Karen Bell has played with Exmouth Town Concert Band for four years. She joined the Band shortly after moving to the area and was introduced by former long standing flautist Vicky Holloway. Karen has an extensive repertoire of musical knowledge and has played piano, violin, classical guitar and flute with various groups and ensembles over the years. For Exmouth Town Concert Band Karen plays cornet and flugelhorn.
I asked Karen if she had always wanted to be part of a band.
Yes, I have always fancied playing brass in a band. I used to enjoy listening to the military bands who performed in Bournemouth and I would occasionally support local brass bands and the band of the Salvation Army.
So have you always played brass?
No, it was actually many years before I had the opportunity to play a brass instrument. I first started out on recorder as a child, closely followed by piano, violin, classical guitar and then flute. Then I went off to university where I left music behind in favour of learning new and exciting sports such as sailing and skiing.
So after so much variety how did you eventually come to play the cornet?
I must have had about 15 years without music - what a terrible waste. One day, about ten years ago, I found a beaten up old cornet in an antique shop which I bought and I then gently persuaded a friend's husband to give me the odd lesson. I was recovering from cancer at the time so learning a new skill was the perfect project to take my mind off things. The fact that I play cornet for the Band is mostly down to circumstance; I turned up at my first rehearsal with both my cornet and my flute. It just so happened that one of the other cornet players was absent that week so I was sent to that seat and there I've been ever since.
What do you get up to when you're not performing with the Band?
Usually I'm playing in another one! I play various instruments for a number of other local bands including the Lympstone Training Band and Exmouth Light Orchestra. As well as the formal groups I like to play with friends in informal flute trios and guitar duets. I'm also a big fan of sport, taking part more than spectating. I like to swim, cycle, canoe and play badminton. If I have any time left I also like to tap dance and I've been in several shows at the Blackmore Theatre.
You were awarded the Band Member of the Year trophy at the Spring Concert this year. Did that come as a shock?
It certainly came as a huge surprise and I feel very honoured to have been chosen from so many wonderful players for such a prestigious award. I didn't move from my seat at first when Steve made the announcement, I just couldn't believe my name had actually been read out. I had to be prompted by my fellow band members to actually go up and receive the award.
Surely the Band Member of the Year can't have any embarrassing or mischievous stories from playing with the Band. Can she?
Playing in the Band is very enjoyable and all the players are great fun and easy to get along with. Sometimes we have a joke with one another. There was a particular time when I found the third cornet part to the Dambusters March rather mundane...so I switched my music with that of a fellow cornet player when he was out of the rehearsal room. In spite of the giggling on his return, nothing was ever said and to this day I still enjoy playing the wonderful melodies of my substitute part.
Pictured is Karen receiving the Band Member of the Year Award from Director of Music, Steve Grant, at this year's Spring Concert.
The interview was conducted by Jackson Hammond. Jackson is the partner of the Band's Publicity Officer Kelly Fishpool and manages the Band's website and Social Media accounts with her.