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Canberra Today 19°/30° | Friday, December 3, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Thanks to Barbara and Don, the band’s all here

Members of Queanbeyan Junior Brass… musicians range in age from about seven to 14 and attend schools in Queanbeyan and Canberra. Photo: Belinda Strahorn.

A QUEANBEYAN band that formed on the cusp of covid is now reaping the benefits of a donation that helped equip them 12 months ago.

Through the generosity of the Kirk Family Foundation, the Queanbeyan Junior Brass Inc. band was supplied with a full suite of musical instruments it needed to start performing.

The foundation, started by Queanbeyan couple Don and Barbara Kirk, donated $11,000 for the band to buy 24 brass instruments including cornets, tenor horns, baritones, euphoniums, trombones, and tubas.

“We wanted to give the band a kick start,” Don said.

“What they were asking for fell within the foundation’s selection criteria and it felt good being able to support them,” Don said.

Don left St Edmund’s College in Canberra when he was 14 and went on to build a successful career as a fuel distributor, cattle breeder and developer.

In 2007, the Kirks donated $1 million of their own money to start the foundation. To date they have distributed more than $500,000 to children from hard-up backgrounds and the organisations that support them throughout the Queanbeyan, Palerang and Yass regions.

“Barbara and I had done well in life, we had more than enough for ourselves, and we wanted to help those who were less fortunate, particularly kids,” Don said.

“There’s a lot of kids that fall through the cracks… it’s heartbreaking to see the need out there in the community.”

Former symphony musician John Thompson, who lives in Bungendore, noticed a gap in the musical education of young people in the region and decided to champion the establishment of a brass band in Queanbeyan, albeit on the cusp of covid.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have enough music in schools,” John said.

“It’s a well-known thing that kids who learn music will do better at school, will develop better social skills, and most will go on to be leaders in their community.”

From left, back row, Barbara and Don Kirk, Trudi Kirk, Paula and John Thompson. Front Ruby Holden and Will Smith. Photo: Belinda Strahorn.

After much perseverance and hard work, John and wife Paula, acquired a church hall in Queanbeyan for the band to rehearse in, and the Kirk Foundation donation is the realisation of their vision to give young people the chance to learn a brass instrument.

“Queanbeyan didn’t have a community band,” John said.

“Music is a lifelong thing, if you are lucky enough to do music at school or join a community band then you can play for the rest of your life.”

The ex-St Edmund’s College music teacher said the band had to wait for their instruments to be shipped from China.

Having taken possession of them, sometime later, the pandemic hit and with it brought band practise to a halt.

Only now, with the worst of the pandemic behind them, can the members start rehearsing and realising their musical dreams.

“It’s great to have the band together and practising again,” John said.

“The musicians range in age from about seven to 14 and attend various schools in Queanbeyan and Canberra.”

One of the band members, hoping for a bright musical future, is 13-year-old Ruby Holden, from Queanbeyan.

Ruby, who attends Daramalan College, is learning the tuba but she really wants to be a country music singer with a guitar slung over her shoulder.

“This is my first time in a band and my first time learning a brass instrument… I’m really loving it,” Ruby said.

“When I grow up, I want to be a country music artist, but for now, being in the band is helping my music skills and it’s nice to be a part of a team.”

The best thing about the band is that it’s giving youngsters with an interest in music a chance to develop further skills, and for some members, it’s an opportunity to learn an entirely different instrument.

Will Smith, for instance, started learning the violin but has now moved to mastering the trombone.

“A trombone is an expensive instrument, so having it donated was a really nice thing for them [the Kirk family] to do,” Will said.

For the 11-year-old St Gregory’s Primary School student, music is more than a hobby – it’s a passion.

“I love it,” he said.

“Music helps me stay focused and calm and it’s my first time in a band so I’m meeting new people, and I’m learning from others who play the trombone.

“My favourite band pieces so far are ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and ‘Advance Australia Fair’.”

Interested musicians wishing to join Queanbeyan Junior Brass Inc. should email qjbrass@outlook.com

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Belinda Strahorn

Belinda Strahorn

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