About us

An ‘explosion of sound’ from Cardiff. We bring the party with a mixture of jazz, pop, ska, funk and fun.

Our repertoire spans music from every genre – from New Orleans street tunes, Caribbean ska beats and African township to the pop classics of Britney, the electronic sounds of Calvin Harris and the legendary hits of the Rolling Stones.

A mixture of original music and red hot interpretations of songs you know and love. Wonderbrass are the band for every occasion.

Contact us to book us for a performance!

How we work

Wonderbrass are not like other bands; the fees we take from performances are used to fund tuition costs and projects for the band so that members are able to perform with and learn from top musicians from a variety of backgrounds and genres. 

This also means that we play for the love of it, so a professional and passionate performance is guaranteed every time.

Research

Whilst Wonderbrass is primarily a performing band that operates collectively, as well as a community music project that promotes inclusivity and musical participation, it also is a unique phenomenon both in terms of its profile and its longevity. 

We are therefore interested in promoting research into how musical participation, including participation in the creative processes of making music, enhances well-being, promotes personal development and contributes to a sense of musical identity.

Dr Rob Smith, Wonderbrass’ founder and musical director is also an academic, teaching Music and Performing Arts at University of South Wales. Wonderbrass was keen to participate and feature in his PhD project and he was awarded his doctorate in 2013. Since then he has published and spoken at conferences and symposiums about his research, including research on Wonderbrass:

These include:

#WB25 – project and research

Wonderbrass’s Heritage Lottery funded project #WB25 celebrated 25 years of Wonderbrass (by the end of the project Wonderbrass was 27!).

Professional composers (who have engaged with the band in the past) worked with band members to tell the story of the band through collaborative compositions and musical storytelling.

We were also able to invite people who had left the band back to take part in interviews about their Wonderbrass experiences and to perform once more with current members. 

This was a project researching creative participation in a community music project.

Project summary

members of Wonderbrass in yellow and grey tshirts holding the Heritage Lottery Fund Banner

  • Three composers were commissioned to write music for performance and recordings based on forms used in the past by the band so as to build on the experience of playing and improvising within those forms, such as ska, reggae, soca –  building on the band’s history to move forward. Performances are documented in videos and the recordings have been released on CD and 12” vinyl (aimed at DJs to further disseminate the work).
  • Archives consist of historical band recordings and scores, photos, press cuttings, minutes of meetings, promotional material and videos. You can find these in the People’s Collection Wales archive.
  • The videos made by film-maker Laurence Hall intercuts interviews with band members with rehearsal and live footage of the band. These documentary videos are on the Projects page of our website. There is also material recorded for Radio 4’s ‘The Listening Project’ and archive material that can be referenced.

Research Imperatives

  • To revisit musical styles and compositions from Wonderbrass’ archives.
  • To create new music and compositions taking forward these revisited musical experiences through the content, structure and context of live and recorded performance.
  • To fuse past forms of music played by the band with new digital recordings and performance practices
  • To share knowledge and experience of past and present members through creative exchanges between participants, composers, music producers and audiences. 

Impact

Through performance, research and hands-on projects, Wonderbrass has engaged with over 150 participants both past and present and new performers and audiences were drawn into the band through this project. The band has had over 200 members in its 27-year history (by end of project). 

Data speaks of benefits of musical participation felt in terms of well-being, identity and personal growth. Music created as part of the project has been heard by several thousand people. Recordings incorporate creative input from many current members of the band and examines how this creative input adds value to their experience of participation.

Project report

Wonderbrass is a very long-running and internationally celebrated community music project. Funding protocols generally favour shorter-term projects which can demonstrate transformations of their participants’ lives. 

Membership of a regularly meeting and performing project gives less miraculous but longer-lasting and profound benefits to well-being, sense of identity and cultural and social capital. Over the project’s 22 month duration the team gathered evidence and examined the assumptions that the above benefits were tangible and real. Results advocate the benefits of long term, inclusive projects. 

We explored the considerable back catalogue of the band (to aid reminiscence and remake contact with ex-members). New repertoire was created by commissioning three composers (including Dr Rob Smith) to create new pieces or new versions of older pieces for the band.

You can read Dr Rob Smith’s history of Wonderbrass on our website.