I am the 1st Trombone player for the Barrack Street Band. My introduction to music started when I was very small. You could say that I was born into the band. My grandfather, John Ashman, was a member and later president of the band before he passed. My father, Tony, and two uncles, Christy and Danny, were also members of the band. Eventually, it filtered down through a few of my cousins and I myself became a member.
I took part in my first Patrick’s Day parade when I was five and my dad says I’m still the best triangle player he ever heard.
I began learning how to play the trombone when I was 10. I started in one on one classes. My teacher was Philip O’Reilly. Phil was an incredible musician. I couldn’t have asked for a better start. Later on, he became one of my very best friends but sadly passed away last year. I do like to think sometimes that he lives on a little bit through me whenever I play.
After a year or two of classes, I started playing with, what was then known as, the Barrack Street Youth Development Band. We played in our very first competition at The South Of Ireland Band Championships in Clonakilty in 2003 and placed first in the junior division. By the time I was 13, I had just passed my Grade 3 exam and was asked to step into the Senior band. I was very excited. I was now playing alongside people I had been watching for years thinking to myself, “you’ve done it Al”. That’s how much it meant to me.
I carried on practising, getting better and better and before I knew it, I was sitting in the 1st trombone seat.
It’s not hard for me to say, I wouldn’t be who I am today without the band. I’m very proud to be a member and stand tall whenever I throw on the uniform. I still get chills before every gig. I love that band.
Lie ins. I am definitely not a morning person. I was never much of an early riser so I’ll take a relaxing morning whenever I can.
I work a shift which rotates, so for a few weeks at a time, I would have to work on Saturdays but I don’t mind it to be honest. I have been working in Apple for almost seven years nowand it is a great place to work. I have a lot a really good friends there and I feel that makes it a bit easier.
Always. I celebrated my 30th birthday recently and even though the Covid restrictions stopped me from having a party, I still got to spend it with my family. I’m fortunate to have a lot of friends and I’ll always make time to catch up with them when I can. We might grab a bite to eat, go for a drink or just drive around town randomly for a few hours. We’ll always make our own fun.
It can be a struggle sometimes to get out of the bed, especially on a cold winter’s morning. That’s why I have two alarms.
In recent years the Barrack Street Band has marched in the Cork St Patrick’s Day Parade with their younger members from the Barrack St Youth Band, Barrack St Junior Band and the Mahon Community Concert Band.
The Barrack Street Band has taken part in every Cork parade for the past 130 years with the exception of 2011 when they were invited to Savannah, Georgia, USA, to play in their parade with 700,000 people in attendance.
- For more on this year’s Cork St Patrick’s Festival, which runs from March 13-17, see www.corkstpatricksfestival.ie