Join a Band
Become a part of it
Across the UK around 40 university and conservatoire brass bands and brass ensembles bring together like-minded students to make great music. If you're a current, or prospective student, Being part of a university band is a great way to keep playing at university, meet like-minded people and make the most of the opportunities at university.
To find out more, download our Guide to University Brass Banding, find your university brass band, or read on:
About University Banding
University brass bands are also found across a full spectrum of institutions, including the academic Oxford and Cambridge, and the RNCM and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire music colleges. Some bands are entirely student-run, whilst others are run by staff from the university music department. So, you may expect that there's a huge diversity in university brass bands.
Most bands rehearse at least once a week (although some come together only for specific events like UniBrass), and perform a huge variety of music, from traditional brass band pieces to arrangements of popular works. Bands perform in a range of venues and events, from christmas carolling to concerts in prestigious concert halls, often performing alongside other bands in their university, or with other university brass bands, or local bands and youth bands.
Being students, the social aspect of banding is important, so university bands aim to have a lot of band socials making them a great way to meet new people. Socials are designed to cater to all the band’s tastes so will include everything from band curry and pub trips to quizzes, film nights (particularly Brassed Off!) and even pudding socials.
What else do university brass bands do?
Tours: An increasing number of bands run overseas tours every couple of years. Recent locations for bands have included Ireland, France, Belgium and Germany.
The UniBrass Contest: For many bands, the highlight of their year is competing at UniBrass, inter-university Brass Band Championships. Each February over 750 students come together for an entertainments contest, which is always followed by a UniBrass Social, which in recent years has featured Deadbeat Brass, the Oompah Stompers and Atomic Brass. The UniBrass Contest gives student bands a focus for the year, but also is a unique opportunity to socialise with other like-minded students as well as your own band.
Other Contests: Some also take part in the Whit Friday contests (where some contests have prizes for student bands), and other local contests.
Masterclasses: Some bands have invited well-known musicians like Steve Sykes, Phillip Harper and Brett Baker to do a masterclass with their students, and sometimes even do a soloist concert.
Joint Concerts: Other bands have organised joint concerts with some of the best brass bands in the country, from Fodens to Reg Vardy.
Small Group Ensembles: As well as their main band, bands often offer opportunities to play in smaller groups, like ten-piece groups or quintets. Some also offer Beginners ensembles aimed at teaching brass instruments from scratch, which you could get involved in either as a learner or a tutor.
UniBrass events: You can also get involved in UniBrass Foundation events, such as our Conducting Course, or Summer School
How do I join?
Your university will have a freshers fair in the first few week of term. As well as being an opportunity to pick up loads of free things, this is where you get the opportunity to meet representatives of all your clubs and societies, including your brass band. Most bands will then hold a taster rehearsal which you can attend and get involved! Some bands might not attend their freshers fairs, but you will be able to find details of their taster rehearsals on their website or facebook - you can find links to these on our list of university bands.
Whilst, the vast majority are unauditioned, some audition for specific seats, and a few select bands require auditions to join. You don’t usually have to be a music student to join, and in many bands most members are from other courses, making university banding a great way to meet people from across the university. If you don't have your own instrument, we would recommend contacting individual bands to see which instruments they can provide.
If you have the time, being a part of a university brass band doesn’t prevent you from also being a part of a local band. In fact many bands form close links with local bands, so you may be able to join a local band with people you know from uni band. Since university bands don’t register their players for competitions, you will still be able to register and compete with a local band (or stay registered at home).
Many bands will take players of any standard, whilst some bands run specific beginners schemes where they can teach you how to play a brass instrument from scratch. In fact, many non-brass musicians learn join brass bands whilst at university and learn on the job. Again, it is best to contact individual bands to see what they provide.
My university doesn't have a brass band!
Check out your university's other ensembles
Whilst we'd love you to join a brass band, if you play a different instrument, most universities will have orchestras or wind bands that you could join. You may even find other brass players there to form a brass band or ensemble with.
Join a nearby university’s brass band
If your university doesn’t have a band of its own, find another uni band! A lot of bands currently competing at UniBrass compete as mergers, meaning that some of their players actually study at another nearby university that doesn’t have its own band. This is a great way to join in the fun if you don’t think there is enough interest at your own university to set a band up. Look on our list of university bands to check if there is one local to you.
Start your own brass band
If there isn’t another university brass band at your university, or you just want to create some local inter-university band rivalry you can set a brass band up! If you are interested in starting a new university band, then we recommend contacting us.
The Foundation trustees have multiple years of experience in running brass bands, and are therefore ideally placed to offer advice to to anyone looking to set up a new band, and UniBrass has helped in the creation of a number of new university brass bands so far. We also would offer the following advice:
Speak to your SU about setting up a brass band society. Most students unions will help you in setting up new societies, and should assist you from the universities perspective. They may be able to offer you some financial support, help you to recruit members, finding rehearsal spaces, as well as some of the other aspects that can let you focus on the banding!
Ask around at local brass bands, and any other music societies at your university. They may know keen student brass players who can not only play in your band, but also form an initial committee and take the pressure off you. Local bands may also be able to help out in the initial stages to get your band off the ground, such as lending music and publicity, and they are good contacts for a band to have even once fully developed.
Don’t be afraid to start small. Whilst your end goal may be a fully fledged brass band, its better to get the band off the ground as a small group such as a quintet or ten-piece and grow from there. UniBrass contest rules do not limit bands on their size, so even a small ensemble would be welcome to compete!
As well as general advice, the UniBrass Foundation may be able to assist with publicity, by helping you to send out press releases to brass band press, as well as locally.