As Music Director of the Manning Valley Concert Band, Roger Griffiths is responsible for overseeing the musical direction of some 50 members in both Senior and Youth Bands, with an age range from 10 years to 70 plus. This is no small task … Roger takes the time to share with us some of the work that goes on behind the scenes.
Hi Roger. What’s your musical background …
I commenced my career as a musician when I enlisted into the Army as an Apprentice Musician. I was initially posted to the Army Apprentices School located at Balcombe near Melbourne, where I spent two years studying at the Army School of Music. On completion of my training, I was posted to the Eastern Command Band, Sydney. One of the highlights of my military career was my appointment as the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Defence Force School of Music, and the Australian Army Band Corps.
I served in the Regular Army for a period of 21 years. During this time I served throughout Australia, and also served on exchange in the United Kingdom. Musical highlights during this time were many and included the opportunity to perform with many of Australia’s leading singers and performers.
On leaving the regular Army I transferred to the Army Reserve. In this role I served as Band Master of the Band of the 23 Field Regiment Band, until I was appointed Music Director of the Australian Army Band, Newcastle. I served in this position for a period of six years.
After leaving the regular Army, I became the Band Director and a music teacher at SCECGS Redlands in Cremorne, Sydney. During my time at Redlands, the Music Department established a band program which saw over 300 students learning wind instruments each week. In addition, I was also responsible for the school’s concert bands, which performed for the local community on a regular basis. During my 14 year tenure at SCECGS, the school ensembles toured NSW, Queensland, South Australia and undertook a five week European tour, which culminated in performing at the ANZAC Day service in Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery.
As the Music Director of the Manning Valley Concert Band, (formerly known as the Greater Taree City Band), and with the support of the committee, we are developing and encouraging collaboration between school music departments, music institutions, and community music ensembles.
What instruments do you play yourself?
My primary instruments are the clarinet and saxophone.
How long have you been involved with the Manning Valley Concert band?
I have been involved with the Manning Valley Concert Band since 2009. My main role is to take the weekly rehearsals, and direct the band during performances. In addition,
I am also responsible for providing musical direction and guidance to the players, securing performance opportunities, and assisting the committee to recruit new members and to maintain and build relationships in the local community.
How many members does the MVCB currently have?
Currently we have 32 members in the Senior Band and 25 members in the Youth Band.
We use the full range of instruments associated with a concert band. These include flutes, clarinets, oboe, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, euphonium, tuba and a full range of percussion instruments. We would certainly welcome additional players, especially French horn or bassoon players who may be looking for performance opportunities.
The youngest players in the youth band would be 10 years of age. As for the oldest, we have several young at heart 70 plus years of age members in the senior band. One of the joys of music is that it does not discriminate on a person’s age. We have some of our oldest members sitting alongside players that are 50 or more years younger, and having an absolute ball sharing their love of music.
How do you go about choosing the pieces of music the band will play/practice next?
Choosing music for an upcoming concert can be a time consuming task. The first consideration is the event that the band is supporting, such as ANZAC Day, Carols in the Park and Australia Day performances. The music played at these events is usually the same each year.
With other concerts, I firstly decide on a theme. The theme for our upcoming concert is “Around the World in Music”. Once I have the theme I then go through the process of selecting the music using the following criteria: does the music fit the theme; will the music engage the audience; is there a variety of styles; is there a logical flow to the program; is there a piece that I can build the program around; will instrumental soloists or vocalists be featured; how will the program end and, importantly, is the music challenging for the band.
The band has performed some amazing concerts recently. What’s on the agenda moving through July and beyond?
Our next concert is the Around the World in Music concert on July 1st. We will also be supporting the Hunter Wind Ensemble at their Taree performance on July 29th, and a performance for the Coopernook community on September 9th.
In the planning stages is a concert commemorating the Centenary of the end of the World War I. The preferred date of this concert is Sunday 7th October.
We will also be preparing for our traditional Carols performances within the community.
Who are some of the band’s amazing supporters you’d like to acknowledge?
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge our supporters from the community who attend our performances. It is this support that inspires the band and encourages the players to improve their musical skills.
I would also like to acknowledge Trevor and Tanya Brown, of Bass ‘N’ Blues. They are big supporters of the arts in Taree, and provide support and sponsorship to the Youth Band. Other supporters are Azure Pools and Croker Diesel Mechanics. Staff from these organisations gave of their time during the recent renovations to the band room.
I also acknowledge the MidCoast Council, who have provided support to the band over many years.
For those who may be interested in joining the band, what skill level is required?
For those who may be interested in joining the senior band, we would be looking at a level 3/4 AMEB standard. However, anyone interested in learning an instrument, or wanting to improve their skills, are welcome to contact the band, and we will certainly address their requirements.
Where can we find out further info?
Further information can be found on our Facebook page “Manning Valley Concert Band”, or www.manningvalleyconcertband.org or the band secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org