THERE are not many bands that can say they have existed for almost 116 years.
The Bega District Band (BDB) was formed in 1899, and although its members have changed over the years it has proudly been part of our community to the present day.
Band practice continued during World War 2, even though several members joined the war effort as armed personnel and as members of military bands.
During the war when members of the armed forces returned home on leave the band would meet the servicemen on their bus and parade it into town.
The first practice rooms for the brass band included the stables near the Central Hotel on Gipps Street, and the rooms behind the Bank Hotel before 1952 when the BDB built their own band rooms on Canning Street with volunteer labour on land donated by the then current president Jack Manning.
Through its history, many generations of the same family served the BDB.
The Easdowns were one such family with John, his sons Gordon, Bill jr and Mervyn “Merv” and his brother Bill snr who, known to all as “Uncle Bill,” served as the bands second bandmaster from the 1920s to 1940s.
Merv, after serving in WWII, at the age of 17 in 1946 became the youngest Bandmaster the BDB ever had and one of the youngest in NSW.
Bill jr was the third member of the Easdowns to become bandmaster succeeding his brother Merv in the position and he served that role 1951-63.
The Tetley’s were another BDB family with Alan, his sons Jeff, Roger, Mervyn, Raymond and his brother Stan.
Alan joined the band in 1938, and then served in WWII playing the side drum for 14th Machine Gun Regiment, bugler with 3rd Army Tank Brigade and cornetist with 4th Armoured Brigade Band before becoming the BDB bandmaster in 1963-95.
In 1994 Alan was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) ‘for services to band music and the community.’
His son Roger served in almost every executive role in the BDB, being the band sergeant 1969-76, secretary 1975-96, and treasurer 1995-96 before receiving bandmaster duties when his father stepped down in 1995, which is the position he continues to fill to this day.
Jeff joined in 1960 and also served as secretary from 1964-75, as well as being a volunteer member of the Bega Town Fire Brigade.
Leslie Spindler became part of the BDB in 1942 and his sons Kenneth, Alan and Doug joined later before his daughter Margaret Horneman nee Spindler caused history by becoming the first female member of the band in 1973.
Today, there are about 16 members of the BDB led by bandmaster Roger Tetley.
“We’re struggling, but we’re still going,” Mr Tetley said.
“No young members want to join; it’s not their particular scene.
“They don’t want to play brass instruments,” Mr Tetley said of the band which used to enjoy strong youth support.
The band is still active, with weekly rehearsals held for current members, and free tuition is offered to new members.
If you are interested in getting involved and playing with the BDB, you can call Mr Tetley for more information on 6492 1092 or 0439 000 956.
Band practice is every Monday night at the band room at 23 Canning Street, Bega.