Nyeve MacKenzie Interview: Playing Solo Euphonium with Parramatta City Brass Band, Rebounding from 2017 Nationals and Moving Forward
I had a chance to speak to Nyeve MacKenzie, Solo Euphonium player from current NSW B Grade State Champions, Parramatta City Brass. We discussed how Parramatta City Brass Band rebounded from their 2017 Nationals result to their first State B Grade Championship victory under Jonathon Gatt, as well as how the band is preparing for the 2018 Nationals in Melbourne.
Jared: When did you start learning brass?
Nyeve: I started playing the baritone horn at the age of 7, my older brother had just taken up the trombone at school, and my mum encouraged me to do the same. I was dancing at the time and mum thought it would be helpful to learn and understand music to help me dance. Knowing how music notation and rhythms works really helps when you're dancing, especially in disciplined areas like ballet. Most dancers have really odd ways of trying to dance to and interpret music (for example, dancers count everything in eights despite the time signature of the music). Playing with the band and learning an instrument made it much easier for me to keep to the correct rhythm of the music and to actually be a part of the music rather than just performing a series of steps with music in the background.
I stayed on baritone until the Parramatta junior band needed me on euphonium, and then I was asked about 4 years ago to play with the senior band. From there I played 2nd baritone for a while, alternating between 1st and 2nd baritone and when a spot became available on euphonium, Jonathan and a few other members of the band encouraged me to take it. I've only been on euphonium for the last year but it's been a great experience so far.
What do you most enjoy about playing Solo Euphonium within a B Grade ensemble?
What I find most enjoyable about playing Solo Euphonium is the constant challenge it gives me. Euphonium music in brass bands is really, really difficult and you really have to work at it and break it down to get it right. It really pushes you to just keep at the music and to improve to ensure it is right. There are times where you sit there and think "I'm hopeless" but when you get it, it's the best feeling. Playing Solo Euphonium has made me want to pick my instrument up at every opportunity and improve.
What makes community banding so special to you?
I think what makes community banding so special to me is how close everyone in the band is. We spend so much time together, rehearsing and performing as a band that we are like one big family, and we all bond over a common love for music. We aren't the most serious of people; in rehearsal, we are constantly laughing and joking about things and making fun of each other, but this allows us to have fun while enjoying what we do as musicians.
The band take part in as many community activities as possible. Just recently we celebrated our win at states with a band dinner, but after most competitions, we go out and have dinner together, even if we don't win or do so well. Every month the band does a play-out in Parramatta Mall to play music for the public and we play at school fetes, Christmas carols and any other local events. For non-performing fundraisers, we usually hold a trivia or bingo night or a wine and cheese night, which I think is a great way for the band to earn a bit of money and for the members of all ages to have fun.
What is it like to play under the baton of Jonathan Gatt, who has now conducted the band for nearly 14 years?
Jonathan has been a great conductor. The amount of time and effort he has put into the band over the last 14 years is exceptional, with planning extra rehearsals for competitions and preparing the band for upcoming performances. He really has given his time to see Parramatta do well. He has also given people like me the opportunity to play in a higher grade band by challenging and encouraging us all the time.
Parramatta placed 13th at the 2017 Nationals in a very competitive B Grade section. How did Jonathon and the band deal with the result?
The band was quite shocked and disappointed with the marks at nationals. Having put the amount of time and effort we had for rehearsals and sectionals for 6 months leading up to the Nationals, everyone felt it didn't reflect the band, and we had expressed that the band can and had played so much better. Jonathan was equally devastated, having done all of the hard work to get us to Nationals in the first place, he felt as if it hadn't paid off.
After coming back home from the Nationals feeling defeated, the band collectively decided to not let the disappointing marks get us down and stop us from creating music. We had worked on some concert repertoire for a few weeks, which I think gave everyone the opportunity to play some easier and more enjoyable pieces of music, and reminded us that playing in a band isn't always about competing. When it was time to start working on the State championship repertoire, Jonathan and the rest of the band members were determined to perform and compete well, wanting to have something further to work for. This is the only thing that really changed within the band; we had all become more determined to do well. Jonathan was also feeling pretty confident, with the band placing 2nd for the last couple of years at states, and he was sure the band would be the champions this year.
How did the band respond to their first ever B Grade NSW State Championship title? What is the band's mentality going forward?
I was on my way to Canberra when I heard the news and I was absolutely thrilled. The rest of the band were absolutely ecstatic with the win as well. It was comforting to know that the effort we had put in had finally paid off. Even if we had disappointed at Nationals, we had picked ourselves up and won States. We also had a great band dinner the week after the win to celebrate together. If we have learned one thing from this year, it's that even if you work hard at something and you don't do so well, if you keep at it, the results will eventually come.
Next year, the Nationals will be held in Melbourne in what should be another extremely close B Grade section. How will Parramatta approach the competition?
For nationals next year, Jonathan has already started planning extra rehearsals and sectionals. B grade is quite a tough section, and our approach as a band is to stay committed to really learning and understanding our parts, but to perform well too. Our ultimate goal would to become National B Grade Champions, but we are committed to performing well and feeling accomplished with a strong performance.
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Jared loves to share his passion for music and artists through music reviews and commentaries. These include a selection of reviews written for community radio stations 3MBS and Radio Monash.