The Music Department is lucky to have creative links with a number of amazing artistic groups; one of the newer relationships is with the Black Dyke Band. Over the last three years the Black Dyke Band have visited PGS twice to work with our brass players in workshops and an evening performance. The thriving brass department at PGS is down to the tireless work of Head of Brass, Graham Brown; with over 90 brass students from the age of 8 to 18 the department boasts three brass bands and numerous chamber ensembles. The secret to this success, aside from the energy and drive of the brass team, is getting the pupils playing in bands as soon as they can play a few notes and then motivating them with performance opportunities not just in numerous concerts and school events but also with other professional musicians. The day we spent with the Black Dyke musicians cannot be underestimated in the powerful effects it has on our young players.

The model for all three school bands was to play two of their current pieces, with members of the Black Dyke Band sitting in with each section, conducted by Professor Childs. This always has a galvanising effect on a group and it was fantastic to see all the musicians raise their collective game! The sectional rehearsals working with a Black Dyke player gave the pupils a chance to work in detail on specific sections of a piece and build technique. Building these relationships with working musicians at the top of their game is of great importance for aspiring young player. Being taken seriously and being given this quality focused time by these role models is hugely affirming and confidence building so when the band returned to perform at the end of the workshop the transformation in their playing was tangible.

The evening performance, to a sell out audience of over 600, allowed the PGS pupils to see and hear the full band, with the players they had worked with, and experience the precision in ensemble, tuning and expression that they are striving for themselves. For the Senior Band the icing on the cake was joint performance with the Black Dyke Band of Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, Simoraine and Highland Cathedral. For Head of Brass, Graham Brown, it was also an unexpected opportunity to conduct the full band in Simoraine!

These workshops and performances were inspirational to our musicians and so important in setting aspirations and targets for our players. What also struck us was the warmth, friendliness and sheer approachability of all the Black Dyke musicians and especially of Professor Childs. This educational partnership is hugely important to us and we look forward to it continuing and inspiring the next generation of brass players.