Join a Band
Become a part of it
Across the UK there are around 40 university and conservatoire brass bands and brass ensembles which stretch from Southampton to St. Andrews, Durham to Queens Belfast! 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 run entirely by students, whilst others are run by staff from the university music department, and others fall somewhere in between. Most bands run all year round, but there are also some which come together to rehearse for specific events, such as UniBrass. Here you will find the answers to all your questions about university brass banding:
Should I join my university's brass band?
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.
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. Additionally, university bands don’t compete in the areas, and so don’t register their players, meaning you can register with a local band (or stay registered at home).
What do university brass bands do?
Rehearsals and Concerts
All University bands meet at least once a week for rehearsals, playing a variety of music from traditional brass band pieces to more modern works. Bands tend to do at least one concert per term in a wide mix of locations, ranging from churches and cathedrals to castles and concert halls. Some bands also run collaborative concerts with other bands in their university, or with other university brass bands (such as Leeds, Durham and Warwick).
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!
An increasing number of bands run overseas tours every couple of years. Recent locations for bands have included Ireland, France, Belgium and Germany.
The majority of bands compete in UniBrass, the University Brass Band Championships, at which 750 students from across the UK come together in February for an entertainments contest. UniBrass gives student bands a focus for the year, but also is a great opportunity to socialise with other bands as well as your own. Some also take part in the Whit Friday contests, other local contests and one band (Warwick) competes in the “areas” every March.
Masterclasses (and Joint Concerts)
Some bands have invited well-known musicians like Steve Sykes and Brett Baker to do a masterclass with their students, and sometimes even do a soloist concert. Other bands have organised joint concerts with some of the best brass bands in the country, from Fodens to Reg Vardy.
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.
How do I join?
Whilst different bands will have different requirements to join, the vast majority are unauditioned, whilst some audition for specific seats, and a few select bands require auditions to join. You definitely don’t 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. Some university bands are able to provide instruments, but others aren’t. We would recommend contacting individual bands to see which instruments they can provide.
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.
What if I'm not a brass player?
Some bands run Beginners schemes where they can teach you how to play a brass instrument from scratch. Again, it is best to contact individual bands to see what they provide. Percussionists are also always welcome! And of course, whilst we'd love you to join a brass band, if you play a different instrument, most universities will have an orchestra or wind band that you could join.
My university doesn't have a brass band!
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 bands 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.