A day with Nigel Hess

This weekend I was privileged to take part in a rehearsal day with the international composer and director Nigel Hess. My concert band does these sessions every couple of years, we then go on to perform the composer’s pieces in a special concert later in the year. I can’t remember the last time I had such a wonderful day. Nigel was incredibly generous spirited in his direction of the band. We are a community amateur band and he is used to working with professional orchestras. He was full of praise and encouragement, as well as getting us to play his pieces so much better than at the start of the day. I am certain that everyone else enjoyed the day as much as I did.

My band is a very important part of my life, and music generally.

When you play music you are actively creating. You are taking control of your life, not passively consuming, but making. When that is combined with taking part with other people that is a recipe for some feel good hormones being released through you body.

I have been quite open about my journey of learning to play an instrument as an adult. It is not easy. There are a million and other things I could be doing with my time. It’s not like I picked up the flute and suddenly started playing, that I was an undiscovered genius and just had to find the right thing. I work at this. I put the time in, practicing most days, and for extended periods of time now too. Sorry neighbours, especially when I’ve been learning new high notes.

When I passed my Grade 5 flute (and it is only ever a pass as I get incredibly anxious in exams), I was delighed, but had to do my Grade 5 Theory before I could continue any longer. The whole way through playing the flute I had been saying I didn’t want to do theory, I couldn’t see the point in it. Now I had to study them all in one go to get up to G5 standard. I’ve written about that here.

There are times when I am playing with the band, especially when we revisit pieces from previous years, when I suddenly realise how much I have improved. It gives me a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction.

Days like yesterday make me want to practice more and get even better. Taking part in a hobby where you are being stretched, challenged and grow is incredibly positive for mental health. Being part of a community is good for your well being. Community music helps on both points! I also think creating, rather than consuming is also excellent for wellbeing.

My band is Harmonie Concert Band, and you can find a local band, orchestra or choir here.


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