National Association of Brass Band Conductors - 2008 Annual Convention


Chris Helme reports from the NABBC Convention, which was held in Bolton on the weekend.

Conductors AssociationThis weekend saw members of the National Association of Brass Band Conductors gather at the Britannia Hotel, Bolton for their annual two day convention. 

The Way Forward

This year’s convention had the underlying theme of ‘The Way Forward’ and tried to find the answer to one of the biggest problems in the brass band movement at the present time - how to bridge the gap from youth bands to the adult band world.   

The weekend opened with a welcome to all the delegates by the association’s Chairman Walter Ritchie. 

Key note speech

The association’s President Dr Roy Newsome followed with a key note speech which highlighted that whilst the number of adult bands was going down this was not the case with youth bands – why? 

Dr. Newsome went on to say, " We as adults have to try and encourage the youngsters into the adult movement, once they leave their youth band. Whilst the better players will join the better bands, what of the remainder, where and what happens to them. Hopefully through this weekend and in particular the question time style forum may be able to answer some of the problems.”   

Bad habits workshop

Dr. Newsome then led a conducting workshop ‘Sorting out those bad habits’, all delegates were encouraged to take part. 

This was followed by a presentation by the convention’s first guest speaker, Colin Duxbury, the Musical Director of the Stockport Schools Senior Band. Colin highlighted the number of young people there was in all three Stockport School Bands and how enthusiastic they all were. Whilst he conducted the senior band there was also and intermediate band and a junior band all with thriving memberships. 

Students from other local schools in the Stockport area all had the opportunity of joining and going through the three Stockport Schools Bands.

The underlying word from Colin was that being in the band both on engagements and rehearsals the prerequisite was quality of performance and to have fun. 

Russell GrayMasterclass

Colin then conducted his band as a warm up before Russell Gray took over to give a conducting masterclass with the delegates. The association was grateful to Russell who was standing in for Richard Evans was ill.

Four delegates stepped forward and no doubt gained valuable experience from the encouragement and advice given by and in the relaxed style of Russell. 

One of the biggest problems for conductors can be programme repertoire – the second guest speaker Ian Porterhouse led an in depth discussion about a large number of concert pieces and highlighted a number of younger composers who were all writing new music and exciting arrangements. Not just music for the top end of the band world but music that could be also played by 3rd and 4th section bands. 

He followed this part of his presentation with a short talk about ‘The Conductor as a Teacher’ an aspect of conducting that was of great interest to all the delegates.

Question Time Forum

The first day closed with the question style forum – in the Chair was Iwan Fox from 4barsrest and the guests answering the questions were Ian Porterhouse, Richard Evans, Chris Wormald and Colin Duxbury. The question: What can an adult band offer a member of a youth band for them to consider stepping up to join? 

In some cases the answer was very little. Boring music, boring conductor, no opportunities to play a solo, no social life which must take into account the age of the young person, spending week after week practising the same piece, telling a percussionist not to bother coming because the conductor does not need them at that rehearsal, being given the rough end of the better instruments, awful rehearsal facilities, as are one of the youngest members of the ‘team’ you do not always get the respect you deserve, the list went on and on. 

It was clear to all the delegates that many adult bands must look inward at themselves and ask the question, ‘What have we to offer.’

Richard EvansRichard Evans

On Saturday night the traditional National Convention dinner was entertained by guest speaker Richard Evans who went through aspects of his varied and colourful musical career, a true raconteur.

Sunday morning opened with the association’s annual general meeting.  Dr Newsome was reappointed as President and Walter Ritchie as the association’s Chairman, Ted Howard and Martin Obermuller were both re-appointed as secretary and treasurer respectively, Nigel Horne was asked to continue as the membership secretary and Chris Helme was appointed as the editor of the association’s magazine 'The Conductor.'

Paul Lovatt-Cooper, composer in residence at Black Dyke and lead percussionist followed with a fascinating insight into the Brass Band and the Internet followed by ‘Some thoughts on Percussion’.

Publicity and Marketing

Every band, irrespective of their level should have a publicity and marketing manager. David Kaye the President of Wingates Band gave a fascinating presentation about these two roles and the work he and Wingates have done in this area since the early 1990s. 

In this day and age of the financial difficulties in the brass band world he certainly gave all the members something to think about accompanied with a professionally presented information pack. 

Wingates Concert

The two day convention closed with a short concert given by the Wingates Band under their genial Musical Director Andrew Berryman.  Various members of the association were given the opportunity of conducting this famous band. All those  members who conducted the band and in most cases it was the first time they had had the opportunity of conducting a championship section band was an absolute thrill.

Before closing the convention the Chairman Walter Ritchie thanked Andrew and the members of the band for a wonderful performance which culminated with Johan de Meij set test piece for the 2005 European Championships ‘Extreme Make-Over’ which the band played from the bottles and Marimba section which was super and brought the two day convention to a climactic conclusion. 

If anyone would like to know more about the National Association of Brass Band Conductors please look at the association’s website or contact Chris Helme at

Chris Helme 


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