Josie Gradwell – Life With The Bass Trombone


I began learning the trombone at school.  I won a music competition, age 11, and got to choose from a new set of instruments that the school had just acquired.  The trombone was the biggest and most impressive on offer and so I took it! Memories of heaving the instrument on and off crowded school buses – perhaps I should have chosen the flute after all?  But no, I liked the mellow tone of the lower brass instruments and stuck with it. Cue a good few years of various school orchestras and bands and then after school…nothing. Life took over and my days as a trombonist were over.

…or so I thought.  Many years later when my son was learning to play the trumpet at school I began to feel nostalgic.   A friend at work has played violin in orchestras for many years and said I should look to join a band.  I searched for one in north London but nearly all of them were looking for competent grade 5s or above to join – well out of my league.

Then on a local website I saw a promotion for London Metropolitan Brass – new learners or those wishing to brush off their rusty skills need apply.  Perfect. I plucked up courage to join a rehearsal.


There was another bass trombone player who was a great help. I started off tentatively playing the first note of each bar and gradually got more confident until I was playing all the notes, and mostly in the right order.

I was thrown in at the deep end – after one week of rehearsal I had a concert, after two weeks I was marching to save Barnet Libraries. I’d never marched before! “The trombones march in front, you know that don’t you?” “Yeah, right – oh you’re not joking”.


There was no pressure to do any of this but it was fun and I got through it.

So here I am now, bass trombone for the Community Band and the carolling season is upon us again.  I always look forward to mixing with members of the Senior & Beginner bands, handing out sleigh bells for the toddlers to shake while we play Jingle Bells (no. 100 in the carolling book!!) for the 10th time, wearing silly hats and shaking buckets to raise money for the charities, and the band generally getting into the Christmas spirit.  After all nothing sums up Christmas like a brass band playing Silent Night as the snow gently falls and the skies turn dark. So if you see us, say hello.

If you have the slightest inkling that you would like to be part of something special then I really would encourage you to get in touch.


Every rehearsal is like an oasis (not necessarily of calm!).  There is a lot of noise, obviously, but the concentration as we pick our way through new pieces and the feeling of satisfaction when it starts to come together is quite zen.  I am so glad to be part of it.

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