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Band member’s dedication is worth its weight in gold
AFTER playing with the Oxford Silver Band for more than 60 years, Frank Wolff has earned the right to blow his own trumpet.
The musician was given a one-off award from his bandmates at their summer concert to celebrate his dedication to the group at Silver Band Hall on Sunday.
The 84-year-old, who plays the trumpet, piano and cornet, said: “It was a complete shock, I was gobsmacked.
Mr Wolff’s daughters Marilyn Elliott and Elaine Williams, and friend Alison Webb in 1980.
“At the summer concert we do recognise people, like youngsters who have improved the most, but this was a surprise.”
Mr Wolff has spent his time in the band setting up more than 80 international tours and helping the group’s younger members to get involved with music.
He was also the band’s secretary for more than 25 years.
The Dutchman, who came to live in Oxford nearly 61 years ago, said: “When I came to this country all those years ago I joined the band without thinking it would be anything so serious. Everyone was so welcoming and I’ve made many, many friends from all over the world because of it.”
His talent led him to perform with famous artists such as the late dancer and musician Roy Castle.
The Kennington resident, whose wife Janny died in 1996, said: “Music is a huge part of my life. I can’t really be without it. I love all kinds of music – I can even cope with bagpipes for hours.”
But he very nearly did not even pick up an instrument, with a small untruth paving the way for his musical career.
Young Ambassadors Brass Band of Great Britain with Mr Wolff as musical director
As a child, Mr Wolff attended a session where the Salvation Army offered to teach boys a brass instrument.
The retired toolmaker said: “I told a little lie when I went as you had to be 12 to start, but I was only 11.”
Mr Wolff insisted the public perception of brass instruments is often wrong, saying: “It’s not all oom pa-pa, there’s some tremendous pieces for brass instruments from top composers. It is beautiful.”
Oxford Silver Band did not just help improve his life – it helped his daughters, Marilyn Elliott and Elaine Williams, with their careers.
Both girls learned to play the trumpet by joining the band’s junior group from the age of four, which led them both to attend the Royal Academy of Music later in life – with Mrs Williams being named BBC Young Musician of the Year in 1980.
Mr Wolff, who has five grandchildren, said: “The band gave my daughters the chance to do something with excellent teaching. I wonder what my family would have been without them.
“They could have gone down very different paths and things could have been very bad.”
Fellow band member Philip Hind said: “He quite quickly became a senior member and he was really one of the guiding lights to build the band back up after the Second World War.
“He’s an inspiring musician and band member.”