Above: Baby Bruce in the foreground with sister Carolyn behind.
Above: Bruce's dad Colin playing his part on sousaphone during an eighties footy extravaganza!
Above: Young Bruce during his Unley Salvation Army days.
Above: Bruce the teenage cricketer.
Above: Bruce on the footy field
Above: Bruce ready to march during his Kensington and Norwood Heyday!
Above: Bruce flanked by award recipients Ken McMahon and Ron Arthur during a gathering in the 2000's.
Above: The Trinity College Band in 2017 at Launceston. Seventy one year old Bruce at the helm!
Above: Bruce and Professor Nick Childs in the UK - Tanunda Town Band Tour
Above: Bruce with Deputy Bandmaster of Black Dyke Band
Above: Bruce conducting Tanunda Town Band in the UK
“Another brilliant one-handed pick up in the mud by Raymond”.
The commentator went on to say that Raymond had already performed this feat several times that day and had inspired his team mates. That was at about the 8 minute mark of the final quarter of the 1970 Grand Final at Adelaide Oval where Sturt Football Club were in the process of winning their fifth successive premiership flag.
The 24 year old wingman put some wind in everyone’s sails that day.
The fact of the matter is that Bruce Raymond always seems to have wind in his sails. I think he might just be the most optimistic person I have ever met, his GPS is always pointing forward, His polarity, at least in the public arena, is permanently positive. His significant achievements have come as a result of using his considerable talent and making an unrelenting effort to reach for the sky in both his fields of endeavour, music and sport.
Before we move on to Bruce’s musical life, here’s what Sturt Football Club legend John Halbert MBE had to say about Bruce the sportsman;
“I first came in contact with Bruce when I began my teaching career at Unley High School in 1959 and he began year 8 at the school. I taught him in that first year, and was his coach in both football and cricket. That contact continued through the next 5 years mainly because of his involvement in teams of both cricket and football that I coached. For me, and all of his team mates, he was Dizzy Raymond—a name that he had acquired well before he arrived at the school.
After I had moved in teaching from Unley High to Adelaide Teachers College, our association and friendship continued because of our involvement in both football and cricket with the Sturt Clubs. His ability that he had shown at school in both sports was on display as he quickly reached A grade level. He began his career in League Football in 1964 playing 70 games until 1972. In cricket his forte was as a medium/fast bowler with the ability to swing the ball.
Our association through all the years has been one of friendship, and of my recognition of a man of many talents”.
Bruce the muso is best known for his leadership role, in particular his two decades plus at the helm of the Kensington and Norwood Band was very productive in terms of contest success and providing high quality entertainment to the public. These days he is continuing in the same bustling style at Tanunda. Obtaining the services of high profile entertainers and brass band luminaries, who are also his friends.
Here’s what his mate James Morrison had to say about him. This is a partial quote from a section of James’ book where he talks about inspirational people.
“I have a mate named Bruce, we’ve had many adventures together, both on and off stage, since a chance meeting over twenty years ago. He grew up playing brass with the Salvos and is one of the few great entrepreneurs of the brass band world.
Here is a guy that defines optimism, who is always in that expansive mood the rest of us experience at the start of a long holiday, only every day is like that for him…….
You might be thinking ‘Okay, so this guy has a sunny disposition and he obviously has a great life.’ Yes, but not because he is lucky. Some of the things he has lived through would try the patience of Job. I have seen him suffer hardships that would grant anyone else the right to be depressed for the rest of their life. He, on the other hand, feels grateful for the chance to live life as it is-and does all this while having compassion for those who don’t seem to be able to do likewise.”
In 2005 during the Nationals in Adelaide Bruce stood at the start of the street march and personally greeted every participating band. At 70 plus years of age he is still the last one to leave a band job after packing up the chairs etc. He has been a grass roots contributor as well as a high flier.
He has a list of banding achievements as long as your arm, the culmination of which came this year with him being awarded an Order of Australia medal for his contribution to banding.
As part of my personal life philosophy I accept that we live in an imperfect world. I am a part of that world and so is Bruce. He has accepted me as a friend warts and all and I am happy to reciprocate. Not everything in Bruce’s life has gone strictly to plan. There has been some collateral damage along the way in terms of relationships, however, his ability to bounce back from life’s hard knocks is one of his most significant character traits. What has remained constant throughout his sometimes bumpy journey is his love for his children and, especially these days, his grandchildren. In fact his relationship with all young people is to be admired.
At the end of day Bruce Raymond is a “doer”, he gets things done and banding needs his energy and imagination to move forward.
Bruce and I recorded our conversation during lunch at Mawson Lakes, I now make it available for you the reader to enjoy.
Geoff Meikle, 2020
Bruce Raymond - Brass Band Profile
Interview Transcript, 5 August 2020
Geoff Meikle; “So we are here at the Mawson Lakes Hotel, Bruce Raymond is with me, we’ve had lunch, we’re having a beer and now we’ll interview him for the South Australian Brass Band Profiles. So, Bruce ….. name and place of birth please?”.
Bruce Raymond; “Bruce John Raymond and I was born in Adelaide”.
GM; “In 1946, I know that already, on April 4th the day after my daddy (Colin Meikle was born on April 3rd 1932!!) and what are mum and dad’s names?”.
BR; “Colin Raymond, Colin Stanley CSR and Hazel Raymond”.
GM; “And instruments please?”.
BR; “Well, I’ve played them all, I started on cornet but went to euphonium because my grandfather was a euphonium player and my dad was a great player, so I had no chance at the start. I went onto the euphonium, played it ‘til I was seventeen then went onto cornet, studied trumpet, I’ve played all the instruments over the years, trombone...different ones whenever it’s needed”.
GM; “So you went from big to small, normally goes the other way doesn’t it, you start on cornet…..”
BR; “Always yeah it does but in my case that’s all I heard around the home, it was always there and I learnt how to undo the case when Dad wasn’t there”.
GM; “I know Eric Molenaar started on cornet and went onto trombone, but he can still play cornet fairly well actually”.
BR; “He can yeah, at Melodienacht a couple of years ago he asked to borrow my little pocket cornet which my great, great grandfather played during the first world war….and he got a note out of it”.
GM; “Who were your first influences and who gave you your first lessons?”.
BR; “My dad was my great influence and my Uncle Bruce, they were both great players. Uncle Bruce (played) tuba, he played for Central Command for years when he came back, but before that Dad and Uncle Bruce were in the Defence Force during the war, they were playing eight hours a day for six years so they became fine players.”
GM; “What bands have you played in?”
BR; “Well I grew up in the Salvation Army, so I had that wonderful background of music, music, music and in particular the Unley Salvation Army Band when I was a kid, wonderful soloists, great players and a bandmaster who ended up retiring after 53 years. Wonderful musicians. I played in the 10 RSAR Band for six years, that was during the time when the marble came out and I missed out on the marble. (GM; ‘So you didn’t get conscripted then’), yeah I skipped that but my dad thought it would be very good discipline for me to be in the military so I did the six years there which was great.”
GM; “Has there been a particular time in your life which has been important in shaping you as a musician?”
BR; “Not really Geoff, I was shaped from a very young age, my mother was what was known as the timbrel leader, with the tambourines etc, she was quite famous as a timbrel leader. Her rhythm was phenomenal, her creative concepts with the timbrels was great, she had a Timbrel Brigade so my job as a five or six year old was to sit there while the marches were being played on the old 78’s…..I had to sing the second cornet part and all the different parts so that she could write all the different rhythms and work them out. So it was sort of something that was part of my life……I don’t remember anything really….it was just a general love and passion (GM; ‘Great bit of ear training for you’), was great ear training, it really was”.
GM; “Contesting, is it worth the effort?”
BR; “Well, that’s debatable isn’t it…..I mean…. if you came back after COVID you wouldn’t want to play in a band championship in eight weeks after you hadn’t played for three months, so in unusual situations no, but as a training point for your band if you’ve got people who are keen to play …. it’s a good thing to prepare for a championship. I think it helps focus and bring the standard up.”
GM; “Yes it’s a touchy point, when I wrote mine I kind of had some strong feelings about it, but not everyone has that, you know most people have said, same as you that it’s a good thing to bring the standard of the band up. Glenn Madden’s view was interesting, he said that you shouldn’t get too carried away with it maybe just give 1st, 2nd,3rd prizes but no points.”
BR; “Yes, exactly and that’s something that we’re actually looking into at the moment Geoff. I put forward a thing like that……not knowing that…the difficulty is that when you’ve got a lot of bands in an Australian culture…we’re not there to compete…we want to win, everyone wants to win, the Aussie has that fight in their tummy, but in actual fact the social side and the fun side of preparation………I never, ever put a test piece out…..eight weeks was unreal, I’d never put it out before that. Certainly with school bands they always achieved because they focussed at that point of time.”
GM; “Okay, what are your preferred styles of music?”
BR; “Another difficult question, because I like a lovely country song (GM ‘Country music tells a story’), it tells a story, it’s a song. I mean I love the classics, as in classical music but I also like the classics as in popular music. Things like some of the Beatles songs, just for example, there’s millions of them…..but those songs are classics, they will last forever and anything that does last is good!”
GM; “So who are your favourite musicians, bands and musical associates? These are people that you’ve listened to or played with, they don’t have to be famous just any one you like.”
BR; “I enjoyed playing with some of my mates in the Salvos, they were terrific blokes, very good players. But they were there for another reason, we all were in the Sallies and it was a fantastic thing to play a beautiful hymn in a Sally band, knowing the words and knowing the emotion behind it. I’ve enjoyed playing with all sorts of people…students, I love playing with my kids. In fact, I’ve learnt more from students than I’ve learnt from anybody. All of a sudden, I see them do something and I say ‘my goodness how did that happen?’ and then I experiment and find that they’re actually onto something. So, loads of people, anyone who loves music I love working with.”
GM; “But you’ve worked with any number of big names, you know…. James Morrison and the Childs Brothers…”
BR; “Tommy Emmanuel … I’ve had all those guys and they’re wonderful people but they’re just down to earth people like us, in fact each of those people that you’ve mentioned, the Childs Brothers all those guys they just love …. they have a passion for music, they don’t know if they’re any good or not, they just play and if you become good that’s a bonus.”
GM; “What would you do differently? Do you have any regrets?”
BR; “No, I don’t think so, people used to say you should have grown up in England and I’d say ‘why would I want to do that’, and they say something about the band culture and I’d say ‘well hang on, I’d rather build one here’. For me I don’t want to go interstate or anywhere, I’ve always wanted to build it here and I think if I did anything differently it would probably be the same! (laughter..)..in a different form.”
GM; “One of the things that I did was to split my focus too much, I enjoyed everything I did but felt that in some ways I was a jack of all trades master of none. Do you ever feel like you’ve spread yourself a bit thin?”
BR; “Umm, I probably have but I wouldn’t know what it was because I tend to live forward all the time. I’ve had lots of experiences in my life which have been fairly tough, death of wives …. especially my first wife four months after we were married, that was tough. But music was part of all that and sport was part of all that and those things…..it’s not actually the music and the sport it’s the people that are part of that Geoff I think. What I find is that I don’t analyse much, I don’t go back I tend to look forward to the next challenge, to the next thing.”
GM; “Well the fact that you’ve taken on the responsibility of leading the Band Association at a difficult time and spearheading our way into the future, when the future looks a bit shaky…at the delicate age of 74!”
BR; “Well I think there’s an answer to that too Geoff, I’ve always said, and I’ve helped a lot of musicians and sports people…lots of people who go through tough times in their life and everyone does. But what I like is when there’s a tough time, that’s what James Morrison said this morning to me….the thing that he’s got from me is that the next move is ‘what do I learn from this problem?’ and what do we learn with this COVID and all the stuff that is going on. What is the creative thing that can come out of it? I can see some incredible things happening at the national band level as a result of this, changes that should have been made forty years ago. Yeah so it’s hard when you look back, I don’t know what I’d change, I’ve just been so lucky to be in music.”
GM; “What effect has banding had on your family life? I know that you’ve spoken about your father but what about Nathan and Warwick (Bruce’s sons), have they ever played?
BR; “Yeah Warwick played, we had to stop him he was too loud! No, they’ve supported my music all the way, but I’ve supported what they do. One is a top Jiu Jitsu man the other ones got a brain and they’re both great athletes, Nathan was a great drummer at school but I never ever pushed them in sport or music, in fact they never knew that I played footy until they were about 15 years old and someone told them…..and cricket…because I didn’t tell them. (GM ‘You played for Kensington in cricket’), I played for Sturt, I was 15 when I was selected (GM ‘opening batsman?’), no I opened the bowling and batted at number 4. I used to play for the school in the morning then John Halbert would take me and buy me a cheese and tomato sandwich and a coke. I’d eat that in his car then he’d drive me to…(GM ‘So how much older is Halbert than you?’)…Halbert, he was my teacher at school so John would be 80 something now (GM ‘oh right so you played footy together in the same team so I thought you’re ages must have been similar) …no I’m 74 he’d be 86 or so now.”
GM; “ Okay, has banding influenced your social life?”
BR; “Yeah it does have an effect on your social life, if you’ve got a passion in music, your social life is found within bands. Mine’s been a leadership role, so you never get too social with your players. We become great mates but my social side has been not as active as many peoples, I tended to always be working to be honest. My son still can’t work out why I’m up at three o clock writing music when I can do it all day, but I don’t. So I’m not sure about that.”
GM; “ What are your other interests? You love sport and play a bit of golf?”
BR; “I do I’ve played a lot of golf, I can’t play now, not flexible enough. Love my grandchildren, I spend all my spare time with my sons and my grandchildren, I always have and the fact that I didn’t sleep very much meant that I was always with the boys. I’d play with them during the night, Carolyn didn't have to get up to them because I wanted to play with them! So my hobby has been writing music, sport … I love watching sport I mean there are two footy matches on tonight and I’ll watch them both. Other hobbies, I love travel when I’ve got time but I usually tie it in with….it’s interesting when I took the family to Malaysia I was setting up bands, conducting, soloing, doing stuff everywhere, same in Tasmania, same in Darwin. So it’s bit of a hobby running events like with the Rams, I did all the entertainment with the rugby league, SANFL Grand Finals for years, test cricket dinners I used to do all those. So I guess they’re hobbies aren’t they? (GM ‘certainly a life interest’), a life interest yeah..(GM ‘not just a job’)..yeah not just a job, my life has never been just a job.”
GM; “What lies ahead for you?”
BR; “Oh, excitement I hope, lots of projects, I’m involved in a few projects now and enjoying them very much. I still love to teach….I teach on Zoom of course, there a number of people I need to keep teaching on Zoom for a period of time. School teaching and motivating young kids. My main drive is to keep community bands alive, that is my main drive. I’ve no idea why, I guess it was my upbringing….”
GM; “You sort of can’t help yourself if you come from that generation, and I think that these days in bands when you see kids coming through, or what I see in schools, I don’t think the generation coming through is as resilient as your generation…..I don’t think there’ll be the Ken McMahons, Ron Arthurs and Aubrey Gannons again….”
BR; “Well I think there are, one of the things that I think we need to do is get into the heads of the young people. If we want them to join our bands we have to create an environment that they understand.
The MD has to love kids, not necessarily like all of them, but certainly be prepared to understand their needs.
They are different in many ways, because they live under different and changing cultural conditions, so band members need to make them feel welcome and know that they will take time to settle into band culture.
They need and will bring their friends along if they feel comfortable, this fulfils their need to have a social life within the band.”
GM; “It’s a very touchy point. When I first started playing I had some ability but when the ’faith lag’ came the thing that made me guts it through was the social aspect, your girlfriend is in the band, your mates are in the band…”
BR; “Social life!... the social life in banding. Last week……John Bartsch (GM; ‘John Bartsch, he’s a good man’)……John Bartsch said to me ‘Bruce in all my years of banding I’ve never seen anything like this, I come here I’ve got a bloke sitting next to me on trombone that wants to join the band, young bloke good looking 6’4” bloke who is a very good sportsman but he wants to play in the band.’ I look around at half time and there he is with six other young guys, they went to school together……they’re all talking, and like I said they will become the core group of the band. They will run the band when I am dead and gone because it’s there… and young Daniel Sheridan, he arrived last week and wanted to play so he’s in the back row. I said to Annette from Queensland, she’s a good teacher and very smart, ‘you know what your grade 6,7 and 8 kids are doing, you know what they need’……if we don’t offer them something…..it’s very silly to say to a kid when they come to band practice ‘do this, sign this, do that, sign that’ no way!……that’s the first thing that frightens them away. That’s the first thing that frightens anyone away, it didn’t frighten us because it was what we did at the time. But now let them get there first, let them feel happy……well that’s my thing about that.”
GM; “Back with Brucy, in the immortal words of Max Thomas! (BR; ‘Yeah Max Thomas haha!’)….(Max Thomas was one of Bruce’s former music teaching colleagues, who would occasionally wind him and up and always referred to him as Brucy!). So final thoughts and opinions please.”
BR; “Well I love music, so community music I believe will survive, perhaps in a different format and understanding of young people…..without understanding….the way they are thinking and the way the world is marketing them……..we won’t get anywhere, it’ll fall over.”
GM; “Okay, are you happy with that?”
GM; “So am I”.
BR; “I think that makes sense Geoff….you can make sense of that!”
GM; “ I’ll try!”