We caught up with Principal Trombone of the Black Dyke Band, Brett Baker. The band perform regularly in the Leeds Best of Brass series.
How long have you played with the Black Dyke Band?
Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions, I have been playing for the band for 20 years. I did have a break in 2015, but I am now the longest serving trombonist in the history of the band and longest serving soloist.
What's the best thing about playing in a brass band?
As a trombone player the best thing is a variety of different styles you get to play in. A trombone player is the brass of the brass band, so to speak, and compared to other ensembles the technical demands are greater and you tend to play for more of the time compared to a wind band, chamber group or orchestra. The section also has a quartet so we enjoy doing concerts also on this basis.
What’s your highlight so far with the Black Dyke Band?
This is very difficult to say and I am trying not to be corny. I could say trips to Japan or Australia but actually for me some of the best trips have been playing in the European Championships. I remember three very enjoyable trips, one in Belfast, one in Bergen in Norway and Gronighen in the Netherlands. Not only were the trips musically rewarding playing in fantastic venues and playing in the Gala concerts to packed audiences, but above all they were also really good fun and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of really inspirational individuals on each trip.
How did you get involved with playing a brass instrument?
My Father Bill Baker played trombone for a local TA Band and then the village band. He was also a great sportsman and introduced me to boxing, cricket, football, rugby the list goes on. Although I did not enjoy it at first, playing the trombone allowed me to travel around the country and then abroad and gave me some great experiences, so I choose that over the likes of playing the the rugby team or the air training corps once I got to fourteen.
What was your earliest musical experience?
My earliest experience is playing a trombone at the age of ten. I was given a smelly old pea shooter trombone to play with a group of learners, being taught the various notations and being asked to spit down the instrument to play a low C.
Who has been your biggest influence?
Over the years I have many people to be grateful to. My first teacher was Bryan Nelmes who took the learners group at Bream Silver Band the village I grey up in. Robert Morgan who picked me up from my house to take me 10 miles to band rehearsal in Lydbrook, introduced me to the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and there I was influenced by the great Roy Newsome and had access to players that played in the very best bands in the country. This led me to study at Salford where David King became a big influence on my playing and more recently Howard Snell who has been my mentor for the past 10 years. Trombone players I very much admire for a number of reasons include Joseph Alessi, Christian Lindberg and Don Lusher.
Do you enjoy practising or find it a chore?
I would say both, most recently as I am currently in a lock down situation at home then I have enjoyed practising without the pressure of a major premiere or contest but just for the sake of playing. Whether that will still be the case three weeks from now we will see.
Were your parents musical?
My father yes, my mother no.
What’s the best and worst things about performing?
It depends on the situation, the socialising and travel can be pleasurable and also a nightmare. Rehearsals can be a chore but also very enjoyable. I think the best parts are meeting new exciting great people, the worst things are meeting people that are not great, exciting and inspirational.
What can the audience expect from a performance by the Black Dyke Band?
The Black Dyke Band offers a musical experience, great commissions, great playing, great soloists and all very well rehearsed and considered. It will always be a memorable occasion.