An American in Wingates | Josh Fleming on His UK Banding Experience
Over the last year, we have had the privilege of having American euphonium musician and Masters student, Joshua Fleming in our ranks, whilst he has been studying at the RNCM. Originally starting on solo baritone at Wingates in May 2022, before making the move to euphonium, Josh has been an invaluable asset to our team. Sadly, all good things must come to an end and, as Josh has now completed his studies, he will be moving back to the US this month. We thought it would be a great opportunity to sit down with Josh and explore his experiences playing and studying music in the UK and experiencing the brass band scene across the pond.
Josh grew up in the town of Olney, Maryland and studied at Shenandoah Conservatory within Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia from 2013-2017, earning his Bachelors of Music in Music education with a performance certificate in euphonium. After completing his degree in 2017, he became a music teacher at Forest Oak Middle School in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Here, he taught wind band, jazz band, orchestra and piano for three years.
Similar to his teaching career, his playing career has spanned multiple ensembles.. From 2017-2020 he held the Solo Baritone seat with Rockville Brass Band and had also deputised for Atlantic Brass Band in Glassboro, New Jersey. Alongside his performances in brass bands, Josh has also played trombone for musical pit orchestras across the Maryland and DC areas for:
- The Free Theatre
- Rockville Theatre
- Frederick Towne Players
- Other Voices Theatre
- Kensington Arts Theatre.
From Maryland to Manchester
From a young age, Josh was interested in checking out the world of UK brass banding. Speaking on how he made the decision to travel to the UK to study music, he said:
“I have always trusted my “gut” when making life decisions and, since I was 15, I knew at some point in my life I wanted to travel to the North of England to experience the brass band culture.”
Throughout his playing career, Josh has studied under many exceptional teachers and has been positively influenced by many inspirational players over the years. However, when choosing the next step, it was the desire to further his skills under the guidance of a euphonium specialist. In his words:
“Having the opportunity to study under two individuals who have achieved exceptional and fulfilling careers on the euphonium was an opportunity I could not pass up.”
Josh successfully completed his Masters of Music in Euphonium Performance under the guidance of renowned euphonium virtuosos, Steven Mead and Dr. David Thornton.
Exploring British Brass Banding
Whilst studying at the RNCM, Josh was informed of our vacancy for the position of Solo Baritone in May 2022. Having previously played in 2nd and 1st section bands during his career, he decided that it was a good time to take up an opportunity within a Championship section band.
After successfully gaining the Solo Baritone seat at Wingates, Josh moved on to the Solo Euphonium seat in the new year, with his first contest appearance at the Grand Shield contest and a solo spot in our first 150th concert, performing Bert Appermont’s “The Green Hill”. Speaking on his time with the band, Josh said:
“Wingates is an incredibly welcoming band; one that, as long as the musical expectations are being met, is a joy to be at every rehearsal, no matter how I was feeling that day. Being able to sit in both the Solo Baritone and Solo Euphonium seats and experiencing the expectations that come from both those seats within a Championship band, is an education I couldn’t receive anywhere else.”
As the exploration of UK banding was a contributing factor to Josh’s decision to study in the UK, we wanted to know what key differences he found between the British and American brass band communities. Josh highlighted the main difference is the longer history and pedigree of the British bands in comparison to American brass bands. He highlighted that although there are around the same number of brass bands in the US as there are in the UK, they are spread out across a much larger country.
“For American bands, it’s still a growing and expanding culture, one that I fully intend on having a say in its growth, especially with youth bands and giving young brass musicians the opportunities that I was unable to have growing up.”
Reflections and Future Goals
There have been many highlights for Josh during his time in the UK. His first highlight was the completion of his Master’s recital, where his programme included:
- John Golland’s Euphonium Concerto No. 2
- The premiere of ‘Where Lies the Key’ which was a commission from Josh, based on his own poetry and written by Andy Herring.
- Arthur Pryor’s ‘Blue Bells of Scotland’, performed on baritone.
His next highlight was performing in his first contest as the Solo Euphonium of the Wingates Band at this year’s British Open Grand Shield contest at the Blackpool Winter Gardens, where he contributed to the band’s respectable 10th position. Finally, Josh highlighted his appreciation for having the opportunity to study with other talented musicians within his classes at the RNCM. Reflecting on his time spent at the conservatoire, Josh said:
“It was a highlight being able to share a studio with 21 other phenomenal euphonium players at the RNCM and being able to witness their growth and blossoming careers, I cannot wait to see where their musical careers take them.”
When asked if he could describe a favourite memory from his time with the band, Josh said he found it hard to pick out a standalone memory due to his entire experience being ‘incredibly special and meaningful’ to him. He especially appreciated the welcome and support he received from his bandmates during his time in the band.
Looking to the future, Josh has set his sights on returning to teaching music across middle or high schools across the DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia). From a playing perspective, he is looking to get involved with a band within his local area who are open to him guiding them, musically, to meet the standards of the bands in the UK and to create and direct youth bands. Outside of music, Josh is looking to further his literary career by publishing his poetry and the stories that he is in the process of writing. He is also looking to spend more time in the forests of the Appalachian Mountains. It sounds like a bright, busy and fulfilling future and we look forward to seeing and supporting Josh’s success.
Before Josh makes his journey back across the Atlantic ocean, he has one more engagement with the band – our concert at St George’s Church, Tyldesley. When asked what he was most looking forward to at his last concert with Wingates Band, Josh said:
“Making beautiful music and having fun in my last concert with the band for the foreseeable future.”
Although we are sad that this will be Josh’s last performance with us, we’re looking forward to sharing the stage with him one last time and we hope to see you there. You can find ticket information on our events page!
As Josh departs the band, we will be looking for a suitable candidate who shares the same musical talent, commitment to progression and, of course, passion for brass band music as him.. Wondering if this is the opportunity for you? We asked Josh what he would say to anyone thinking of auditioning for Wingates Band:
“Do it! The band is in the midst of an evolution and being able to be a part of something that is actively growing and changing for the better is special.”
Interested? Please email email@example.com in confidence.
It’s Not Goodbye – It’s See You Later
As the curtain closes on this chapter of Josh’s musical career, all of us at Wingates Band would like to wish him the best of luck and express our deep appreciation for the time he has committed to the band, the enthusiasm he brought to each and every rehearsal and his endless repertoire of pirate jokes. Summing up his time with the band, Josh said:
“Joining this band at a time when I was questioning my ability to pursue performing as part of my artistic career, was the best decision I’ve ever made. Giving me the venue to escape the stressors of life and play music that challenged me and brought me joy is immeasurable. I look forward to being amongst those light blue jackets as soon as I can.”
All that’s left to say is, Josh – all of us at Wingates Band will be ready to welcome you back in the bandroom, whenever you set foot on British soil again.
Catch Josh and the rest of the Wingates Band at our concert in Tyldesley this Sunday 18th June – see HERE for tickets.