Thanks to TROVE’s wonderful project to digitise local newspapers Oakleigh Brass has discovered that it is older than it knew.
In the mid 1980’s, Norm Best, then Secretary of the band, performed extensive research, and discovered that Oakleigh and District Brass Band was rehearsing in 1910. Norm carefully documented his findings in a book “A history of Oakleigh City Band : old bandsmen never die – they just blow away”, available at the Victorian State Library (and from the band).
Casual searching on TROVE lead us to an earlier news article, asking for support to start a band in 1892. This report is supported by further news articles, such as in February 1918, when the Oakleigh District Brass Band celebrated 25 years of as a “Valuable Local Institution”, with the band reporting performances 25 years earlier of the “most efficient band”. We do wonder what makes a band “most efficient”?
Oakleigh Brass Band of 1918 was sufficiently well regarded to publish their Annual Meeting minutes in the local newspaper – the Social Media of its day. We discovered that August 1917 to July 1918 – the band’s income was a mighty £713, with movie tickets at 6 pence for comparison, that amount represents a huge effort by the band. The money was all invested back into the band purchasing instruments and music.
A Brass Band is often thought of as a very traditional group, perhaps with a military flavour. The first Oakleigh band in 1892 was all male, playing at civil ceremonies, race meetings, concerts and charity fund raisers.
Since 1892 bands have come and gone, with the present band forming around 1970 when the Victorian Railways Institute Band moved to Oakleigh. Regardless of the actual name, brass players have continued to be heard.
Although the “male only” band tradition faded away many years ago, we still have values that would be familiar to the early bandsmen:
- Welcoming people of all ages,
- Looking firmly into the future, with an eye on our long history, and
- Finding the most enjoyable music for us to play.