A LACK of primary age players could lead to the eventual demise of one of Swindon’s best known youth bands, it is feared.

The Great Western Youth Band, which competes at national level, is currently on a recruiting drive.

But Matthew Walton, chairman of Brunel Brass and a cornet tutor,  is concerned at the drop in numbers of young children joining.

He said: “Where we have a playing base of about 80, we are down to about 50 for the last two years. They are just not coming through the schools.”

He explained that the band expected to lose players when they left and when off to university, although some returned to play in the adult section.

But if the number of children joining at the junior end and progressing through the ranks carried on dropping, the 'conveyor belt' of players would eventually grind to a halt.

“It is going to be a massive shame if it carries on like this. In five or 10 years’ time there’s not going to be anyone playing,” he said.

“Unless you have got youngsters coming through from primary schools, when they get to comprehensives, a lot of the time it is too late.”

He believes fewer children are learning the instruments in school as head teachers struggle to find room in their budgets.

And it wasn’t just the Swindon area that was being affected.

“We have children coming in from other towns and villages, one family comes in from Bristol, one from Malmesbury, Calne and Cricklade,” he said.

But he stressed the value of learning an instrument and playing in a band was much more than fun.

“It teaches you so much more than music. The children benefit as individuals.” he said.

Learning to play was good for maths and it taught the life skills like determination and dedication. Children who learned an instrument and played in groups were often fully rounded people when they grew up.

Matthew’s older son Ieuan, 21, recently joined the Prince of Wales Regt as a musician, started as a tiny trumpeter in the band.

His younger brother Owain, who is studying A-level music, is considering following in his footsteps.

The children get free instruments and tutoring.

The band’s next public engagement is at the Town Gardens on June 5. Anyone interested in joining can go along at 3pm and talk to members.

Visit greatwesternyouth.com for more information about joining.