National Association of Brass Band Conductors


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

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.
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. 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”

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 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. 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 the band both on engagements and rehearsals have to be fun.

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 who was ill.

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

One of the biggest problems for conductors can be programme repertoire – the second guest speaker Ian Porthouse who gave an in depth discussion about a large number of concert pieces and a number of young 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.

The first day closed with the question style forum – in the Chair was Iwan Fox from 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 tail end of the better instruments, awful rehearsal facilities, the list went on and on.

It was clear to all the delegates that many adult bands must look inward and say to them selves ‘What have we to offer..’

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

The association opened the convention of the Sunday morning with their 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 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’

Every band, irrespective of the level the band plays at 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 the band have done 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.

The two day convention closed with a short concert given by the Wingates under their genial musical director Andrew Berryman. Various members of the association were given the opportunity of conducting this famous band, all those who conducted the band and in most cases this 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 bottle 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 have a look at their website or contact Chris Helme at

Chris Helme


Excellent...and if my application is approved...I hope to be there next year.

Picking up on one particular point tho'....I have a great deal of experience as a player, at all levels of, as an apprentice in the world of conducting, I'm trying to bring all that experience to pass on my accumulated knowledge/musicianship to the band(s) under my direction.
I hope (and so far succeed) to do so using a mixture of encouragement and tuition.... I hope never to have occasion to shout or be aggressive towards anyone in my charge.
I firmly believe that a major hurdle in encouraging young players towards a senior band could be overcome by simple man-management skills applied by conductors (apart from the free distribution of bromide.)
After all...why should the fun stop after youth band? Why shout at/intimidate players who, after all said and this as a hobby.
I understand the frustration...every conductor has that sound and quality in their head that they're trying to achieve....but shouting/aggression won't "make it so".
Please...MD's at all levels of banding...employ some man-management skills....use your knowledge and ability....bluster doesn't win just demoralizes my (studied) opinion...there lies a good part of the problem. two pennorth.



I suggest you start giving young people more freedom and actually listen to what they say so often it is old brass band members who choose programme etc. If you want the younger members to stay then involve them on the committees let them have a say and listen and act on it! I attended a meeting to organise a youth band event and found that there was not a person under 35 there! No wonder they are leaving in there droves, who can blame them. Lets engage with young player and maybe we will have a future I am fed up with old brass players saying what should be done while the answer is there if only they would stop trying to keep control and not care what young players want. It is the reason so many young people run away from home. that they are not listened to! Now they run away from brass bands! Who runs your youth band, who sits on your band committee?

Over to you don't kill of brass banding because youre are scared to loose control. The future lies with the young players so let them have a say.