18-year-old Sydney trombonist Minami Takahashi reflects on her experience of the 2014 Australian Band Championships in Brisbane over the Easter long weekend. Minami is studying trombone with Scott Kinmont at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and was successful in winning the Junior Champion of Champions and Open Tenor Trombone categories at the championships.
My very first “Nationals” were very memorable. I’m sitting on the plane on my way back to Sydney reminiscing about what happened over the weekend and it just makes me smile. I am smiling not because of the great music I experienced (although that was top-notch), or because of Brisbane’s sunny weather, but because of the great, warm, and supportive people who I got to spend my whole Easter weekend with.
For those who aren’t familiar with the National Band Championships – it is a national competition (in Australia) with Yamaha as the major sponsor. The competition has three sections: the concert band and brass band championships – both of which are graded and divided into both junior and open sections – as well as the solo championships, which are also divided into junior and open sections and include small chamber music sections such as brass and woodwind quartets. I was involved in the championships as a member of the “A grade” St Marys District Band – which competed in the brass band championships – and also competed in both the open and junior solo sections. The brass band competition is spread over three days – one day for the Hymn and Test (each competing band plays the same piece), one day for the Parade of Bands (a street march) and one day for both the Stage March and Own Choice.
I flew into Brisbane on Thursday to begin what was to be a long weekend full of great music, with the A grade contest kicking off at 3pm on Good Friday. On Friday the competing bands were judged according to how musically, precisely and consistently they played both the set piece and the hymn. The A grade test piece was St Magnus by Kenneth Downie – a very difficult piece to pull off. My band drew the fourth slot out of 13 bands to play. I guess at this point I should recount all of the great things that happened in between warming up backstage and playing, but the competition felt so quick I don’t quite remember what exactly happened. All I can tell you was that my and everyone else’s hearts were beating as fast as a little bird’s. When I walked on to the stage I was surprised by how many people were in the audience! After the baton touched down for the first beat of St Magnus the great music-making started. Ah, just looking back at the opening moments of St Magnus – how beautiful it sounded! Pure tones of cornet and soprano cornet, blended by their sweet vibratos that complement each other. It nearly brought me to tears. With a fat layer of sound from our amazing bass section (and a zip zap from the bass bone!), the tutti section flourished and filled the hall. What a great piece! It felt as though our spirits and emotions were carried on as sounds into the great big hall of St Laurence’s College.