2010 European Brass Band Championships - EBBA Conferences


There was plenty of other things going on at the European in Linz - from culture to adjudication and sun baked press hacks.

The sign of the times

As well as all the music that was being played at the Brucknerhaus all weekend, a number of side events were also well worth a visit.

As has become something of a tradition now at the Europeans, the EBBA Conference was a lively old affair on the Friday morning (which was something of a contrast to the opening ceremony and draw that took place a little later on).

Austrian culture

This year the chosen topics for presentation and discussion were ‘Culture in Upper Austria’ and ‘Open versus Closed Adjudication’.

To be fair to Dr Reinhard Mattes, Director of the Upper Austrian Culture Ministry, on paper his topic was as enticing as a trip to the Museum of Austrian Lederhosen, but once we had seen a few slides of chocolate box Austrian countryside, his excellent presentation provided a remarkable insight into cultural (and specifically, musical) funding in the country.

Music is taken very seriously here – with 164 million Euro spent by his department in the Upper Austrian region each year and 3% of GDP for the entire country.

The motto, ‘Rich cultural heritage, active culture today’ sums up their approach; which leans heavily on the provision of high class education to provide the rich and varied musical hinterland that was shown to us on the weekend.

Cut backs

Despite cut backs (even the Austrians are facing between 10% and 15% reductions in budgets over the next three years, Dr Mattes said) the region will still boast a brand new 150 million Euro opera house, and can still fund the activities of close to 500 wind ensembles, 22,000 musicians, 1,000 choirs, 60,000 music students in 152 music schools and employ 1,500 music teachers.

The Anton Bruckner University for instance provides their 850 students with no less than 200 professors to help them with their studies.

Music education isn’t an option in these parts – it’s an essential element of core educational needs.

No wonder Dr Mattes wants brass bands to flourish here.

Ulf Rosenberg poses the vexed old question

Vexed old question

Although this was an interesting topic, it was really the aperitif for the main course that followed, and EBBA’s preliminary findings into the vexed old question of open versus closed adjudication.

Although the study sample of 160 respondents was far too small (chosen from the period 2007-2010), and the questions asked too simplistic (eg. Open or closed adjudication – yes or no) to make accurate assumptions on which to base future possible proposals for the contest, it did make for an interesting starting point to engage in those old hoary chestnuts of the adjudication debate.

For the record, 84% of all respondents wished to retain closed adjudication, with 87% of band representatives, 84% of conductors, 85% of adjudicators and 78% of ‘others’ (EBBA personal) in favour of retaining the box.

Bullet point reasons were shown to those in attendance on the overhead projector, which made for interesting (if puzzling) reading, and stoked the fires in the bellies of those who hold their opinions on the matters close to their hearts.

Ding Dong

There was no outcome other than a bit of an old fashioned, good natured ding dong.

However, it did at least show that EBBA was giving consideration to the idea of innovation in the adjudication process, although it was clearly pointed out by Ulf that even though the matter would be discussed by the EBBA Music Commission, these findings were not a manifesto commitment to retain the status quo – just to debate it a bit more.

The EBBA President is wonderful politician and would make an ideal Brussels bureaucrat.

Press Conference

Unfortunately, the EBBA Press Conference was a bit of a non event  – mainly because the assorted reptilia of the press had to endure the effects of a scorching sun reflecting through the huge glass frontage of the Brucknerhaus Hall.

Not being cold blooded, it therefore made for a rather uncomfortable, if interesting session chaired by Ulf Rosenberg, assisted by Swiss EBBA Executive member Kurt Bohlhalter and Dr Erich Schofl, the head of the Linz organising committee.

Topics covered included the future structure of the contest, concerns over the legitimacy of English representation and problems posed by having differing qualification processes in each country, the events in Montreux in 2011 and Rotterdam in 2012, linking to bigger festivals and city wide events and the question of future EBBA funding.

As always, EBBA answered the questions posed and thanked the press for their continued interest, even though you sensed a bit of a mischievous smile breaking out on Ulf Rosenberg’s lips as the press corps made their weary, sun baked way back to the bar to gain alcoholic induced hydration.

Iwan Fox


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