Our Trustees

Who we are

The UniBrass Foundation is led by a board of trustees, all of whom are passionate about promoting brass bands within universities. They are collectively responsible for running the charity and helping it meet its charitable objectives. Some of the trustees are previous members of the organising committee, whilst others have come from a diverse range of backgrounds and help promote the work of the charity.

 Trustees are elected at the Foundation’s AGM to serve for a term of 3 years, according to the UniBrass Foundation’s constitution. In addition, there are two ex-officio trustee positions which are reserved for the Chair and the Treasurer of the current organising committee, and a position for a nominated trustee, who is appointed by Brass Bands England.

If you are interested in becoming a trustee have a look at our become a trustee page

Andy Straiton


Originally from Leeds, Andy is studying for a PhD in inorganic chemistry at the University of Bath. He is a trombone player, who has played in brass bands since the age of ten.  Having started banding under his teacher Gordon Eddison at Leeds Schools Brass Band, he progressed to play for his local band, the Otley Brass Band, as well as Elland Silver Youth Band. Whilst an undergraduate at the University of York he played for the University of York Brass Band, York Railway Institute Band and Chiltern Hills Brass (whilst on placement in Oxford). He now plays for the Bath Spa Band.

He became involved in UniBrass whilst at York, being chair for the 2017 contest hosted in Harrogate, and subsequently joined the Foundation as a trustee.

Thomas Hicken

Vice Chair

Thomas is physics PhD student at the University of Durham, having completed his undergraduate degree at Warwick whilst the competition was there. He was on the UniBrass Contest Organising Committee for all three years at Warwick and now is a trustee for the UniBrass Foundation. Outside of UniBrass Thomas plays cornet and conducts the university brass band and trumpet/conducts in the concert band.

Andy Baldacchino


Andy graduated from Durham University in July 2019 with a masters degree in Physics and Astronomy. He began playing cornet aged 9 and later joined his school concert band and community concert band. He is relatively new to the world of brass banding, having joined his first brass band in 2017 and attended his first UniBrass event at York in the following year. At university Andy was involved in several music societies, gaining experience of treasuring. He now works as a software engineer and enjoys playing in his local brass band.

Sam Hartharn-Evans


Sam is a studying for a PhD in applied maths at Newcastle University. He has played brass instruments since year 4 and moved to the dark side of the trombone a couple of years later. He has played with his local brass band, Port Sunlight Lyceum Brass Band for a number of years, and whilst at university was a member of the university’s Concert Band, symphony orchestra, and brass band, for which he has been the treasurer and chair, as well as playing for Menai Bridge Band.

Sam got involved in UniBrass by leading the bid to bring it to Bangor at the end of his second year and chaired the contest in its first year in Bangor, following which he became a UniBrass Foundation trustee as the secretary. 

Nigel Birch

Nigel has been the proud Musical Director of Lions Youth Brass for over 25 years, during which he has helped to develop the organisation from 12 to over 100 players from the age of 6 to 18. He has achieved many great contest successes, including winning the National Youth Championship twice, and last year, leading the band at the European Youth Championships.

Nigel works for the Love Music Trust, who are the leading music education provider, within Cheshire East. He currently, delivers instrumental and vocal projects in nearly 20 Primary Schools. He regularly works the very best musicians within the brass band movement, having a special musical relationship with Fodens and Michael Fowles.

Nigel has won a number of awards including the Brian Hicks, Brass Bands England Award, The Rotary Club of Sandbach Citizen of the Year Award and The Rotary International Paul Harris Award. This latest award is the highest you can receive from Rotary and is usually only given to Rotarians. He joined UniBrass as a trustee in December 2019

Abi Groocock

Originally from the Midlands, Abi is the Regional Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Royal Northern Sinfonia, the orchestra based at Sage Gateshead - home of the Brass in Concert Championships - where she works on and promotes the community and education work of the orchestra. Prior to working in arts administration and marketing, Abi studied music at Durham University. Here she was President and then Conductor of the university band, whom she conducted in their winning performance at the first UniBrass Shield competition, as well as President of the music society. Abi is an active member of the brass band community in North East England where she plays baritone for Fishburn Band and has worked for the Northern Regional Brass Band Trust. 

Sophie Hart

Sophie has just completed a BA English Literature degree at the University of Southampton and currently works as a Marketing Assistant for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. She got handed a tenor horn at age 10 and has since played with several local bands, both in her home in Northamptonshire, and in Southampton.

Previously, Sophie was President of the Southampton University Brass Band and has been involved in organising everything from a tour of 42 people to go Reims, to setting up workshops in local primary schools. Sophie has also written for 4barsrest and the British Bandsman on numerous occasions. She is looking forward to applying her newfound skills in arts marketing to her position as a Trustee in the UniBrass Foundation and can’t wait to see where the charity goes.

Jack Ledsham

Jack is second year music student. He picked up the trumpet at a young age and played throughout high school. During this time he played in local youth ensembles and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland. After graduating high school, his trumpet was left mostly on the back burner as his focus shifted to playing drum kit in original projects and in-function bands. Jack has many years of experience running community street drumming groups focussing on participation and accessibility. When Jack started his studies at Bangor, he knew it was time to pick up the trumpet again and now, he plays in various ensembles including the Bangor University Brass Band. Jack competed in his first UniBrass in 2019.

Alex Parker

BBE Nominated Trustee

"Parky” has been playing the cornet since childhood, studying with Harrow Young Musicians and at the Guildhall where he had his first brass band. In 2008, he became heavily involved in the university brass band at the University of Warwick where he studied chemistry for 9 years as an undergraduate and PhD student. He is also a budding conductor and has conducted prize-winning performances at Whit Friday, National Concert Band Festivals and at the Leicester Brass Band Association contest with the University of Warwick brass band.

As well as playing and conducting he has also become heavily involved in many other areas of banding. He was heavily involved in UniBrass during all three years at Warwick and was crucial in helping UniBrass grow to be what it is today. He has also worked in Kampala for “Brass for Africa” and in 2018 joined BBE as their relationship and development manager.

Organising Committee Ex-Officio Trustees

To facilitate strong links between the trustees and the UniBrass Organising Committee, and to assist in our aim of supporting the contest, each year the chair and treasurer of the current organising committee are invited to join the board of trustees during their term. You can find out more about them on the Organising Committee page by clicking their images below

Voirrey Baker

(UOC Chair)

Rebecca Rowley

(UOC Treasurer)

Become a Trustee Button

Become  a


Get involved as a trustee of our charity


Organising Committee

The people behind the contest