4BR Band of the Year
The conductors and players

These are conductors and players that made the lasting impression on us throughout 2023.

There were plenty of outstanding individual as well as ensemble performances to enjoy throughout the banding world in 2023.

And although there remain concern over how bands can continue to attract ‘live’ audiences, especially on the contest stage, there is encouraging evidence that more people than ever are taking the opportunity to ‘log in’ on-line.

The finest asset in the armoury to attract listeners though is quality, and we remain fortunate that the movement continues to feature talented players and conductors.

These were the ones we felt made the greatest impression live, recorded or downloaded on whatever genre or format they were featured, with plenty of established performers on the very top of their game and a new generation of exciting talent also bursting through. 

Once again then, the decision on who has made it into the 4BR Band of the Year has been a very difficult one. 


As always, the criteria for selection is simple:  It's not just who we think are the best conductors and players in the world in 2023, but whom we believe have performed brilliantly and in the process made that lasting impression.

And as always, we could have made up two or three bands, and this year a new generation of players have certainly staked their claim for inclusion (members of the sections are in alphabetical order). 

The 4BR Editor makes the final decision, and although we are sure not everyone will agree with the choices, it’s a formidable line up for any concert appearance if we could get them all together for one night.


Frederic Theodoloz and Sarah Ioannides

Two wonderful conductors who captured the imagination with their incisive musical direction.

Small in physical stature, but huge in personality and authority, their contrasting, energised styles inspired their players with a collective self-belief, and communicated their musical intentions with an electrifying impulse to their audiences.

Wonderful to watch in action, but even more wonderful to hear the osmotic results of their musicianship.


Principal Cornet: Mathilde Roh (Brass Band Treize Etoiles/Flowers)

Lewis Barton (Elland Silver/NYBBGB)
Oriane Bruckel (Brass Band Treize Etoiles)
Dewi Griffiths (Tredegar)
Kay Mackenzie (NBS Nelson City Brass)
Richard Marshall (Black Dyke)
Toby Pringle (Wellington Brass)
Jamie Smith (Grimethorpe Colliery)
Mark Wilkinson (Foden’s)

As ever we could have picked another team of nine players to share a half each of a concert.

Like the Dutch football team of the 1970s these are players who could perform in any position.

Mathilde Roh (above) richly deserves to be the ‘captain’, showing both character and brilliance in leading at Treize Etoile, whilst her colleague Oriane Bruckel has become a remarkable soloist – following Mathilde in winning the Blue Riband Swiss National Solo title as well as the Valaisian title. 

Further afield, Kay Mackenzie’s ‘Champion of Champions’ solo title win in New Zealand capped off a fine year of achievement, whilst Toby Pringle was a beacon of classiness in leading Wellington to yet another New Zealand National title success.

Richard Marshall spearheaded Black Dyke’s revival, whilst Mark Wilkinson, Dewi Griffiths and Jamie Smith were the outstanding leads of their bands at every major event. 

New pastures for the talented Lewis Barton in 2024, but throughout 2023 the principal cornet of the National Youth Band and Elland Silver performed with notable maturity. 


Richard Poole (Foden’s) 

The very best of a host of superb high wire artists in 2023. 

The accolades of ‘Best Soprano’ at both the British Open and Brass in Concert were richly deserved for a player possessed of the rarest of talents to be able to combine piercing brilliance with immersive lyricism, soloist flair with the heavy lifting ensemble workload.


Melanie Whyle (Foden’s)

The unsung star of Foden’s recent success, but a player who shone at every opportunity throughout 2023. There was a subtle authority about her playing – notably in setting the atmospheric opening for their British Open triumph, but also everywhere else too.


Nicky Abkiewikz (Brisbane Excelsior/Sydney City Brass)
Emily Evans (Flowers) 
Hilde Oian (Eikanger Bjorsvik)

A trio of exceptional performers at the top of their game throughout 2023.

Emily Evans (above) won the ‘Best Soloist’ prize at the Brass in Concert Championship, but was a standout performer with Flowers all year, including a very fine soloist feature on their ‘Da Vinci’ CD release. 

Hilde Oian also gained deserved ‘Best Horn’ recognition at Brass in Concert – long overdue for a cornerstone performer who was superb on a demanding year with Eikanger Bjorsvik.

Nicky Abkiewikz was an impressive band and solo performer with both Brisbane Excelsior/Sydney City Brass in 2023, enjoying success in both roles and winning the ‘Champion of Champion’ solo title at the NSW Championships and coming runner-up at the National Championship event.


Charlie Boax (Whitburn/National Youth Band of Scotland)
Thibaut de Bont (Brass Band Willebroek)

Two young performers who are fast becoming the standard bearers of the next generation of baritone players. 

16-year-old Charlie Boax added to her recent accolades by winning the Rotary Club UK ‘Young Musician of the Year’ title and continued to shine with the National Youth Band of Scotland and Whitburn at the very highest level in 2023. 

Thibaut de Bont (above) won the 2023 European Soloist Competition against 36 outstanding players with a series of fantastic performances in Malmo, where the judges said the 20-year old’s ‘maturity stood out’. In addition, he has also become an integral part of Brass Band Willebroek’s Dutch Open and National Championship successes.


Gary Curtin (Foden’s)
Chris Robertson (Brighouse & Rastrick)

Gary Curtin (above) was in imperious form on every performance stage we heard him in 2023.

The Foden’s star deservedly become 4BR ‘Player of Year’ thanks to his award winning contributions at the British Open, National Final and Brass in Concert, but also to the way he inspired those around him with his musical personality and artistry.

So too Chris Robertson at Brighouse & Rastrick, who continued to impose his authority as a player and teacher in the most impressive manner throughout the year.  Each time we heard him he left an impression of cultured musicality in the air.


Lionel Fumeaux (Brass Band Treize Etoiles)
Adam Warburton (Hammonds/National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain)
Adam Reed (Black Dyke)

A trio of players each making an impressive mark in 2023. 

Lionel Fumeaux sparkled with assured confidence and artistry (as well as conducting Treize Etoiles B in winning the First Division Swiss National title), whilst Adam Warburton is already an assured star in the making – as was shown with his performances throughout the year. 

Adam Reed added an essential depth as well as edge to Black Dyke’s sound that caught the ear in every performance the band gave.


Francois Fournier (Brass Band Treize Etoiles)
Gavin Saynor (Black Dyke)

Andy Cattanach (Foden’s)
Rob Nicholson (Cory)

A quartet of foundation builders who added a rich, tarry depth to the sound of their bands as well as peeping out every now and again to showcase their solo talents. 

Francois Fournier and Gavin Saynor (above) were the pick of a panoply of fantastic Eb tuba exponents in a year when the major test pieces asked a great deal of them as individuals and section leaders.  

Andy Cattanach and Rob Nicholson showcased their experience, nous and indefatigable stamina too – stoking the boilers as well as occasionally popping up above decks to remind everyone of their all-round talents.


Jordan Ashman (National Youth Band of Great Britain/Tredegar)
Jonas Florin Elmiger (Luzern)
Neil Edwards (Black Dyke)
Mark Landon (Foden’s)
Logan Thompson (Black Dyke)
Samuel Winter (Smoras Skolemusikk/Eikanger Bjorsvik)

A section to cover all requirements and musical eventualities – brilliant as individuals, but all fantastic team players too.

Jordan Ashman continued to enhance his stature as a soloist with his performances capturing the interest of the wider musical media as well as those in the banding world.

Neil Edwards and Logan Thompson were key components in Black Dyke’s resurgence in 2023, with Mark Landon the coolly assured mainstay of the Foden’s team. 

Two youthful European talents also shone – especially in Malmo this year with Samuel Winter (above) with Smoras Skolemusikk and Jonas Florin Elmiger who was runner-up in the European Solo Competition. 

Special mention though to the sextet of Theo, Edward, Isaac, Ethan, Sophia and Finlay who played so brilliantly with Stockport Schools Band (above) at the National Youth Championships.  What a team they were!

Previous Years:

2022 Band of the Year: https://www.4barsrest.com/articles/2022/1991.asp
2021 Band of the Year: https://www.4barsrest.com/articles/2021/1949.asp
2020 No Band of the Year
2019 Band of the Year: https://www.4barsrest.com/articles/2019/1845.asp
2018 Band of the Year: https://www.4barsrest.com/news/35237/4br-2018-band-of-the-year
2017 Band of the Year: https://www.4barsrest.com/articles/2017/1681.asp
2016 Band of the Year: https://www.4barsrest.com/articles/2016/1593.asp
2015 Band of the Year: https://www.4barsrest.com/articles/2015/art1538.asp

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