Dunbartonshire Concert Band highlight the impact of leisure-time music

Scottish member group Dunbartonshire Concert Band (DCB) were delighted to be chosen as guest editors for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, where they spoke about the impact of music on cognitive functions, learning to play music at a later age and the need for quality music education. 

From a pool of over 1,000 applicants, the Dunbartonshire Concert Band were selected to guest edit Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday 19 August, which attracts over 5.8 million weekly listeners. The guest editors from Dunbartonshire Concert Band were Alan Cooper, Andrew McDonald, Anne Dunbar and Moyra Hawthorn.  Celebrating its 50th anniversary, DCB was founded in 1973 by Glyn Brag and Geoff Haydock, two BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra musicians, with the vision of providing more opportunities for leisure-time music makers in the Dunbartonshire area.

DCB highlights the importance of playing music within a group, emphasising the mental health benefits and the rewarding social benefits that comes with being part of a band ‘family’. 

Alan, Andrew, Anne and Moyra brought their unique perspectives and experience to the forefront, curating a programme that covered a diverse range of important issues for leisure-time music groups as well as featuring recorded rehearsals from the group. Topics included the benefits of playing a musical instrument, even for those starting later in life or getting back into playing – editor Alan took up the oboe in his forties as the DCB welcomes players of all levels and skills. DCB highlights the importance of playing music within a group, emphasising the mental health benefits and the rewarding social benefits that comes with being part of a band ‘family’. 

The programme featured an interview with Professor Katie Overy from the University of Edinburgh who spoke about their recent research findings indicating a positive relationship between learning to play musical instruments and healthy ageing. They also interviewed neuro-musicologist Anita Collins on the benefits of making music to improve cognitive functions and healthy ageing, dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

Guest editors and DCB members Andrew and Alan on air with presenters

The group investigated the state of music education in schools and the value of music learning for young people, and violinist and music education campaigner Nicola Benedetti made a passionate argument for well resourced, good quality, general music education. The DCB also spoke about taking on the management of the Kessington Hall, a local authority owned building now being run by volunteers as a community arts space as well as the band’s rehearsal studio. 

Alison Reeves, Deputy CEO and Scotland Manager, followed up this conversation on Monday’s Today programme, highlighting the challenges of accessing spaces for rehearsing and venues for performing with pressures on this infrastructure from local authority budget restrictions and the closure of church halls.

Reflecting on this extraordinary opportunity, the Dunbartonshire Concert Band expressed:

‘It was a surreal but exhilarating experience for us. Delighted by all the content, with a particularly powerful interview from Nicola Benedetti. The sections on learning to play an instrument at a later age and its effects on cognitive development have resonated with many listeners.’

Barbara Eifler of Making Music says: 

‘We’re delighted that Dunbartonshire Concert Band have been given this opportunity to shine a light on leisure-time music making. Ours is a sector often invisible to policy makers and arts funders as it is self-organised and self-funds its activities. But the impact and significance of leisure-time music are enormous – both in the numbers of people it reaches and the benefits it brings to individuals and communities.’

Listen to DCB’s broadcast through BBC Sounds and Alison Reeves’ segment at the 1 hour 24 minute mark through BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme website. The programme is available to listen to for one month from August 19.

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