I'm surprised so few people have voted for Peter Parkes. There have been many worthy musicians mentioned, but in terms of being the best brass band conductor of recent years, no-one comes close to him.

When he first arrived in 1975 with Black Dyke, who admittedly were a very succesful band at the time, he quickly made them into the most invincible band in living memory. It wasn't just a passing phase either. For the 13 years they were together, Black Dyke and Parkes won 5 British Opens, 6 Nationals and 7 Europeans. Only David King of the rest of today's conductors comes anywhere that but even he is a long way behind at the moment.

After Black Dyke, it was on to Faireys for more of the same.

I was fortunate enough to play under the Major for 16 years at Whitburn and every moment of it was an education in life itself. Scottish brass banding had seen nothing like him before his arrival and I would hazard a guess that the achievements of Scottish bands in the 80's and 90's were only made possible by his arrival in the late 70's. He set the standards for the rest to follow.

I was always very fond of James Last who gave us such wonderful LP recordings as :

This Is James Last
Make The Party Last
Last The Whole Night Through
Leave The Best To Last
James Last Plays Andrew Lloyd Webber
Together At Last (With Richard Clayderman)

With that laid-back style and smarmy grin he oozed cheddar from every orifice. He didn't need histrionics, gimmicks or gift of the gab to make his band produce more cheese than Dairylea! Now that's what I call a conductor!

Ben Williamson

New Member
i think that when it comes to interpreting pieces David King is in a league of his own.

however if i could choose who to play under the baton of, it would probably be Howard Snell.

ben x
I think your treading on thin ice trying to name the best conductors!
Each condcutor has his/her own attributes and you should always accept that. A conductors personality often comes through their music. In my experience if the conductor is a bland person and not very dynamic or extrovert, I often find playing under them boring and quite unmusical. However, 2 conductors I have been extremely privileged to play under are Elgar Howarth and I am often conducted by James Gourlay (because I'm at the RNCM). These 2 bring a command to their performances, they look good, shape music well and above all allow the music to unfold and aren't "programmed metronomes"!
Thank you.

Mike S

No contest - Elgar Howarth has to be the best conductor alive today and still actively conducting brass bands (he still gets involved with the NYBBGB and Gromethorpe from time to time and I see he is conducting them at the RNCM in January).

Professor David King comes close behind, rather more of a technician than Mr Howarth but very talented, interesting to watch and gets the results.

From the older days, Walter Hargreaves was fantastic. I especially remember the wee fella conducting Stanshaw Bristol Band when Alan Exley was principal cornet down there, and he had them in the palm of his hand.


Well I have to change tack slightly - mine has to be Sharon Stansfield.
She is the best conductor I have ever played under (oh er mother :oops: :D :wink: ), she is inspirational, gets the best out of all the players, has a good sense of humour, and has improved the band from bottom of the 4th to be promoted to the 3rd after two national finals appearances! :D :D

She is also a great laugh sociably, and a great mate (and no that is not the reason I am putting her in!) she just has "something" that makes the band click!! :D :D


Active Member
Richard Dyson said:
No contest in it for me - two people stand head and shoulders above the rest but neither has been overly successful at the major contests.

Elgar Howarth is the most amazing conductor you will ever see! His control of the band is fantastic and he can make you play a certain way just by him looking at you.
I completely agree. Elgar Howarth is the best conductor I've been under, he is wicked and a nice chap as well!
Mike fowles is really good with youth bands as well. A youth band that I used to play with holds a training weekend once a year and for the last 4 yrs well the ones I've been to, he has been one of the conductors and the whole band look up to him and do what he wants because he doesn't shout he's just really funny! He's now a great friend of the band and helps them out before contests as well!
Richard Evans is also really nice, he took us at the area this year and he was a wicked conductor.


Active Member
Mike S said:
Professor David King comes close behind, rather more of a technician than Mr Howarth but very talented, interesting to watch and gets the results.
I'd dissagree :p Very much the disclipinarian yes, but the amount of music he injects into a band is incredible!!!
I'd go with DK and Steve Sykes who is an incredibly underrated conductor!!
i have had two conducters in my 7 years of banding but i now of 3 here i my order:

3/Aidy (he is really crap and i hate his Guts.)
2/ My dads forgotten his name but he is really nice and funny
1/Kevin he is really cool he will help you out he is really funny and as i should now he dosn't always tell you of for BUM NOTES.

John Brooks

Well-Known Member

I had the thrill to play under Dean Goffin. Wonderful personality, great encourager and good in front of the band. Another who belongs in this list is surely Bernard Adams, superb conductor, trainer and interpreter.
Elgar Howarth is the god of conductors as far as i'm concerned, we are still working with him at the mo doing the History of Brass recordings and many concerts next year.

Anyway my other choices have to be James Watson (suprised he wasn't mentioned) the stuff he did with Desford and the Dyke (even pushing Dyke into new ideas and projects util he was.... well until he left) what a waste he isnt still in band conducting at the top level.

Geofrrey Brand in pertnership with Kevin Bolton, in the early 80's with Carlton Main, how these two cold keep a band of hairey @rsed miners in check and play like angels was a miricle.


New Member
Why does eveyone go with conductors that have been stood in front of good players as being "the best ever"??
I have won nationals (champ) and opens with good conductors but also with very good players that could play the parts. I should imagine that this would be a great help....and is!! :D
So I would be inclined to look more at conductors that make something out of nothing as this IS much harder to do..."right none of the back row can triple tongue, how do i get round this?" Im now just a "listener" and enjoy seeing lower champ bands playing hard test pieces (that are too hard for them) and seeing how the chap in the middle gets them through it....... :lol:

Dave J


Dave King for me too.
I played for Swinton Concert when they were in the 4th, 3rd and 2nd sections and he was inspirational.
I learnt things from him that I will never forget.
He also made you want to play well for him. You just knew you wanted to do it for him.
I've played under most of those mentioned here and each has thier strengths some are good band trainers (has anyone mentioned David Hirst???), some are good contest conductors (ie David King) and others are good MD's for concerts (ie Richard Evans).

However the best conductor.. . hmm . . .for me it has to be Andrew Davis, not, I know, a brass band conductor but far and away the best man (or woman) that I have ever played under.

On the upside for the band movement, all of the worst conductors I have played with have been outside of banding (usually those with big names and bigger egos!!) I find that, as amateur people, in most cases band conductors do a pretty good job.