The World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) is the only international organization of wind band conductors, composers, performers, publishers, teachers, instrument makers and friends of wind music. It is a unique organization completely dedicated to enhancing the quality of the wind band throughout the world and exposing its members to new worlds of repertoire, musical culture, people and places. The organization boasts a membership of over 1,000 people from more than fifty countries.
The idea to form an organization that would support the band movement crystallized during an international conference for conductors, composers and publishers held in Manchester, England in 1981. Frank Battisti (Director of Bands, New England Conservatory, USA), then president of the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) obtained seed money for the Manchester venture in an attempt to bring an international representation of wind band professionals together. With the assistance of William Johnson (Director of Bands, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, California) and Timothy Reynish (Conductor of the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra, Manchester, England), Battisti succeeded in bringing about this conference, hosted by the RNCM.
With unusual foresight, the founding group envisioned a world organization of band and wind ensemble directors that would share ideas and discuss common problems and opportunities. There was much enthusiasm by those who attended that first gathering. Over 300 participants from Europe, Africa, North America and Asia met for concerts, seminars, discussions, and fellowship. A board of directors was elected and the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles was formed. The first biennial conference was planned for 1983 in Skien, Norway.
Working with neither funds nor members, Trevor Ford (President) and Egil Gundersen (Secretary-Treasurer) managed to recruit nearly three hundred members from thirty-four countries by conference time. By 1983, ten issues of the Bulletin, the official WASBE newsletter, had been distributed in English, French and German to the burgeoning list of founding members.
By 1983, under President Trevor Ford (Norway), a WASBE Score and Tape Library was established under the management of Frank Byrne (U.S. Marines). The WASBE Conductor Exchange Program was organized and the WASBE Student Summer Camp Scholarship Program was founded by Merton Utgaard (USA).
The First WASBE International Conference was held in 1983 in Skien, Norway and was a great success. The conference featured eight lectures and clinics by distinguished colleagues from Europe and the United States. Performing at the conference were groups from The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Iceland, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, Israel, and the United States.
In 1985, the Second WASBE International Conference was hosted by President Francis Pieters (Belgium) and Secretary-Treasurer Jose Couckuyt (Belgium) in Kortrijk, Belgium. Members from over thirty nations attended. Groups from Great Britain, Japan, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, France and the United States performed. Egil Gundersen (Norway) was appointed Treasurer-Historian (a position he held until 2005). Vondis Miller (Canada) was appointed Secretary.
The 1987 WASBE conference in Boston, USA, headed up by President John P. Paynter (USA), Conference Chairperson Lee Chrisman (USA) and Program Chairperson Frank Battisti (USA), featured ensembles from Norway, The Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland, Israel and the United States. Also included was a composition project chaired by Dennis Johnson (USA). Other events included “Forums” led by WASBE Secretary Vondis Miller (Canada), “Panels” for composers, conductors and publishers. Frank Battisti (USA) was named Honorary Life Member.
The Fourth WASBE conference, 1989, was held in Kerkrade, The Netherlands, in conjunction with the World Music Contest. Under the presidency of Jan Molenaar (The Netherlands) and Chairman Jan Willem ten Brocke (The Netherlands), the conference featured fifteen bands from many parts of the world including the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, the American Waterways Wind Orchestra, the Stockholm Symphonic Wind Orchestra, and the Netherlands Senior Wind Orchestra. Sessions included “An International Tariff Comparison on Performing Rights,” “Early American Wind and Ceremonial Music, 1636-1836,” and “International Literature for Wind Band.” BUMA (performing rights society) presented its research results on the image of wind bands among the Dutch public. During Molenaar’s presidency, William Johnson (USA) was appointed Secretary, WASBE became a member of the International Music Council, U.N.E.S.C.O., and Winds Magazine became WASBEís medium to promote its ideas and to communicate with its members.
The Fifth WASBE Conference, 1991, was held in conjunction with the Tenth Conference of the British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, England. The conference was headed up by President Vondis Miller (Canada) with Timothy Reynish, Conductor of the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra (UK), serving as the Conference Chairperson. An extensive program of concerts, clinics and seminars was provided for participants from over 40 countries. Some of the composers featured during the conference were Ball, Bennett, Gregson, Harper, Hollaway, Horowitz, Hultquist, Keuris, McCabe and Wilson. One of the goals was to establish a forum for composers, conductors and publishers to discuss issues pertaining to the past, present and future of music for winds. As a result of the forums from the 1985 Boston Conference, and under the leadership of President Miller, numerous committees and networks were formed by the WASBE Council which added an important new dimension to the Manchester Conference and to the ongoing work of WASBE. These included Military Band, Electronic Media, Marketing, International Repertoire, Conductor Development, Band Education, Historical Research, Summer Camp Scholarship, Score and Tape Library and Conductor/Composer Exchange. Past President Jan Molenaar (The Netherlands) was named Honorary Life Member.
In 1993, ten years after the first WASBE Conference in Skien, Norway, the Sixth Conference took place in Valencia, Spain under the Presidency of Leif A. Jansson (Sweden). The Conference opened with the WASBE Fanfare (written in 1983 by Frigyas Hidas to open the first WASBE Conference) performed by the professional Municipal Band of Valencia which also premiered WASBE 93 by local composer A. Bertorneu. Some of the highlights of the Sixth Conference were the opportunity to attend the final evening of the Certamen Internacional de Bandas de Musica at the Plaza de Toros with over 8,000 people in attendance, and the bus trips to the communities of Lliria and Cullera where delegates enjoyed the local bands performing late evening concerts. There were performances by bands from the UK, Japan, Latvia, Singapore, Kazakhstan, France, USA, Sweden, The Netherlands and Spain. There were sessions on marketing, music education, the interpretation of pasodobles and conducting plus much more. Under the leadership of President Jansson, the WASBE Newsletter expanded and became an independent publication, new procedures for organizing conferences were developed, the idea of a WASBE Journal was explored, the WASBE Foundation was formed, the Baltic countries were brought into WASBE, and the Council established the International Communications Board of National Representatives. Dennis Johnson (USA) was appointed Secretary.
Under the presidency of William V. Johnson (USA), plans for the Seventh WASBE Conference to take place in 1995 in the new ACT City of Hamamatsu, Japan were continued. A new organizational structure for WASBE was approved by the Council and included the appointment of a Communications Director, International Youth Wind Orchestra Director, Conductor-Composer Exchange Director, and the International Youth Camp Scholarship Director. The new structure established an International Resource Committee to provide members with information about wind band publications, band associations, repertoire and recordings. The WASBE Newsletter continued to expand and Editors and an Editorial Board were appointed to produce and publish the first WASBE Journal which each member received early in 1995. Committees such as International Repertoire, Conductor Development and Training, Wind Band Education, Research, Electronic Communication and Networks such as Composer, Publisher, Military Band, and Community Adult Band were given new challenges. New WASBE Sections were formed, and new procedures for dues paying were established. The World Music Contest, Kerkrade, The Netherlands, received WASBE endorsement. WASBE continues to be active in the International Music Council and the WASBE Foundation Board holds regular meetings.
1995 brought the “WASBE family” to beautiful Hamamatsu City in Japan. The conference took place in the newly finished ACT-Center, an enormous cultural complex with state-of-the art facilities. The building even had a French Horn (similar to the WASBE logo) as a monument.
WASBE President William V. Johnson (President of the Organizing Committee), Masaru Kurihara (Chairman of Executive Committee), Eiichi Tohyama, Toshio Akiyama (WASBE Japan Representative), and their many assistants arranged a most splendid conference with a great mixture of seminars, discussions and concerts. Among the bands that took part were the best Japanese bands as well as those from China, Switzerland, Korea, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, USA, the Netherlands and Tonga. Concluding the fine series of concerts were our own IYWO and the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra.
There were, as usual during WASBE Conferences, many World Premiere Performances by composers such as Yasuhide Ito, Nigel Clarke, Keiko Abe, Alfred Reed and David Stanhope.
Among the many fine seminars were the “Conductors Workshops” with sessions planned four days in a row with experts from Japan and abroad as clinicians. Commercial recordings were made with a selection of the best performances.
Schladming in Austria was the location for the 1997 WASBE Conference, Professor Dr. Wolfgang Suppan presiding. With the enormous support of local helpers one of the most visited WASBE Conferences was arranged. Busloads of members from local bands attended the concerts in the Dachstein-Tauern-Halle near the Hotel Royer where most of the delegates stayed and the exhibits were located.
During the conference also the district band organization has its Festival with the traditional marching bands and a concert at the local stadium. Everywhere in the city the WASBE conference was easy to rememberthe shops had displays of band instruments and memorabilia and there was a colorful display of posters, banners and flags. There were WASBE schnapps to buy and even the bakers had designed WASBE cakes! There were more concerts than ever before, up to 6 and 7 each day with many venues in- and outdoor.
Bands and groups taking part were from Japan, Hungary, USA, Switzerland, Argentina, Tschekia, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Canada, United Kingdom, Russia, Taiwan, Italy, Korea, and the Netherlands. There were, of course, many fine bands from Austria especially on the “Austrian-Day” of the Conference. The program listed a total of more than 50 concerts. Again there were many first performances and CDs were once again made with many exciting performances. Many interesting seminars took place including band research in cooperation with IGEB and the discussion of band instrumentation.
In 1999, the Ninth Conference was held in San Luis Obispo, California, in close cooperation with the local SLO County Visitors & Conference Bureau and its Executive Director, Mrs. Jonni Biaggini. Head of the local organizing committee was William V. (Bill) Johnson, who has been one of the hardest working members for the organization since it began in Manchester in 1981 with Frank Battisti and Timothy Reynish.
As anticipated, the conference attracted performers, delegates and trade members from many countries. The location for the Conference was California Polytechnic University with concerts in the new and beautiful Harman Hall in the Christopher Cohan Center, one of the finest concert halls of any WASBE conference. Both San Luis Obispo and Schladming (site of the 1997 conference) were small cities where WASBE was a major summer event. As a result of commendable advance planning, the conference brochure, produced two 2 years before, included the name of bands and lecturers. The conference attracted the an immense number of delegates of the wind band world, from the most distinguished music/band specialist to the “local town band conductor.” A memorable Keynote Speech was given by Dr. Frederick Fennell who spoke on the history and importance of the wind band movement. International performance ensembles included Sinfonische Blasorchester Bern (Switzerland), University of Calgary Wind Ensemble (Canada), Landesjugend-Blasorchester Nordhein-Westfalen (Germany), Amagata Symphonic Band (Japan). Korean National University of Arts Wind Ensemble, Omnibus Wind Ensemble (Sweden), Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy, and Ensemble Argentino de Clarinetes (Argentina).
The American ensembles included the US Air Force Band, California State University Intercollegiate Wind Orchestra, Indiana State University, Oklahoma State University Wind Ensemble, Fresno State Alumni Jazz Band, North Texas Wind Orchestra, and Dallas Wind Symphony. All concerts, workshops, and seminars were well attended.
Conference Chairman Bill Johnson was very successful with the “Professional Development”seminars including those with new ideas as “Bodyspeak,” “Balanced Life,” “Motivation,” together with conducting seminars and repertoire workshops.
Again our IYWO (International Youth Wind Orchestra) performedóthis time under the direction of Wayne Marshall (England), Toshiyuki Shimada (USA), and Ronald Johnson (USA) who so successfully organized the IYWO. A commercial company recorded the concerts for release on a series of CDs. During the General Meeting, President, Felix Hauswirth was re-elected for another 2-year period and Tim Reynish remained the President-Elect.
The period 1997 – 2001 was one of consolidation and stability; Felix Hauswirth was unique in being invited to stand as President of WASBE for a second term, and he was able to bring several matters to fruition. Perhaps most important was establishing the post of Executive Director, and the implementation of the Executive to carry out day to day work of the Council. Together with Leon Bly as Executive Director, Dennis Johnson, Secretary, and Egil Gundersen, Treasurer, the Council began to develop the networks. Members of WASBE were able to apply for scholarships to international conducting courses, all of the International Youth Wind Orchestra were invited to membership for 18 months, a survey was carried out of school band repertoire, and probably of greatest importance, under John Stanley the WASBE Website took on a new lease of life.
Our Tenth Conference was held in Lucerne, an incomparable setting with one of the world’s truly great concert halls, and was organized with traditionally excellent Swiss efficiency and hospitality. Chair of the Artistic Planning Committee for the second time was Felix. He was able to bring his experience and musicianship to bear on the organisation of an especially fine conference, making full use of the fine facilities of the purpose-built conference centre, and its surroundings, the lake, river and mountains of Lucerne. The Conference Chairman was Peter Bucher, who was elected to the WASBE Council for the period 2001 – 2007. The main theme of the Conference was “Arts”, and morning clinics and panels included the Art of Programming, Score-reading, Conducting, Rehearsing, Chamber Music Coaching and Interpretation. A fascinating insight into music of 20th century France was given in the Keynote Speech by the doyen of French Wind Band Music, Desiré Dondeyne.
Over 70 ensembles applied, and of those selected only one was unable to make the journey, the Elder Conservatorium of Adelaide, who were replaced by Omnibus from Sweden. While the highlight of the Conference must have been The Band of the U.S. Marines under Colonel Tim Foley, we also heard excellent playing from the Swiss Army Band and the Band of Lucerne City, the Bruckner Conservatory from Linz, Detroit Chamber Winds, Orkest de Volharding from Amsterdam, Gothenberg Musiken, All Aormori Prefecture Hoinours Band from Japan, Royal Harmonie of Thorn, Birmingham Conservatoire Band, UK, Landblasorchester Baden Wurttemburg with three choirs performing a work by WASBE Council member Rolf Rudin, Orchestra di Fiati della Valtellina and Coro Musica Viva, and the WASBE International Youth Wind Orchestra, conducted by Larry Rachleff and Baldur Bronnimann. Three concerts presented choral items, Landblasorchester Baden Wurttemburg brought no less than three choirs to perform a work by WASBE Council member Rolf Rudin, Orchestra di Fiati della Valtellina and Coro Musica Viva performed a revolutionary work by Cherubini, and the Bläser der Jungen Philharmonie Zentralschweiz gave a wonderful account of Nicolas der Flue by Honneger. There were two repertoire sessions, international repertoire selected by Craig Kirchhoff played by Orchestra di Fiati dewlla Svizzera Italiana and Swiss repertoire played by Orchestre d’Harmonie de Fribourg.
WASBE clinic and presentation sessions were held in Colombia in the second half of 2001, Texas and at Eastman in the first part of 2002, and Sydney and Perth later the same year. Efforts were made to forge closer links with our colleagues and neighbours, the Asian and Pacific Band Directors Association, and with the aid of the web, with national associations throughout the world. In particular, Bill Johnson, still very active in the cause of WASBE after two decades, launched an appeal for US$1,000,000 as a capital fund for the WASBE Foundation, to enable us to carry out many of the plans for commissions and outreach clinics.
The 2003 Conference was held in Jönköping, Sweden. It was the first to have daily reports posted on the WASBE Web Site. Because of this, an excellent archive of materials is available on this web site.
The 2005 Conference was held in Singapore. It continued the online web presence first seen at the 2003 Conference, including a weblog (“blog”) from one of the bands performing. You can learn all about it in the 2005 Conference Archive.
The 2007 Conference was held in Killarney, Ireland. The online coverage was the most complete ever, including our first podcast and a large number of articles in Spanish (and a couple in German as well). All the coverage is included in the 2007 Conference Archive.
WASBE has begun an outreach program to Latin America to encourage increased WASBE membership and to make sure that the unique aspects of band music in that part of the world are brought to the attention of all WASBE members. Look elsewhere in this website for up to date news of the wonderful world of Wind Bands and Ensembles that is WASBE.