Barbara: Playing Musical Chairs

We were delighted to welcome the wonderful Barbara Eifler, CEO of Making Music, to Musical Chairs in 2018. We caught up with Barbara to find out more about her experience, and whether she’s still playing the trumpet… Click here to out more about Musical Chairs and sign up today!

I had a ball, and saw first hand why and how NOFA is fantastic and vital for the young people involved.
— Barbara

In 2017, I signed up to fundraising challenge Musical Chairs, to culminate in a workshop with a well-known conductor and young people from the National Orchestra for All (NOFA).

In return for raising £300 for NOFA, Musical Chairs offered the opportunity to start on a new instrument… and I’d always wanted to learn one you could play in a group (unlike the piano of my childhood).

Then I had to decide: what instrument? Of those in our house, the flute would be too problematic for my right shoulder, and the bagpipes were not an ensemble instrument. Then my eyes fell on the trumpet, abandoned since the arrival of son’s braces. Trumpet it was.

Musical Chairs organisers sent me the easiest trumpet part and lots of encouraging emails, but life before Christmas was busy, so the instrument didn’t get picked up until 1 January.

The workshop was happening on 24 February. Panic set in.

My first teacher was the trumpet-abandoning son and he succeeded in teaching me the right embouchure and to produce some noise. Then I had a couple of sessions with a trumpet-playing friend. Someone from the local wind orchestra also gave helpful input.

Only seven weeks from picking up the trumpet to the big day, though. I was terrified.

Actually, it was amazing. The young people sitting around me were a mixture of surprised and proud that they were asked by an adult for tips and instructions. And of course there were others there on the day struggling like me. Nobody tut-tutted about my playing or inability to keep up.

I had a ball, and saw first hand why and how NOFA is fantastic and vital for the young people involved.

The day after, I landed in reality with a thud. Where could I possibly go from here with my minimal trumpet skills? My friend, realising my distress, claimed confidently that as I could now play a scale, I could join the brass (training) band.

I was thrilled – I love the sound of a brass band and always wanted to be part of one! But was he right? I went along to a rehearsal and he had of course been too kind; I just about managed one in ten notes.

But the band was really nice, I practised like mad at home (‘mum, do you have to’), and by week 3 I was given a (softer-toned) band cornet, so I wouldn’t blast the poor front row’s and conductor’s ears with trumpet-volume wrong notes from the back row.

I had enjoyed my first rehearsal enough to persist. And by May was playing in a gig! Well, playing some of the notes needed in the gig (relax: there were two other 3rd cornets).

18 months later, I’m still in the Crystal Palace Progress Band, and loving it. It would never have happened without Musical Chairs – so sign up now and try something new!

Follow in Barbara’s footsteps and sign up to Musical Chairs today!