Editorial ~ 2009: December


This month we give our opinions on ABBA transparency; A wasted decade and in praise of Fountain City...

ABBA and the need for transparency

For an organisation that guards the right to make subjective musical decisions behind an impenetrable visual screen, it is the question of transparency which will decide whether the Association of Brass Band Adjudicators can play a leading role in defining the way in which brass band contesting develops over the second decade of the 21st century.

Over the last couple of months we have been told through its secretary C Brian Buckley that ABBA accepts the need for change.

The questions remain however. What change, and how quickly will it be implemented?

One thing is for certain: Using self assessment as a central plank of continuing professional development can only work if those who undertake it are honest about their abilities, and that the results of those assessments are made clear to the general banding public.

Transparency is the key. 

ABBA cannot obfuscate, otherwise it will lose what credibility the exercise has set out to achieve.

The members themselves must be transparent in their own assessments to whether they meet the levels of competency considered to be worthy of the trust put in them by bands – it cannot be assumed.

Lists of adjudication assignments undertaken by each member in the past two years and at what levels, should be published on the ABBA website, as well as the number of official complaints, and their findings, made against any adjudicator through contest organisers.

Each adjudicator should have an ongoing portfolio of their work, which can be accessed by contest organisers or even the bands themselves, showing clearly how and why they made their decisions at the contests they were employed at. 

Lists of professional developments sessions attended (and missed) should also be published, as well as the next date that person is due to submit their ‘self assessment’ to ABBA for consideration.

It must surely be an ongoing process.

Those who do not meet basic requirements of good adjudication practice (and it will interesting to see if ABBA believes that all its members reach a minimum level of competency) should either be asked to ‘retire’ from active adjudication, either for good, or until they can demonstrate that they can meet those requirements in full.

ABBA has shown the desire to accept change, now it must show that it can undertake it too.

What do you think?
Send an email to:

A wasted decade

Where have the past 10 years gone?

All the hopes and aspirations, the desires and wishes for a better, healthier brass band movement in the UK. None have come to fruition.

Instead we have wasted a decade of opportunity by procrastinating and naval gazing, indulging in flights of fancy and opportunistic feudalism.  10 years in which there has been not a single move towards building consensus for the greater good.

We are all to blame.

Communication between contest organisers and promoters, bands and governing bodies, even players and band committees remains negligible.

The calls to set up a true national body to organise and promote banding in the UK remain ignored – self interest and self preservation continue to be the be all and end all of existence at all levels of the movement.

There are fewer bands, players and contests, less prize money and sponsors - and less interest from the general public for what we love and enjoy. We are feeding off our own reserves of goodwill, playing music to ourselves. 

Some people are trying to break away from the cloying amateurism of the past, to bring contesting and the organisation of banding into the new Millennium, to give it a vibrant, purposeful, professionally led future, to unshackle the burden of petty bureaucracy and conservatism.

Time though is not on their side.

If another decade passes like this one, there may not be any future at all to look forward to.

What do you think?
Send an email to:

In praise of Fountain City

There is a train of thought in the world of rugby union that if they Americans really get their act together and start taking the game seriously, then they will soon rule the world.

It is the same with their brass bands.

Fountain City may just have shown that the time has come.

Their recent tour to the UK showed that America now has at least one truly world class band in its ranks – an ensemble capable of competing against the elite of the banding globe. 

Fountain City is a microcosm of what could well be the blueprint for future banding success in the United States: Highly motivated high class musicians with professional standards and an insatiable appetite for self improvement.

Not only are they a very, very good band, but also they are one that will not rest on its laurels – the wonderfully composed leadership of their MD Joseph Parisi will see to that.

They left Kansas City as something of an unknown commodity, they returned as the first ever USA ensemble to win a major brass band contest outside its own continent – not even John Philip Sousa and his band could manage that.

America loves its winners, and despite the fragile nature of the domestic economy, you sense that by the time their return to these shores, corporate USA will have started to back their assault on world domination.

Then all we will have to worry about is whether or not the William Webb Ellis Trophy is safe from the Americans grasp.

What do you think?
Send an email to: