Founded in 2011, the Shepherd Group Youth Brass Band is an absolute joy to be a part of. It’s wonderful to see how much the band has grown in recent years, winning our first competition in 2016 and continuing to take on new challenges and experiences since. This year is no exception, having just returned from our first tour.

Devizes was the destination for our four days away. We were lucky enough to be hosted by Jemima’s Gift, an incredible charity which provides opportunities for young people to reach their full potential in a range of fields. Set up in memory of Jemima Prees, this charity has allowed many young people to pursue their passions – from providing sporting equipment to funding study in prestigious music schools. Thus it was a real honour to work alongside them, helping to raise money so that they can continue to offer their support.

Of course, we would not have been able to raise this money without the generous people of Wiltshire who watched us playing in Devizes marketplace and, later, came to the joint concert we put on with Strings Incognito. Whilst the combination of a brass band and a string group is not something you see often, it was great to listen to a different type of ensemble and to play alongside them.

We also hosted a workshop, inviting members of the public to play with us as we tried out some new music. This was an excellent opportunity to meet other players – many of whom do not usually play brass instruments – and benefit from the wisdom of other conductors. Whilst somewhat tiring, as we played for much longer than most of us are used to, it was also thoroughly enjoyable.

For our last night in Wiltshire, we enjoyed a ceilidh. It seemed a fitting end to the tour as it reflected the fun that we’d had and, as we all took to the dancefloor, the new friendships we’d made.

This brilliant experience could not have taken place without the support of Craig Brown, our conductor, Richard Wilton, conductor of Shepherd Senior and Academy bands (and honorary youth for the weekend), Bronwyn Tuffen and Mandy Mosses – all of whom gave up their time to accompany us on the tour.

(by Charlotte Forman)