Sunday, August 12, 2001

Conductor continues brass band tradition

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        “We're trying to get the message out about the brass band,” says conductor Anita Cocker Hunt. “Whenever we do a concert, people say, "Oh my gosh, we love this music.' ”

        Ms. Hunt, who founded the Cincinnati Brass Band in 1993, is carrying on a British brass band tradition. It was adopted in this country by the Salvation Army bands.

        “I grew up in a brass band tradition,” says the Cleveland native, who played in her Salvation Army church band when she was a teen-ager. “It just makes me happy to see the brass band tradition spreading throughout America, and having other people enjoy it as much as I do. That's the thrill of it.”

        The band, part of an September 1999 Tempo article on amateur bands in the Tristate, has 35 volunteer members whose day jobs range from engineers and accountants to college professors.

        Since its founding, it has performed in six concerts with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra — including last month at Riverbend — and has won first place awards in a national competition sponsored by the North American Brass Band Association (NABBA).

        “We play original brass band pieces, as well as the full spectrum of arrangements of well-known pieces that everyone would recognize,” she says, listing Disney hits, John Williams tunes, fanfares, spirituals and hymns.

        But the sound is unique, because the British brass band instrumentation is different from that of the American concert band. Cornets are used instead of trumpets, and alto horns take the place of French horns. The upper voice is composed of flugel horns; the bottom is baritones, euphoniums, trombones and tubas. There is also a small percussion section.

        “The British brass band can play very loud and bright, but it's a lot more mellow,” Ms. Hunt says.

        Ms. Hunt, who lives in Milford, received degrees in music education, trumpet and wind conducting from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She is vice-president of the NABBA, which has about 65 bands and 2,000 members.

        When Cincinnati Brass Band hosts the 20th annual championships of the NABBA (April 12-13 at Princeton High School), 25 to 30 brass bands and 1,000 people are expected to attend. The weekend will end with a concert by the Brass Band of Battle Creek (Mich.), whose roster includes principal players from top orchestras. (Events will be open to the public; details will be announced later).

        High on Ms. Hunt's list of priorities this season is to form a Youth Brass Band. The idea is to create a “feeder” program for the adult band.

        “Music doesn't stop after high school,” she says. “There are many community groups where they can continue to play.”

        For a concert schedule, links to global brass bands and more, go to


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