Brisbane Water Brass

Brisbane Water Brass - Our History ...

Brisbane Water Brass Band derives its name from the fact that we are based and rehearse in a little town called Kariong on the Central Coast of NSW which is next to and part of the Brisbane Water estuary and National Park systems. As we have another brass band within 1 km of us called Gosford City Brass Band, we decided to use as our name the more general title of the whole region in which we operate.

The idea for the band came from our former President, Rod Paul and current President Ken Townsend who recognised that there were a number of older players on the Coast who used to play in community and Salvation Army bands but whom no longer had anywhere to play. Some of the players hadn't played for between 10 and 20 years. One hadn't played for nearly 40 years. Thus the range of ages for the initial band was between 51 and 77. There were no young players in the original 17 players, when the band formed in November 2003. We now have nearly 30 members in the band with ages ranging from 29 to 81.

Initially we borrowed 15 sets of music from the St.Marys Brass Band and the Band Association of NSW. This was especially useful around Christmas time 2003 when we had our first gigs. Our Musical Director, Jonathan Gatt then purchased the band's first 10 sets of music from Dennis Williams, former conductor and arranger for the NSW Police Band in Sydney, and donated the music to the band to get us started. In early 2004, we were then able to purchase, over a three month period, nearly 100 pieces of second hand music from the Gold Coast Brass Band, who were having a sale of duplicated sets from their library. We are now adding to our music library on a more regular basis via purchases from distributors such as Musos Media.

As for instruments, we scoured "ebay" and "pawn shops" for many of the initial purchases which were very cheap and old. We also acquired some instruments via our Salvation Army band connections from bands which were now defunct and who were looking to sell off some of their older instruments. Again, these instruments were generally not good quality but satisfactory to start with. Many of the players still had their own personal instrument from when they played previously. We bought a bass drum from Kurt Jacobs in Sydney and an old drum kit and glock were donated to the band. More recently, we bought a good quality second hand drum kit in excellent condition. Tympani are but a dream at this stage, however. Any donations or cheap sales of percussion and brass instruments would be greatly appreciated, especially a set of tympani.

The band initially practiced at a community hall in Kariong. This venue was a far from ideal, with poor lighting and acoustics, and no storage, but it got us started. In 2004, we did a gig for the Rotary Club of Kariong/Somersby during which we talked to one of their members, Kerry Bayliss, about our need for better place to practice. Kerry immediately offered the band the use of the Clubs own premises: Phillip House, 21 Old Mount Penang Road, Kariong. The band has since practiced at Phillip House between 8 pm and 10 pm each Tuesday evening. We also use this facility for extra weekend practices before competitions. Phillip House is an excellent place for the band to call home. The premises are very secure with a live-in caretaker. The hall has good acoustics, and we supplement the room lighting with our own lights. The Rotary Club has also given us the use of a small, but very useful lock up room in which we store our music and unused instruments. The relationship between the Rotary Club and the band has grown progressively stronger since we moved into Phillip House. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, the Club offered us significant support, including the opportunity to earn funds by participating in the parking control operations associated with the annual Flora Festival, held at Kariong every September. In 2006 and again in 2007 the Rotary Club made a donation of funds to the band, for which we were very grateful. The Club also made a significant in-kind contribution to the operation of our Development Band by making their hall available for practices of this group without charge for several months.

The band is mainly self-funded, with most of its money coming from the players and from performance donations. However, we have also been very fortunate to have had a significant sponsorship from Select Credit Union that is now in its fourth year. We are currently actively investigating further sponsorship opportunities. In 2005, the band obtained a Community and Cultural grant from Gosford City Council to support our Community Concerts program. This grant was renewed in the 2006 and 2007 rounds. Under this program, the band provides its music without charge at many community events each year throughout the Central Coast. The funds from this grant were used to purchase music and equipment for the band. In 2006, the band received a grant from the Commonwealth Government Volunteer Small Equipment grant scheme to purchase a much-needed photocopier for use at practices. In 2007 the band held its first all-day workshop funded by an Arts NSW grant administered through the Band Association of NSW. The workshop was led by Andrew Snell and supported by several guest tutors. Workshops were held again in 2008 (Ken Bradley) and 2009 (Warwick Tyrell) and all three have had a very beneficial effect on the bands playing ability.

Jonathan Gatt had been the conductor of the band from day one and does not charge any fees or expenses. Jonathan lives 110 km away from where the band practices and conducts the band for the love of it. One of our past members, Brian North, travelled even further - over 150 km to come to band practice. Brian was our 2004 Band Member of the Year.

Our dress uniform is all black with a teal/turquoise tie, all of which was paid for by the individual members. In 2005, we added a casual top to our uniform which is all teal/turquoise and has the BWB logo on it. In 2006, we purchased embroidered black tailored jackets to complete the dress uniform. We also acquired pennants for our music stands during this year which greatly aid the visual presentation of the band at performances.

We have competed on several occasions as a D Grade Band and members from the band have participated in several solo, duet and ensemble competitions. All of this has involved major commitments beyond normal band practices, and often significant travel for members both within and beyond NSW. Our first competitive event was the NSW Hunter Regional Band Contest in Newcastle in June 2004. In this event we played Eric Ball's "A Rural Suite". This was in a combined grade of five C and D grade bands. We ended up coming third, beating the other D Grade Band outright and also one C Grade Band on handicap. So it was a pretty good effort first up. We subsequently competed in this event in 2005 and 2006. We have also played in the NSW State D Grade Championship in September 2005 and in August 2006. The 2006 Championship was held at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre at Penrith, and the band played absolutely brilliantly. We were placed second in the Sacred Item playing Lloyd, third in the Test piece Indian Summer and second in the Own Choice Dimensions. This resulted in us being placed second overall out of 8 bands, behind Waratah Brass No 2. This band was regraded up to C Grade after the contest, leaving Brisbane Water Brass as the highest ranked D Grade Band in NSW. The band is very proud of this achievement. The band also competed in the 2007 State Championships and, whilst being unplaced overall, still performed well. In 2009 Brisbane Water Brass became NSW State D Grade Champion.

Another highlight of 2006 was a joint concert with Parramatta City Brass band, which also has Jonathan Gatt as its Musical Director. This concert was held on the afternoon of Sunday 17 September, and was attended by over 300 people. The audience reacted very enthusiastically to the items performed by each band separately and, at the conclusion of the concert, by the massed (and packed!) bands. The success of this initiative encouraged us to hold another joint concert at Parramatta on 11 March 2007. We plan another joint concert on the Central Coast in 2008.

Perhaps the main highlight of 2007 was a fundraising concert on 30 September presented jointly with the Sing Australia Gosford Choir. An audience of over 200, and nearly 100 performers, packed the Gosford RSL Club for our Pink Rhythm charity concert. Everything necessary to stage the concert, including the Gosford RSL Club venue, was donated by local organisations and individuals in the community. The proceeds of over $4500 from the concert were donated to the Central Coast Health Service to assist in the purchase of diagnostic equipment for breast cancer surgery.

In each year of the bands existence, on two evenings leading up to Christmas members of our band have played carols on a boat that cruised around the foreshore of Brisbane Water. We always receive many comments telling us how much people enjoy hearing our carols coming to them across the water. We are very grateful to Harry and Chris McClarin for making their boat available to enable us to maintain this tradition in 2007.

The Aims of Brisbane Water Brass are to make good music in a friendly, supportive environment, and to share our music with the community. In our short life, Brisbane Water Brass already has an impressive performance record. In each full year of our life, we have played at over 20 community events, not counting competitions (23 in 2004, 22 in 2005, 26 in 2006, 27 in 2007 and 35 in 2008). We have an extensive program of future bookings. The band receives significant support from the community, as judged by having over 80% of repeat jobs in our program. In keeping with our Aims, Brisbane Water Brass strives to be a true community band. We welcome new players of all standards. We have also started a Development Band for young or beginning musicians to ensure a steady flow of future players.

The band has established sound financial control and managerial governance systems. We are an Incorporated entity, and maintain appropriate insurance cover, including Public Liability insurance.

Prepared by the Musical Director Jonathan Gatt, May 2005
Updated by the Secretary, Colin Laybutt, September 2009