Do more boys than girls learn brass instruments?

Find out the answer to this question and much more from this exclusive interview with MusicSmart brass teacher Graham Paul.

How old were you when you started learning the trumpet?

“I was 11 years old and I started on a cornet.”

What do you enjoy most about being a brass teacher?

“I really enjoy watching children grow in confidence as they learn to play. That is they become more confident socially and in their own abilities generally. I have had many students suffering from shyness and low self-esteem completely transform into courageous and enthusiastic people through playing with a band. I also love watching a student’s excited reaction after playing their first note.”

How many musical instruments do you play?

“My main instruments are the Trumpet and Cornet, but I also play the Flugal Horn, Trombone, Tenor Horn, Baritone, Euphonium and the French Horn. Because the lip formation is different for the French Horn when compared to the other brass instruments, I do not play the French Horn very much. I also play the piano well enough to accompany my students in examinations up to grade five.  So I think that makes a total of nine instruments.”

What’s your favourite piece of music?

“My favourite piece of music is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5 in E minor. I came across this piece by accident when I was trying to find the station which was doing the live commentary for Manchester United verses Coventry. When I heard that amazing sound my interest in classical music started and I dreamt of playing the lovely horn solo in the second movement. Unfortunately my Dad could not afford to buy me a French Horn so I had to settle for the trumpet.”

What bands do you play in?

“I play with the Salvation Army Band in Bognor Regis, the Chichester Symphony Orchestra and the Worthing Philharmonic Orchestra. I also play in Choral Concerts when a trumpeter is needed.”

What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a student?

“My most important piece of advice I would give is that you must enjoy yourself by making music with others. The best way to do this is to join a band as soon as possible. That also means that you are playing the instrument of your choice.”

Why do more boys than girls learn to play brass instruments?

“I think it is pretty even between boys and girls. In the Chichester Symphony Orchestra the principal trumpet is a woman and two of the trombonists are also women, and there are many good female horn players. In the Salvation Army Band in Bognor there are more women than men.  In schools the boys certainly are attracted to the powerful sound of the trumpet and the versatility of the slide trombone, but the girls are often able to play with more control and expression because they are physically much stronger from an early age when comparing them with boys. I think during teenage years the boys catch up with the girls, but both girls and boys are able to reach a professional standard on brass instruments. Today we have the likes of Alison Baulsen and Tina Ting-Helset. So I do not think the boys outnumber the girls at all in my experience.”

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