From Hal Leonard to F**K: A community concert band's mid-life crisis
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Folk music has become a much broader term and even gained some status in classical circles through the collaboration of musicians such as Nigel Kennedy and Itzhak Perlman with bands such as Kroke and Klezmatics. No longer considered the F... word, many classical musicians admit to enjoying listening to and even emulating the looser style of playing in their own performances. Community music is another area that has begun to seriously embrace folk music. The discussion in this paper will utilize three characteristics of a community of practice; domain; community; and practice in order to map the rapid growth and popularity of a community band (The Con Artists), which made the decision to embrace folk/world music. The Con Artists, an all age’s community band, combines young students; adult community musicians; and some of the regions most prominent folk musicians. With a vast line-up of wind, brass, percussion and string instruments, the bands high energy repertoire is influenced by the musical traditions of New Orleans brass bands, Klezmer, Balkans, French-Canadian fiddle music and Italian Folk music. In 2009, Concord Band (the original community band ) was an established concert band with a long history in Wollongong. The playlist was conventional concert band repertoire from the big publishers. For various reasons this was a transitional time. The regular weekly turnout was often down to 8-12 players.
The transition to folk/world music began with a folk music workshop combining Concord Band, community musicians and orchestra students from the Wollongong Conservatorium Concert Orchestra. This was an ideal model for a community music event. It was cross generational, collaborative, and educational. It had scope for high level music making without being exclusive, and it was fun! The folk-music workshop suggested the idea of an alternative band that included strings. Gypsy music enveloped Hal Leonard.
This paper argues that folk/world repertoire combined with a process of collective learning and a passion for making music has potential for high level community music. A performance by the “Short Con” is included in the presentation.