On Monday evenings, music and laughter can be heard echoing out from inside the Rose Street Gardens’ hall as the Wee Waa Community Band holds its weekly practice session.
Recently, the Wee Waa News decided to venture inside the hall, and found the always-jubilant Peter Carrett enthusiastically conducting a band of local musicians.
“You’re playing like a drunken sailor,” exclaimed Mr Carrett.
“That’s better, that’s better – that’s good now,” Mr Carrett added as he positively encouraged the band to perform.
Band members vary in age and they play a variety of instruments – from the trumpet and keyboard to the glockenspiel.
There’s colour, fun and movement in the hall, a stark contrast to the horrible dust and wind howling down the main street.
And it seems a world away as the band starts to play an upbeat, Appalachian folk dance tune.
It’s clear the positive power of music is alive and well in Wee Waa.
“There is nothing like the power of music to lift the soul out of darkness , particularly when times are tough – it’s a good mantra for this group,” said Mr Carrett.
Most locals would have heard about (or at least heard the sound of) the Wee Waa Community Band but its humble members don’t always trumpet the ensemble’s success.
The group was formed less than a year ago, in September 2018, and already boasts 25 band members that are currently building up to a crescendo of concerts.
“The band continues to develop a program of songs for future performances,” said Mr Carrett.
“They played at the community Anzac Day service in April and took part in the Narrabri Eisteddfod in May.
“Other performances for the rest of the year include the Wee Waa High School concert night, the Country Music Muster, Weeronga aged-care facility, the Mardi Gras and the Community Carols Night at the hospital.”
Former school principal Mr Carrett has never been one to sit still for long, and so it was little surprise that his retirement, in 2018, sparked the start of a new project – the formation of a band.
“Retirement doesn’t mean giving up on your community and I find myself as busy as ever, and with help, the dream of a community band for our town will be realised,” said Mr Carrett.
There’s no doubt the band has struck a chord with locals and many groups have kindly offered support.
“The community of Wee Waa has swung behind the dream of a community band and so far Rotary and Inner Wheel have generously supported the group, and Lions have indicated they will help too,” said Mr Carrett.
“Also, the band applied for assistance from the Narrabri Shire Council and was delighted to recently receive notification that it will be getting $5000 towards the upgrade of the instruments.”
Mr Carrett’s extensive experience means he knows the key to unlocking people’s musical talents.
“I have been involved in community bands for over 50 years,” said Mr Carrett.
“I was sent to Wee Waa to be the central school music teacher in 1981 and naturally turned to the idea of a band as the vehicle for music training.
“The 1980s were a prosperous time in Wee Waa and the band was very well supported by the community.
“The band was very successful and at one stage boosted to a membership of over 60 students.”
Mr Carrett admits it was ‘exhausting work’ and after 12 years he decided to pour his abilities, as well as his heart and soul, into developing a career as a primary school teacher.
He went on to become a very popular principal at Burren Junction and Wee Waa Public School but his aspirations to get a community band back together still bubbled away under the surface.
Retirement has enabled Mr Carrett to devote time to keeping his dream alive.
As well as Monday’s band practice, Mr Carrett also works to help those who might have never played a note, running beginner classes on Monday and Tuesday afternoons.
“There is no cost for these lessons but once people join the band there is a modest membership fee to cover some of the expenses,” said Mr Carrett.
“All of the instruments, music stands and music sheets we’re using were donated by Wee Waa High School.
“Many of the instruments were beyond economic repair however, about 20 were serviceable and form the basis of the group.
“One goal of the band committee is to either replace all of these antiquated instruments with new ones or repair some of the instruments that are in better condition.
“Beginners of all ages are welcome and the band is keen to add some brass players to its ranks.
“You are never too old to learn,” added Mr Carrett.