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"... on the Mind"

By modefor, Jul 28 2020 09:03AM

Hi everyone, welcome to my first post at Mode for… I have to admit it is somewhat daunting that people might be reading my stuff further afield from my own little website but at the same time I'm quite excited.

Lockdown: The trials of practising at home

Lockdown. Where do I start? I imagine a lot of you can relate to what I'm about to go into, whether you're a brass player or not. As a brass player particularly, I have been struggling with a certain situation that people like to refer to as practise. My stunning silver Geneva cornet, named Roxy by a dear friend (it stuck), is looking at me from her case in disappointment. Yes, it is open, in my attempt to persuade myself to pick her up and actually play. Yet, there's always something else to do. "She can wait I have to make a snack, I'm hungry". "Well I can't play her now; I've just eaten." Any excuse to leave her there. This brings up the question, why? I've played my whole life, I love playing. Why don't I want to lift her out of that case and make some beautiful music?

Well, I don't know about you but I've always struggled with practising at home. My main musical outlet was always in groups. Now I can only play at home, like actual home practise? Oh, the horror!

Yes, the thought makes me shudder. I think, for me, it's largely down to the fact practising meant focusing on the things I didn't like doing so much, like scales. I attach this negative association with scales to practise. I'll put my hatred for scales into perspective for you. My poor teacher was probably near to a nervous breakdown getting me to learn the scales I needed for my Grade 8 because I was absolutely shocking at them (still am). There was a point where we'd put my grade 8 off so long due to this failing of mine that the pieces changed and I literally learned three new pieces in something like 3-4 months; may have been less. Of course, my sight-reading was pretty good from all the playing I was doing daily in different groups but scales were something I just didn't do. I also built a complex as many of us do. In the end I went for the exam anyway, hoping for the best. It's actually quite funny, if you look at the feedback; I was practically full marks in everything, then you get to scales. I failed those.

When I say I failed them, it isn't an exaggeration. I actually did. I mean, they really did not go well. Just ask Paul, my amazing accompanist and Band Conductor at the time who was sitting in the waiting room. He heard the disaster that followed. The examiner was lovely, I swear he was trying to make it all as easy as possible so I could get full marks. "Can you play me A minor harmonic?" he asks. Sure, I think cockily. Then it happened... A, B, C, D E flat (oh no! that's not right.) E natural F sharp (what are you doing? Hang on, what scale was it? Did he want melodic or harmonic?). The look on the examiner's face said it all. "Ok." he says awkwardly. "Why don't we try G chromatic?" Ok, good, I can do this one. I start and off I go right up to top G and then find I am now on a B. Too far stupid. And I awkwardly make my way down.

What else can I say?

Perhaps we can see why scales have a slightly frightening ring in my ears. To be honest this was an exam, a long time ago. I put it into perspective now and actually take away the best part of the experience; the almost full marks in everything else. I'm happy being the way I am and the story amuses me.

That did seem like a random little segway, but I think it identifies how important home practise is to musicians and why some of us struggle, when it comes to picking up our instrument at home. It is hard to bring ourselves to do something we don't like doing, especially when it's connected to something we apparently enjoy. We all have our demons to face, particularly when it's something we also want to do well at. We're often our own worst enemies. It doesn't mean we should give up; we just need to find a different perspective and a new way around the problem that suits us (perhaps something I should do with scales. - We need to pick our battles).

The first step, I decided, was to sort out my attitude towards practise. I decided to be proactive (one of Tabby's Three Ps. If you haven't read it yet put it on your reading list). Realising that I prefer to play in groups was key. This meant that online band recordings for general enjoyment and the Whit Friday March competition was a godsend for me. It gave me a new motivation to play and something to work towards. When they started to calm down, I was at a loose end again. Then it occurred to me; why not do my own? I've learned so many new skills from sitting at my computer, with Garageband open and a microphone next to me. Anyone who did music tech with me as a teen would laugh at the idea of me doing my own music videos. I was considered to have a poltergeist that followed me around the room and shut down all the computers I touched. But I have done three and intend to do more. I really enjoy it. Who knew technology could provide so much opportunity?

What I'm getting at is, lockdown has been a real struggle for many of us in a number of ways. However, look at what has come out of it. I certainly feel that I have grown because I decided to do something about these feelings, exacerbated by the confinement of


With musicians, our social outlets for musical creativity has been seriously restricted. However, I want to be positive here. I like to think that out of adversity comes creativity. We have to find a way to do what makes us happy. In the process of the journey we gain something beautiful; new knowledge. Who knows where that will lead us?

I find more and more, as we continue through lockdown, that my view on the situation of Roxy and practise has changed for the better. Now I look at her and think, 'what's our next project?' Then she finds she is no longer in her case.

Georgie x

By modefor, Dec 18 2019 10:27AM

I'm totally delighted to let you know that our first ever CD on the Mode for... label, 'Lago - The Music of Simon Kerwin' has made the shortlist of nominations for the 4barsrest CD of the Year.

It's listed alongside some amazing other recordings, but the CD that honours Simon's musical legacy and supports cancer patients at The Bexley Wing at St. James' Hospital Leeds, brilliantly performed by the Rothwell Temperance Band under the guidance of David Roberts and expertly recorded by KMJ Recordings as found favour from the hundreds of albums recorded this year.

The results will be revealed on Christmas Day so fingers crossed, but I'm truly humbled and delighted for the nomination.

You can check out the full list of nominations at https://4barsrest.com/articles/2019/1844.asp

By modefor, Nov 5 2019 11:23AM

*** 𝟚 𝔻𝕒𝕪𝕤 𝕋𝕠 𝔾𝕠 *** 𝕄𝕦𝕤𝕚𝕔 𝕗𝕠𝕣 𝕋𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕒𝕡𝕪 ***

… until the release of the new CD ‘Lago – The Music of Simon Kerwin’

As well as being a great way to honour and celebrate the musical legacy of my husband Simon, this album of music has a much greater and wider purpose.

‘Lago’ is Italian for Lake. In 2012 Simon and I bought our Italian home, a houseboat called ‘Canto del Lago’ on Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy. It was our very happy place and still is. It is home. It is a large, impressive, calming pool of water that has beauty, peace and inspiration. Simon and I were at our most creative there and it is the resting place of his heart and soul and where I can recalibrate my own mental health and creativity.

Track 2 on the album shares the same name of our house ‘Canto del Lago’ and as you have a listen to this preview HERE and look at the album cover image of the lake itself, you get a sense of this calm.

That is the power of music. It can be a healing and powerful force on our mental wellbeing and mental and physical health and making our mental heath a priority is vital.

This album is designed to bring you a sense of mindfulness, wellbeing and reflection. To enjoy the music in a way that calms your mind and reaches your heart through many emotions.

This album is also for the cancer patients who walk in to the Bexley Wing, Leeds Cancer Centre at St. James’ Hospital where Simon was treated and died. Not only can you use the music as an emotional release and use the cover image to visualise a calming, happy place where troubles drift away on the breeze, you can rest assured that from the sale of this recording, a donation has been made via Jacqui’s Million fund directly for the welfare of the patients to make your experience as comfortable as it can be.

I’m also delighted that on 7th November, the official launch of the CD, we will be presenting the Bexley Wing with 9 personal CD players and copies of the CD to be used on three of the chemotherapy wards where Simon and Jacqui of Jacqui’s Million received and continue to receive treatment.

This is so the music of Simon and the fabulous playing of Rothwell Temperance Band can be used as a therapy for patients to enjoy as they receive treatment; to hopefully be a calming distraction as the chemotherapy does its work.

This is more than just a brass band CD; this is music doing its thing in the powerful way that it can for a good cause, therapy and better mental health.

To purchase your copy go to www.modeforpublishing.com

A donation from sales goes to the Leeds Cancer Centre, St. James’ Hospital via Jacqui’s Million Fund.

No single one of us can make cancer go away, but together, we can be a contribution to making a difference.

Much Love

Tabby xxx

For more information on mental health in brass bands check out the section on this website.

By modefor, Jul 12 2019 01:34PM

On Saturday 20th July, Mode for's... Tabby, will present the findings of a new report into the current state of mental health in brass bands at the esteemed Brass International Festival in Durham.

The report, published by Mode for… is based on a survey instigated by Tabby earlier this year which was designed to give an overview of the effect that being in brass bands can have on mental health.

Tabby explained: “There is no doubt and plenty of evidence which shows that music and making music in groups can be incredibly good for wellbeing, however, with the statistics according to the charity ‘Mind’ that 1 in 4 adults are suffering from mental health issues and based on my own personal experiences of mental health I wanted to look further into the direct connection that playing in brass bands has on mental health.”

“In 2016, Help Musicians UK, the leading independent charity for musicians in the UK, commissioned Sally Anne Gross and Dr. George Musgrave, MusicTank / University of Westminster to conduct a study into the mental health issues faced by musicians and the wider music industry as part of its MAD (Music and Depression) campaign. Whilst this covered a wide demographic of 2211 musicians it did not specifically focus on the medium of brass bands. That survey found that musicians may be up to three times more likely to suffer from depression compared to the general public.”

“The intention of this survey was to see if musicians specifically in the brass band movement suffered the same mental health issues as musicians in the wider music industry and to see if the statistics correlated, with a view to implementing necessary information, support and mental health provisions into the brass band movement,” confirmed Tabby.

“The findings did marry up and it is evident that due to the competitive and volatile environment of the brass band movement, many brass band musicians are suffering from mental ill health. Now, with this evidence, I want to research further and more importantly develop more information and support for musicians within the brass band movement. Recently I trained as a mental health first aider and I am keen to spread that knowledge and awareness of mental health issues so they are commonplace in bandrooms. There is a high percentage of brass band musicians suffering from nerves, anxiety, panic attacks and depression but of our survey sample of 328 respondents, only 1.5% of the bands they are in membership of have any kind of mental health provision. Mental health is more important than physical health in many ways and we need greater awareness to support each other and, ultimately, look after our brass band musicians so we can keep the brass band movement strong.”

“It has always been and still is awkward to talk about mental health, but these are awkward conversations I am not afraid to start and share my experiences to help other people, which is why mental health, with a focus on musicians and brass bands is becoming the focal point and priority for myself and everything we do at Mode for…”

The presentation on this report, when Tabby will be joined by other speakers to discuss wellbeing for brass musicians, forms part of the festival’s Healthy Brass Day at 4pm on Saturday 20th July at Elvet Riverside, Durham University.

To read the full report and report summary, visit www.modefor.co.uk

By modefor, Jun 17 2019 02:04PM

Ten years ago, I fell out of love with something that had been my longest love and passion.

The effect of being so involved with it led me to some very dark places and nine years ago I was broken into so many pieces, fixing me seemed impossible. Yet, we carried on in a fairly ‘amicable’ yet distant relationship all this time, doing what we had to just to get through and put a public façade on the situation.

But, sat in a caravan on a Friday evening in June 2019, the passion was re-ignited.

No, this wasn’t a relationship with a person. This was my relationship with brass bands.

Over the years I’ve been a player, supporter, conductor, journalist, adjudicator and totally immersed in the movement. But for the last ten years, to me brass bands have been my greatest nemesis.

For as long as I can remember my whole life revolved around brass bands. Everything I had was thrown into it; emotionally, personally, publicly and financially and that’s why, when my mental health took a battering and I couldn’t carry on personally, the movement as a whole incurred my wrath.

I was wrong; It wasn’t the brass band movement I fell out of love with…and it’s taken ten years to realise that passion for brass music is still so much there, and the real key to that was judging 57 bands in Diggle playing marches on Whit Friday 2019!

Listening to those bands I remembered there is something so wonderful about the sound of a brass band and that music is magical. To be honest, I’d lost so much of my passion for music as a whole over the last decade, but slowly music, not the brass band movement, has helped fix me… along with an awful lot of learning, developing and change of everything in my life.

So, what really broke me, my mental health and my passions to the degree that it made me pack-up my banding career for such a long time? Well, honestly, it was the combination of my head and the environment and my perceptions of the actions of people within the brass band music plus feeling very alone despite being surrounded by so many. I was consumed by it all. It was never the music and the genre of brass bands itself.

When your mental wellbeing and health is at a low point you don’t always realise at first. You are so engrossed in life, trying to juggle all the plates and please everyone you stop doing what you need and know is right for you personally and carry on blindly. When your personal life is also massively entwined with what you do, this also allows scope for additional stress and putting yourself to the back of the queue time and time again in a bid to make sure everyone and everything else is taken care of. The only person that then ultimately suffers is you, but by the time you realise this it can be too late; the joy, happiness and your health have flown the nest.

This was what I was doing and it destroyed me. The stress became anxiety that manifested in mental and physical forms from sickness to absolute fear of seeing certain people, yet they hadn’t a clue that was how they made me feel. I would see people I associated with situations, shake, panic and immediately feel nauseous. However, you put the game face on and keep performing; quite literally.

I broke down and the worst of it was, the people around me (apart from one) didn’t see it, so, with the knowledge that no-one was noticing me drowning combined with the personal shame I felt because ten years ago, mental health was even more taboo than it is now, I just ploughed straight on carrying on doing everything for everyone else, sweeping my own health and needs under the carpet.

The upshot? Total breakdown, total resentment and having nothing and no-one. I knew I couldn’t carry on with everything I had known and in my broken brain, that everything was brass bands. So, our relationship had to end… well, not completely, because I still needed it to some degree over the last 10 years, but that was why I fell out of love with it and we assumed an ‘amicable friendship’ (and trust me, those aren’t always as amicable as you make out!).

To this day, only one person has truly understood the decision I had to make to leave things behind and since then I’ve progressively tried to re-build, this time stronger and with a different, more sustainable design. Still to this day people in brass bands don’t understand or believe I was that ‘weak’ person then because I’ve always come across as resilient, strong and confident. It was a façade… so every time someone would judge me as that person, it made another part of my cry and die inside. What’s more, now, today, when I am honestly and truly me, they think I’ve ‘lost the plot’ now because I’m not who I was then… the person you knew 10 years ago was in fact the one who had ‘lost the plot,’ – this person here today is not her. I’ve spent ten years learning, developing and strengthening away from you all and during that time I’ve got so much wrong and a hell of a lot more right to get where I am mentally.

What I thought ten years ago and for so much time afterwards was that I was alone in this, partially because I hid it and partially because no-one saw what was happening to me, which in a broken brain makes you hide and resent even more; and just when I thought I was beating it in 2017, the relapse hit and it hit me like a truck, but second time round you’re more aware of how to fix and manage it and this time I got to the bottom of understanding it all, learning, developing and finding strength I never thought I had. A strength that meant when the absolute worst thing that could have happened did, when my husband Simon died, I didn’t break, it made me stronger, because over the last decade he’d helped me learn and find every skill and confidence I needed to be me. This was the first time in my adult life I had this strength.

Now, I’m going to save you all the details here of my life, but if you’re really interested just ask me as I can happily and easily talk about it now that I understand myself, mental health and everything that happened.

But let’s cut to the wider issue of mental health in the brass band movement, because what I am totally aware of now is, I’m not the only person that has, is or will suffer from mental ‘ill’ health as a result of being in brass bands and we can do much better to support ourselves and each other within the brass band movement.

What I understand now is it’s not ‘brass bands’ that cause the issues, but the situations and environments we find ourselves in within the brass band movement as a whole, with little industry support or understanding for the effects these have on our mental health. Situations such as:

• Pushing ourselves to reach ever increasing standards

• Taking on workloads we cannot manage on top of our personal and professional lives

• Relationships with peers

• Relationships with management

• Anxiety and stress as a consequence of competition

• Performance anxiety and stress

• Commitments on time

• Travel commitments and distance

• Inter-band politics and ‘sackings’

• Pressure put on oneself

• Behaviour of conductors

• Judgement – from judges, press, critics, audiences, conductors and peers.

There is a strong likelihood that you too will have experienced one or more of these scenarios and for people already struggling with their health and wellbeing, just one of these scenarios is enough to knock their mental equilibrium.

If we implemented support networks in our own brass bands and the brass band movement as a whole, we could see real change in terms of less players bowing out of the brass band game due to pressures and anxiety.

In March 2019 I launched a survey to gather information on the topic of mental health in brass bands and I have so much gratitude to the 328 people who took the time to complete it and comment on their experiences.

In July 2019 I will publish the full report into my findings, but initial reading confirms my thoughts that I was not the only person who had such experiences and I know there are many more people not yet brave enough to talk about their own experiences too.

But I will talk about it and I will be open about my own experiences and be proud of what I was, went through, my vulnerabilities and success and how far I’ve come because it has been one hell of a journey over the last decade and I will champion the cause that we all take better care of ourselves and each other to promote better mental health in the brass band movement.

I will write regularly about it and invite anyone else to join me in speaking and writing about it, sharing stories and experiences on this blog in the hope that my and your honesty together can help just one person to have the confidence to put themselves first, look after their own mental wellbeing and continue the passion and love in, and for, this fabulous genre of brass music.

I can’t wait to hear from you and your experiences and just know my virtual ‘door’ is always open to you all.

Oh, and a huge thank you to all those bands on Whit Friday who locked in the final piece of my brass band mind puzzle to give me the passion back.

Much Love

Tabby xxx

The Blog written by Tabby Kerwin and members of the Mode for... team focussing on possibility, productivity &  performance, with a focus on resilience, creativity & mental health.