Brass band championships fill downtown with music

April 5, 2019

The North American Brass Band Association Championships will bring 1,400 performers to downtown Fort Wayne this weekend.

The three-day event includes band competitions at Embassy Theatre and solo and ensemble events at Grand Wayne Center. This is the fifth year the NABBA championships have taken place in Fort Wayne, and they are slated to return through 2021.

Dave Jones, association secretary, says that is because Fort Wayne is so welcoming and has great hotels and venues within walking distance downtown.

He says the brass band movement is growing and so is the audience for the championships. If people come out this weekend, he thinks they’ll be hooked on brass band music.

“We know that this is not like a Taylor Swift concert,” Jones says with a chuckle. “But I think for the general public, if we get them in there once, we usually hook them because there are some fantastic bands from all over the country coming to this.”

The championships themselves have grown so much that a third day was added this year. The event also draws vendors from across the United States.

Thirty-seven brass bands will compete at Embassy Theatre. In separate competitions at Grand Wayne Center, there will be 140 soloists and 40 ensembles of differing sizes performing.

Each brass band in the championship has a test piece they have to play, then they play music of their own selection.

Bands are divided into six sections determined by the difficulty level of music a band decides it will perform. Awards for first, second and third places are given for each section.

For fairness, the judges sit behind a screen and do not know the name of the band performing. People in the audience will quickly start to notice differences in the test pieces, giving them an idea what the judges are comparing, Jones says.

“I think people are really impressed by the sound a brass band makes,” he says. He has heard from newcomers that they didn’t know what a rich and exciting sound a brass band can make.

Jones is also a baritone player for the Fort Wayne-based Old Crown Brass Band, which performs in the third section. Old Crown Brass Band was formed in 2007.

Tickets good for all three days are available at Embassy Theatre and at www.ticketmaster.com. They are 10 for students younger than 18.

For a full schedule, go to NABBA.org/championships.