Whilst brass ensembles at the University of Warwick can be traced back many years prior, The University of Warwick Brass Society wasn’t founded until 1991 by student Sarah Sterne. Since the first rehearsal in May 1992 the society has not looked back. For a number of years the attached brass band, the University of Warwick Brass Band, has held the prestigious title of being the highest ranked student brass band in the United Kingdom.
The original purpose of the society was to give students at the University of Warwick a chance to continue, or take up, the tradition of brass banding – with a focus on contesting and concerts. The society has remained true to this aim and also diversified by facilitating a number of smaller ensembles, such as the Symphonic Brass Ensemble and the Beginners Brass Group.
The band initially consisted of a quintet; however within a year the band had grown to 10 members and was conducted weekly by Robert Payne, a student at the University. The band performed its first concert at Peckleton church in Earlsdon in May 1993 and continued to grow in membership.
Eventually, in December 1997, the band participated in its first contest under the baton of Colin McDonald – the West Midlands Brass Band Association Contest. It was a successful first attempt, winning the fourth section with ‘Oceans’ and coming a very respectable 5th in the third section with Gordon Langford’s ‘Sinfonietta’. That same year the band competed at the Nationals in the 4th section and was subsequently promoted into the 3rd section the following year. In 2000 the band entered and won the 3rd section regionals for the Midlands and was once again invited to perform in the Nationals, which were held at the Royal Albert Hall. By 2001, the University of Warwick Brass Band was a recognised 2nd section band.
It was at about this time that the Symphonic Brass Ensemble was created to provide a challenge for the more advanced players in the society. This ten or twelve-piece brass ensemble has grown alongside the main band – with most members of Symphonic Brass playing in both ensembles. In addition, throughout the bands history various other ensebles have existed as required, including quintets, tuba and trombone quartets and much more!
More recently, the Beginners’ Brass Group was formed in 2009 in order to broaden the Society’s outlook by offering non-brass players the chance to pick up a brass instrument and be taught how to play it free of charge. This has been a great success, with players ‘graduating’ into the main band, and has expanded to offer lessons in percussion as well. From 2012, a new Intermediate group has been formed bridging between the Beginner Group and the Main Band.
Throughout the years, the Society’s ensembles have had the privilege to perform in a string of venues such as the Birmingham Symphony Hall – in addition to performing regularly at the Butterworth Hall on campus at the University of Warwick. The Society has also held a number of concerts joint with guest soloists, including Steve Sykes, Ryan Watkins and Kevin Crockford. As well as the musical success the band has enjoyed, a strong social group has developed – where all players are welcome. The society participates in foreign tours to destinations such as Strasbourg and Vienna as well as domestic tours to areas such as Cardiff and Liverpool.
In recent years, the Brass Band has taken part in UniBrass, the world’s only inter-university brass band contest. The contest was hosted by the University of Warwick for three years, and the band has enjoyed great success there against other top bands from universities and conservatoires. The society also has links with Leeds and Durham University brass bands, and we take part in the annual Tri-Uni concert with them each February.
The Band is proudly affiliated with the University of Warwick Music Centre where rehearsals are held every Wednesday during term time. Simon Hogg, the long time conductor of the band, has contributed greatly to its prolonged success. The band currently competes in the 4th Section.
The future looks bright for the Brass Society. We maintain the strong heritage for socialising, contesting and being a proud and important part of the brass banding family.