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Guest Slot 4: Gavin Dudley, North Tyneside Brass in Schools

For our guest blog slot today we return to music and speak to Gavin Dudley of the North Tyneside Brass in Schools partnership. As many of you will know, brass music is a big part of my life. I first learnt the tenor horn around the age of eleven, and inspiring the next generation of young people to play instruments and develop this rewarding lifelong skill is vital. It is something I am deeply passionate about. Learning to play a musical instrument is probably the greatest gift ever given to me, and the future of brass banding depends on more young people finding the love of brass. The support of schools is critical in making this happen, and partnerships such as North Tyneside Brass in Schools offer some hope of a brighter future for brass banding and music in general. Over to Gavin to tell us more!

1. Tell us about the core purpose of your partnership

We run after school brass groups for children aged 8-11 and aspire to form a youth brass band. Our stated purpose in the Constitution is:

To advance the musical education and development of children and adults resident in North Tyneside and the surrounding area by through high-quality out-of-school music opportunities including:

A. Establishing and running extracurricular brass groups and youth brass bands based in schools and/or local communities;

B. Staging and participating in concerts and other events at which such children and adults may perform as a brass band or smaller ensemble, and/or experience live musical performance by others;

C. And by such means train the participants in the playing of brass and percussion instruments and develop their general musical abilities and appreciation and enjoyment of music.

2. What do you do to deliver this?

We work with schools to set up an after school or lunchtime brass group. It is free for the children to attend, and we lend them an instrument, also free of charge, to take home and practice.

We ask the school to provide a member of staff to attend, to assist with any pastoral issues, and hopefully to take part and learn alongside the children. Some parents have also joined in.

We have a stock of cornets and trombones which we bought from funds raised from various sources. We use the plastic tromba instruments as they are light weight, cost less than brass, and make a good sound.

Children learn in an ensemble setting. We do not normally have the resources to offer personal tuition, but we try and help individuals within the group setting.

We play simple arrangements of tunes, sometimes in unison (all playing the same part) but often in two or three parts, with the more experience children playing a more challenging part than the new ones.

We usually do an end of term performance in school.

Our popular tunes include: Rock Around the Clock; I am the Music Man; We will Rock You; Ode to Joy; When the Saints go Marching In; Old MacDonald had a Farm; Hokey Cokey; Big Foot Stomp (one of ours).

3. Which schools are we currently working with?

Due to COVID, we are not currently running any brass groups, but we previously ran groups at Backworth Park Primary, Burradon Community Primary, and Balliol Primary in Longbenton.

All three schools have taken part in the Wansbeck Music Contest, more than once. We had a combined brass band perform at Whitley Bay Playhouse as part of North Tyneside’s Got Talent, and we have performed at Christmas Lights switching on celebrations in Seghill and Whitley Bay.

We ran a Play Day at the Y-Studio in North Shields attended by about twenty children and led by professional tutors. This included a percussion workshop led by Susie Jones.

4. Introduce us to your team

We have had a number of volunteer tutors and some professional input. Before the COVID lockdown we had Gavin Dudley, who started the project with Julie Dorr from North Tyneside Music Education Hub; Natalie Tidy; and Ailsa Critten.

Gavin plays trombone, currently with Newbiggin Jayess Band and Newcastle Concert Band, and sousaphone with Meze Mundo, a local street band. Natalie plays flugelhorn and cornet with Ashington Brass Band. Ailsa plays trumpet and is currently studying music at University.

Our Management team includes Julie Dorr, and Angela Hunter, Head of Burradon Community Primary.

Alex Lewis, a professional brass musician and teacher, runs the Saturday morning Music Centre, and has provided advice and guidance and run some sessions for us.

5. What are the key opportunities for your partnership?

There are endless opportunities to work in schools! We believe that music (and other arts) should be enjoyed within all schools. We’d like to see music tuition and further opportunities in every school. Every child should have the opportunity to develop their musical appreciation and understanding, and learn to play an instrument, whether that’s a guitar, percussion, violin, or woodwind or brass instrument.

6. What are the main challenges for a new and developing partnership?

A limiting factor is finding volunteers who are available during the day (our after school groups tend to run about 3:15 to 4:15pm). Several of our volunteers had to stop due to other commitments like starting a job, moving away, or their own child-care responsibilities!

We cannot normally offer individual tuition, although we were able to fund small group lessons for three of our most promising children at Burradon Community Primary.

Parental support and encouragement plays a big part in children’s progress. Sometimes, the child’s home circumstances make this difficult.

Also, it can be difficult maintaining school input when they are always under great strain to resource their core programme.

7. What’s next for the partnership?

In order to address some of tchallenges we have faced previously, we plan to proceed in a different way when we get back into school.

We would like to offer schools an after school brass group for a time-limited period e.g. a term. That gives enough times to get the children playing some simple tunes and give an end of term performance.

We would then offer them the chance to continue at a central brass group, or within a wider ensemble with other instruments, probably as part of the existing, very successful Saturday morning Music Centre run by the North Tyneside Musical Education Hub.

We would hope that in time, we could open the opportunities up to more children in more schools, and encourage them to come together to continue to develop their musical abilities.


To find out more about the North Tyneside Brass in Schools Partnership visit their website at: You can also follow them on Facebook at:

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