This is the time of year when I sit back, sip a (metaphoric) glass of wine, and reflect on the summer that we’ve had as an ensemble.
A lot of things went really well this summer! (I can’t think of a one that went poorly).
I tried an experiment with our May rehearsals, and focused almost exclusively on the music that I expected would prove challenging for us. From my perspective, this was a resounding success! Not everyone is available on Saturday mornings, but taking this approach enabled those who could make it out to get a head start. I believe this sped the learning process – having someone in your section that’s familiar with a piece makes a big difference! I plan to continue this going forward.
We had a massive influx of new-to-us musicians – I think I counted 14. (Not everyone ended up making the commitment to stay – that’s totally fine! They know we exist, which is a big part of the battle!) This is amazing. Every organisation needs an influx of new members – we aren’t going to survive long-term without it. I think we need to give a big shout-out to Meera (one of our trombonist-extraordinaires!) for applying logic and peer pressure to conscript? many New Horizons members into giving us a chance! She has been a wonderful ambassador for the band – I’m contemplating on investing in some epaulettes for her for next year – since they won’t let me have a canon budget. (On the other hand, that might warn people that she’s coming and I suspect stealth is her secret weapon!)
To our newer members: Ceud mile failte! (Scottish Gaelic: a hundred thousand welcomes!) I know that for a number of you, the level of music was a challenge, yet you chose to stick it out. First of all, a big hip-hip-hurray! for your courage to stay with us. Secondly, throw in a goodly number of huzzahs for putting in such a tremendous effort to tackle the hard stuff! I am aware that many of you put in hours of practise time on your own to be able to say you had tried your best. Those efforts have not gone unnoticed. It has been an absolute delight to have you with us! I do hope that you’ve had positive experiences, that you felt welcomed into the fold, and that you’ve expanded your contact lists (you never know when something will come up and it’s good to have a list of people to approach!) I also hope that we’ll see you again in the spring!
The library also tried an experiment in hopes of preserving the music: a limited list of pieces, all in page-protectors, was included in your binders. We had concerns about the life-span of our parts as the repeated page turning was taking a toll, as was over-filling of the binders themselves. I didn’t hear a lot of grumbles once we got used to being aware of the glare. I also noticed that there were fewer fly-away pages at our gigs – mostly. I’m adding this to the cautiously successful column for the time being. (The real proof will come as we see how long the music lasts!)
The development of everyone’s personal playing has been inspiring for me to witness. Whether you’re aware of it or not, we all grow through the summer together. The short rehearsal season, the challenging repertoire (I know you can play these – you haven’t yet proven me wrong), my incessant demands and high standards, the challenges (stamina, expression, range, variable attendance, etc), and your commitment to doing your best work all combine into a magical elixir. Every summer, we part stronger as individuals than we were upon convening. You stretch me every summer – to lead you better, to be more helpful, to keep learning myself (so that I can better share what I know). As much as you have all improved, you continually make me better.
We start out as a bit of a ragtag assembly, but through the rehearsal process (which is intense), we end up a well-oiled machine. You all give and give and give of yourselves – even when you don’t believe that I know what I’m talking about (I see your skeptical faces). But you choose to trust me anyway, and I can tell (from the happy, smiling, expectant faces) that you know when we’ve nailed a piece. This year, you really exceeded my expectations, and seem to have internalised a lot of the control that I’ve talked about over the past couple of summers. I encourage you not to get lazy as you go back to your regularly scheduled bands and continue to push yourselves – just look at what’s happened in three to four months!
I also want to acknowledge the committee that works behind the scenes to provide all of us with such a smoothly run summer programme:
Christina Paul (member-at-large)
Dave Patrick (treasurer)
Bruce Wiebe (bookings)
Jeff Yakel (librarian)
These folks have done a tremendous job at keeping the wheels going. They work hard to ensure that our dues remain as low as possible for the summer, that we have suitable rehearsal space, a lovely meal at Victoria Beach, that your music is in good order, that we have opportunities to perform (and while we do have our stand-bys, we also look into new-to-us leads), and any other matters that come up unexpectedly. A lot of what they do isn’t visible, but they are incredibly committed to providing an environment that’s conducive to musical development, enjoyment, and that it’s worry- and stress-free for everyone. And they do an absolutely stellar job of it!
I’d like to send a tip of the ole hat to Bruce, who took over the bookings portfolio: what a smashing success our gig scheduling was this year!! Talk about a grand slam!!! (I know Bruce is a Goldeyes fan, so the baseball reference is, I think, especially apropos).
So now, we must part ways until next year. (Of course, I end up crossing paths with many of you through my own playing, so it’s more a “see you in the ranks!” than a true parting!)
The firstname.lastname@example.org email is monitored (by me) all year long, so you may always reach us there. I would encourage you, if you have any suggestions, questions, comments, music requests, etc, to please not hesitate to reach out. This is, after all, your band – we want to make it as easy as we can for you to have a wonderful experience.
So, my friends, it’s now time for me to formally close off the season – this should be it from me until sometime in April (when we have details of the 2019 season). I do so humbled, and with a heart full of gratitude:
Thank you for making this such a tremendous season: for your hard work, for your focus, for caring so much about the music and each other, for the sweat and the spit (there was a lot of both!), for the laughter and the tears (mine, that is!) Most importantly, thank you for the music – it has been a joy and an honour to work with you every week.