A deep dive into the history of one of Ballarat's longest running bands shows the 'fundamental human need' to make and experience music together has not changed throughout the last 100 years.
The Ballarat Memorial Concert Band is preparing to launch an e-book on its history and the significance of the band to Ballarat during an online event next week.
It will be a celebration of 100 years of making music and the creation of an inclusive and valued community.
Ballarat Memorial Concert Band member and former president Bec Paton said the history of the band reflected the history of Ballarat itself and changes to life and culture throughout the past century.
The Ballarat Memorial Concert Band began in the 1920s as the Ballarat Soldiers' Band comprised of men who had returned from service.
"Just as Ballarat was reeling after the war, we had lost so many people, the band started with a group of traumatised men trying to find a way back to normality," Ms Paton said.
"They had that bit of military involved, a lot of the bandsman had served in the army and the musical directors were army men, so there was that regimentality to it. I guess that was comforting in a way.
"Over time just as Ballarat has changed, the band has changed. Slowly things happened like women started getting into the band, the instrumentation and the music changed a lot over the years and the types of competitions they did changed because it reflected the culture of the time."
The Ballarat Memorial Concert Band secured a Public Records Office of Victoria grant to compile the history and create the book.
Author George Williams said the book captured the contents of valuable materials that were sitting in boxes under the band stage floor in Wilkinson Hall and the stories of past members that reveal how much it meant for people to be a part of the band community.
"For most people being a part of the band created a sense of belonging," she said.
"It was something men did and boys got into and they were mentored by the men. That was initially a really strong connection those male members had.
"I was talking to people in their 80s saying they would play and go for pies together down at the pie cart. It was more than just playing, it was a really intrinsic social bond that was being built.
"I was able to hear from the first woman to be in a Ballarat brass band and what that experience was like for her... to understand what it might feel to walk into a male dominated culture as a teenager, to make it your own and to build the sense of belonging that had never been there for many."
Women players were welcomed into the band in the 1970s and in the 1980s the instrumentation changed from an all-brass to concert band.
Ms Williams said another other stories that stood out to her were of band members who would tutor children in music for free.
"They would grab anyone they could and start teaching them," she said.
"They would run proper lessons and put a lot of energy in just to have new players come into the band and to transfer that joy of music and transfer those skills.
"I think that is a really interesting thing that happens with music, that people love it so much they just want to share it and they want other people to be able to join them in playing."
The book documents the importance of brass banding in Ballarat - Ms Williams compared the obsession to what exists now for the AFL.
"People used to have half a day off from work and school just to go and see the bands play in Ballarat," she said.
"Ballarat was the mecca for brass banding in Australia. They would be playing on every balcony.. and thousands would pack City Oval to watch the bands play."
Ballarat Memorial Concert Band president Tony Rowlands said the band played at most major events in Ballarat's history, including the laying of the foundation stone for the Arch of Victory, the opening of Civic Hall and more recently at events like Heritage Weekend.
Ms Paton said the band remained a strong community group that provided social support to people from a diverse range of backgrounds and interests.
"It still provides social inclusion and all the positive mental health and community benefits that come with that," she said.
"It gave that to those people who formed it right at the start, but does it in such a different way now for such an amazingly diverse group of people that reflect the amazingly diverse community Ballarat is now.
"The band is pretty special. It has made a lot of people feel really included and happy over the years and it is pretty cool that hopefully it will continue to do so for many years to come."
Ms Williams said COVID-19 had shown making sound was important for people in times of crisis and loss - she pointed to examples like the 'clap for carers' in the UK and residents singing from their balconies in Italy.
"It is a necessity to be able to make that sound together, to be heard, to support each other, to commemorate and bring hope and joy,"she said.
"I think you can really see it this year, people want to connect through music and it makes people feel everything is going to be okay if they can still do that together."
Mr Rowlands said he was looking forward to when the band could return to weekly rehearsals when restrictions allow and hopefully hosting a concert to celebrate the centenary later in the year.
In the meantime, people are encouraged to join the Ballarat Memorial Concert Band Centenery E-Book online launch event on Sunday May 31 at 4pm.
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