2006 North American Brass Band Championships - Introduction


Pat Herak looks at the 2006 North American Brass Band Championships, which take place in New Albany, Indiana this weekend.

NabbaThis year's North American Brass Band Championships are to be held for the first time on the campus of Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Indiana just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky.  NABBA has also reserved the facility for the 2007 Championships on April 13th & 14th, 2007. 

For the second consecutive year the North American Brass Band Association is hosting the event rather than having a host band. NABBA began hosting the event last year to help strengthen the organisation of the event and enhance the contest by providing more consistency in its running from year to year.

Friday's festivities includes 76 entries in the 10 events of solo and ensemble events including the Youth Brass Solo, Youth Brass Ensemble, Youth Percussion Ensemble, Adult High Brass Technical, Adult High Brass Slow Melody, Adult Low Brass Technical, Adult Low Brass Slow Melody, Adult Brass Ensemble, Adult Percussion Solo and Adult Percussion Ensemble.  One of the nice things about these events is that even those in bands not competing this year in the championships are allowed to participate.

Saturday's Competitions

Saturday's competition includes 24 bands in 4 adult and 1 youth section.  The top section is referred to as the Championship Section (just as in the UK).  The other sections in order from highest to lowest are Honors, Challenge and Explorer.

For each section there are three adjudicators, all in separate shielded boxes.  This year's adjudicators are James Anderson, LTC David Deitrick, Ray Farr, Brian Bowen, Kevin Norbury and Ronald Waiksnoris.  Not only are the adjudicators armed with the traditional comment sheet and pencil, but each has a CD recorder. 

The CD recorders have two microphones, one for the adjudicator to speak into one track, the other is set up to record the bands.  As the adjudicators are usually separated along the back of the hall on the right, center and left sides the track recording the bands is often very useful as depending on placement the adjudicators really can hear different things.  The scores are sent off for the set piece (out of 100) and own choice portion of the programme (out of 100) to the control room where they are manipulated so that the set piece receives a weighting of 0.6 and the own choice a weighting of 0.4.  The scores are then added together to create a maximum possible score of 300. 

Because of the weighting it is not unusual to see band scores to the nearest 0.1 of a point.  (The margin of victory in the Championship section has been less than one point the past two years!!).

This year features 5 bands making their contesting debut including the Derby City BB (KY), Georgia BB (GA), Massanutten BB (VA), Princeton BB (NJ) and Roman Festival Brass (GA).  Additionally, the promotion/ relegation system in North America is voluntary (unless a band wins a particular section 3 years on the trot), so it is worth mentioning that two bands are moving up a section (James Madison University BB to Championship Section and New England BB to Honors Section) and two bands are moving down a section (BB of the Tri State and All-Star Brass & Percussion both from Challenge to Explorer).

This year ties a record with four youth bands competing (3 in the youth section and one in the adult, challenge section).  It is hoped that more youth bands will be formed and encouraged to compete to really improve banding in North America at a grass roots level.

Interesting storylines

There are also some very interesting story lines.  For instance, after poor results in 2004 and a year off both the Illinois Brass Band and Brass Band of Columbus (the two most winning bands in the NABBA Championship Section with 15 combined wins in 23 years) return to the scrum each with a new Musical Director and something to prove.  Additionally, the James Madison University Brass Band and Fountain City Brass Band would like to join the ‘new kids on the block' Chicago Brass Band and Brass Band of Central Florida by getting a title within their first few years of competition in the Championship Section.  There is a very real possibility that come Saturday night the Championship Section will have its 6th different champion in the past five years (that is NOT a typo).

In fact, if you look across the adult sections, it would not be a huge surprise if each section had a first time winner.  Princeton Brass Band and New England Brass Band pose a real threat in the honors section, there are many new faces in the Challenge Section and BB of the Tri State (in the Explorer Section) has yet to secure any hardware.

Whilst the contest is sure to be entertaining and exciting, many will look forward to the Lexington Brass Band in the Gala concert closing the event.  Under the direction of Drs. Ron Holz, the Lexington Brass Band has been featured as such prestigious events as the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, IL, the Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville, KY and All-England Master Brass Band Championships Gala Concert in Cambridge, UK.  Playing along with the Lexington Brass Band at the Gala Concert will be trumpet virtuoso Allen Vizutti and percussionist Simone Rebello.

Pat Herak


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