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University of Warwick Brass Society Celebrates its 10th Anniversary:
By Nicola Gadsden

This year the University of Warwick Brass Society celebrates its 10th Anniversary. From humble beginnings as a small but eager group, this band now boasts the title of being the highest ranked student band in the United Kingdom and serves as a model for other higher education institutions who seek to stem the tide of young talented players who are forced into reluctantly ‘throwing in their mouthpieces’…

An education student, Sarah Clavier, first set up a Brass Society at the University in May 1992 in order to provide music making opportunities for all brass players at the University – for those who wished to continue with their hobby but who had not chosen the path of professional musician. (See ‘Extra-curricular music choices’ in ‘Bandroom News’ in ‘The British Bandsman’, 14/09/02, by Owen Lloyd, the Society’s Treasurer.) The Society initially consisted of a brass quintet but soon grew to a 10-piece. By January 1993 this group was rehearsing weekly in the music centre under the baton of a history student, Robert Payne. The 10-piece and quintet performed in the first brass society concert on 16 May 1993 at Peckleton church, Earlsdon. From this initial publicity, the society continued to grow in earnest; in 1995 it consisted of a full brass band, a symphonic group and a quintet.

Since then, the Band has gone from strength to strength. In December 1997 it entered and won its first contest, the West Midlands Brass Band Association (WMBBA) Annual Contest. Later that year it won the Midlands Area 4th section, resulting in a performance in the finals of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain (NBBCGB) in September 1998 and promotion to the 3rd section with effect from January 1999. In June 1998 the band was also runner-up in the Rhyl Festival of Brass.

Our success was maintained and consolidated. We won both the 4th and 3rd section of the WMBBA Annual Contest in December 1998. In March 1999 the band came 4th out of over 20 bands in the Midlands Area 3rd section of the NBBCGB. In December 1999 the band came 2nd in the 3rd section of the WMBBA Annual contest. In March 2000 the band won the 3rd section of the Midlands Area of the NBBCGB; this resulted in an invitation to perform in the finals of the 3rd section of the NBBCGB in October 2000 at the Royal Albert Hall, London and promotion to the 2nd section followed with effect from January 2001.

As well as participating in the contest circuit, the band is also in demand closer to home, having played at high profile venues such as the Birmingham Symphony Hall and the Manchester Bridgewater Hall, as well as regular appearances at the University’s very own 1500 capacity Butterworth Hall in the Warwick Arts Centre. We also prepare repertoire for smaller seasonal concerts in local churches and bandstands, and even in shopping centres (!) as well as in the University’s open-air piazza, occasionally in collaboration with other groups from the University Music Centre. From all of these various concerts, particularly over the past three years, we have established a number of high-quality recordings, which complement those of the Symphonic Brass and other Music Centre ensembles.

However, aside from any musical merit we have, we must resign ourselves to acknowledging that our attraction to many is also due to our dynamic social life! Apart from weekly socials, the annual summer tour is always the highlight of our social calendar, and ensures that we engage supporters from the length and breadth of England, and indeed Europe! The society organised its first camping tour in the summer of 1997, to the delights of the residents of Dawlish in Devon and Newquay in Cornwall. The success of this tour was then repeated in the succeeding two years. In April 2000 the society went on a combined Music Centre Tour to Germany and Holland, and took part in a concert in the Grand Place in Brussels. The same success is anticipated with the planned Tour 2003, to Luxembourg, Reims and Disneyland Paris, where we have recently secured gigs.

This level of vibrancy and success is a huge achievement for any brass band, but once you consider that our average player, with an average age of little over 20, only stays with us for 3 years and that none of our members are auditioned or are studying a music degree, the accomplishment is all the more commendable, and indicative of the commitment, desire, and downright hard work of its fifty or so members. Together with generous support from the University of Warwick’s Students Union and Music Centre, our success is now thoroughly paying off as talented brass players, existing or potential, begin to regard the University of Warwick as their choice of higher education, for reasons we like to believe are just as much to do with the outstanding level of music we offer, as to do with the University’s performances in recent league table publications. Under the leadership of our esteemed conductor and internationally renowned trombonist of Fine Arts Brass Ensemble, Simon Hogg, we foresee even greater things, and we hope to continue to raise the band’s profile in all the right ways in order to encourage other universities to follow in the same vein as we have done over the past decade.

More information about the band, including details of forthcoming concerts and tours, can be found at www.brasssoc.co.uk

Alternatively please contact: University of Warwick Brass Society, c/o The Music Centre, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL.

By Nicola Gadsden © 4BarsRest

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