Behind the Lyre: Olivia Wild and the NCBF (Part 2)

On 13th November, we had the opportunity to speak with Olivia Wild from Windology Music. In this interview, Liv discusses her role as trustee for the National Concert Band Festival (NCBF).

The third and final part of this blog will be posted on 18th December. Make sure to keep an eye on the BBICO News Page!

Now, I know you’ve got another project on the go now that you’ve moved out of London. Before we speak about that, I wanted to discuss your involvement with the National Concert Band Festival (NCBF)!

Yes, so I’m a trustee for the National Concert Band Festival (NCBF), which I was very privileged to be invited to be. I’m very proud of it. After spending all of my childhood performing at the NCBF festival with the Abraham Darby Show Band and Jazz Band, it was like a dream come true to be asked to be a trustee. It’s such an honour to be involved in the wind band scene, and feels such a geeky thing for me to say, that I’ve always wanted to be involved in wind bands…but for them to ask me to be involved is fantastic. I feel very strongly about having a platform for wind and jazz bands to flourish so to be able to be that geek and have a strong sort of input – it’s really important to me.

Do you have any highlights from participating in the NCBF yourself?

In 2006 The Abraham Darby Showband were playing Hymn of The Highlands by Philip Sparke for the NCBF National Festival in Glasgow. The 2nd Movement is a Sax Trio feature and Philip Sparke happened to be in the audience. He requested to see the Abraham Darby Saxophone Section afterwards to congratulate us on a fantastic performance (I was 16 at the time). The Baritone Sax player grilled him over why he wrote the Bari line playing Cabassa… he didn’t know what to say…

The Abraham Darby Showband in 2007 (photograph property of Olivia Wild)
The Abraham Darby Showband in 2007 (photograph property of Olivia Wild)

Having been to the NCBF myself, it’s such a fantastic opportunity for people to perform, but also to be inspired by other groups performing too…

A really strong message from the NCBF is that we’re not a competition, we’re a festival. Each band receives an award for their performance, which is categorised as Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. It’s very much based on their own performance. It is such a good way of looking at it, rather than comparing yourself against another band. You’re working on your own set of critique that has been given to you by the adjudicators who are all very highly skilled. To play and have that feedback without the pressure of the competition element is really important, meaning the bands can then work on their areas of improvement but also celebrate what they have excelled at.

In the regional festival, I think we have on average of about 120 bands, which equates to about 5,000 players, ranging from the age of 8 to 80, which is fantastic. To have bands represented from schools through to community level is fantastic. By the time we get to the national event, we have 2,400 participants that have been through the regionals, playing at a national level. The Nationals have been held at many great locations across the UK including the Sage Gateshead, The Royal Conservatoire in Scotland, and more recently at the Royal Northern College of Music and Drama, which is a brilliant, as it means there is such performance variety.

Obviously, this year being what it is, the nationals didn’t happen. We’re hoping to be there back again in April. In the meantime, we’re smaller groups from within bands to submit a recording of ensembles playing in their garden. It’s difficult for all if you’re not rehearsing as a band. So we’re trying to support that the best we can.

A Movement for Rosa – Mark Camphouse – One of Liv’s favourite wind band pieces

It must be so important to encourage wind bands, and support them in navigating and overcoming restrictions at the moment…

I feel really lucky because I’ve been playing since the end of the first lockdown. Because of the military aspect, we are still allowed to train under controlled conditions. But from a non-military perspective, it’s so difficult for those people who aren’t able to rehearse. I’m really hoping that that can change, and we can see people get back into the band room and do what they love.

You’re right, the social side of wind band playing is such an integral part. Of course, there are also massive mental health benefits…

Precisely. In the first rehearsal back after the first lockdown for the HAC band, the Director of Music said; “We’ll play the HAC Regimental March just to blow the cobwebs away”. By the end of it, I had tears in my eyes. It’s ridiculous, but…

Not at all! I’m certain that most other people will be having the same reaction when they finally get to play again.

This is why it’s important to encourage people to keep playing, whatever. We’ve seen all of the virtual band recordings, which are keeping everyone together, and keeping everyone going until we can be a bit more normal again.

Performance from the NCBF (photograph property of Olivia Wild)
Performance from the NCBF (photograph property of Olivia Wild)

What do you do as part of your role as a Trustee for the NCBF?

My initial introduction was to NCBF was through being invited to build a new website for them. (Another string to my bow) I look after the digital side of it… the website, social media, that sort of thing but have an input on all aspects of the festival. Everything from the format of the festival, to where we can find new players, to finding new ways to select repertoire, to make sure it’s varied. We have a very strong emphasis on British composers so that British music is played within the festival, and not overlooked.

And the Multitude with One Voice Spoke – James L. Hosey – One of Liv’s favourite wind band pieces

Speaking of repertoire, do you have any favourite wind band pieces or military band pieces, Liv?

I do. Should I send you a list…because we could be here forever…

Great idea! I’ll scatter your top favourites throughout the article, then leave a list of your others favourites at the bottom!

Please click on each piece to listen to Olivia Wild’s favourite wind band pieces:

Dance Movement – Sparke – One of Liv’s favourite wind band pieces

…this blog will be continued on 18th December – keep an eye on the BBICO News Page!

Get Involved in ‘Behind the Lyre’

Would you be interested in sharing some of your experience working within or with a military or marching band? If so, we would love the opportunity to speak with you.

We’re looking for people from all countries, of all ages and abilities, who play all sorts of instruments! We’re also looking for those who are a little further behind the lyre. This includes educators, directors, agents responsible for sourcing musical instruments, the instrument manufacturers themselves, and many more. We would love to share your important role in military and marching music with the rest of our community.

To find out more, or to schedule an interview, please email

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