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19 May 2024 17:06
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  •   Home > News > International

    The heartwarming story of the last primary school bugle band in Australia

    News Breakfast visits the Wooroolin State School bugle band as they prepare for Anzac Day — but after 65 years, there are concerns over how much longer the band can keep going.

    It's after 8am at Wooroolin State School in south-east Queensland and Noel Selway is waiting patiently for his little crew of musical maestros to arrive.

    He fusses about in the music room, keeping an ear out for the school bus grinding to a halt outside.

    There are only 36 kids in the school and eight of them are in the band.

    On a good day.

    And most of them are on the school bus that is still winding its way along the South Burnett country roads.

    Noel has been volunteering with the band since 2006 after he heard a rumour they might have needed some help.

    The ex-army reservist watched them march on Anzac Day and asked if his bugle playing skills might come in handy.

    And that's how he came to join what's believed to be last remaining primary school bugle band in Australia.

    Three days a week, before class begins, they practice banging their drums and blowing their bugles on the small concrete parade ground.

    It's almost Anzac Day and, as always, the Wooroolin school band will take part in the march, so there's a sense of urgency to these rehearsals.

    "I have a great affection for the band," Noel said.

    "Both are hard instruments to play, the bugle and the drum, and not only do they have to carry the drum and play it they've got to remember what they've got to do and where their left hand is and their right hand is. They've got a fair bit to think about."

    There is a lot of history to this band. Formed in late 1958, the 22-member bugle band played at Anzac Day services the following year, fully equipped with uniforms and instruments after fundraising efforts of the local community.

    The numbers might have dwindled but the enthusiasm hasn't. They will march twice, at Wondai 10 minutes drive north and then take pride of place in the Wooroolin Anzac Day parade.

    Aiden Weller is the third generation of his family to play.

    "My uncle, my dad, my pop and my other uncle all played the bugle," Aiden said.

    "I play the bugle, the side drum and a bass drum but the bugle is the easiest."

    His cousin eight-year-old Harry explains the challenges.

    "The big drum that I play is really heavy. The bass drum is really heavy – and it's loud!" 

    Noel Selway says it can take an adult three years to master the bugle so he's understandably proud of his little ensemble.

    At least one past band member has gone on to study at the Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane.

    "People like them. They don't mind how many mistakes they make. They just like seeing the kids in the band doing their own thing and there are adults who've never tried so I think it's pretty good."

    But Noel is worried about what comes next for the band.

    "There doesn't seem to be anyone to follow me up when I get too old to do this, there's still no one behind me and I'm feeling a bit isolated because if I go, the band will go."

    It's a reality that weighs on Noel but he holds out hope that, just as he stumbled into the role, the next generation of bugle teachers are somewhere out there just waiting to step up.


    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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