: Creating a Community Through Music

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Wonderbrass is a community big band that was created in 1992 through the amalgamation of two projects, Welsh Jazz Society’s Jazz Workshop Band and The Taff Ely Streetband, which was formed to perform at community carnivals around South Wales. Wonderbrass has been through numerous personnel, leadership, committee-member, musical and artistic changes but continues to be strong until today. Drawing inspiration from such musical collectives as The Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (Chicago), The New York Composers’ Orchestra, Willem Breuker Collective (Netherlands) and Loose Tubes (London), as well as groupings such as The Scratch Orchestra, The Skatalites and Sun Ra, the band has developed a large repertoire of compositions, arrangements and improvisational practice in its mission to prove that ‘musical excellence is not the exclusive property of professionals’, to quote from its aims and objectives. It has adapted to changing conditions in order to survive but retains a core philosophy that runs through its twenty year history, initially this was a philosophy shared by its instigators but latterly, in 2006, the band debated and worked out its own priorities and preferred way of operating, creating a mission statement and a set of musical, social and administrative priorities.This submission will present three of my compositions and one of my arrangements as case studies to illustrate how the pieces themselves are free-standing musical structures, brought to life in performance via the performers’ contributions, notably improvised solos. But the case studies also examine the compositions and arrangement as ‘inclusive musical structures’, facilitating participation in the music and, in some senses, the creative process. They are also examined from the participants’ or band members’ perspectives. This data is drawn from interviews, focus groups and responses to questionnaires. This material from interviews, focus group and questionnaires seeks to establish members’ reasons for joining the band, their aspirations, both personal and musical, through participation in the band as well as investigating notions of personal and musical identity, cultural capital and relationships with musical instrument, musicality and creativity as expressed through participation in Wonderbrass.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJames Fyfe (Supervisor) & Paul Carr (Supervisor)


    • Community music
    • Social aspects
    • Music
    • Wonderbrass
    • inclusive musical structures
    • improvisation
    • identity
    • social and cultural capital

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