Wellbeing in Brass Bands

A new research article authored by Dr Victoria J. Williamson and Dr Michael Bonshor, of the Department of Music, University of Sheffield, UK, published by ‘Frontiers in Psychology Journal’ reports on ‘Wellbeing in Brass Bands: The Benefits and Challenges of Group Music Making’. This original research began life a couple of years ago with a survey distributed with the assistance of Brass Bands England.

Recent studies by others have focussed upon the apparent benefits of singing in choral situations, however, in this new study by Drs Williamson and Bonshor they have, ‘identified wellbeing themes that are less common in choral research; impacts relating to the brass bands’ physical demands, competitive tradition, community roles, and cross-generational social structures.’

The anonymous survey ‘analyzed 1,658 wellbeing impact statements from 346 active brass band members’, which ‘represents the largest wellbeing-related research project within this group music-making population’, and is a positive proportion in relation to the overall active brass band numbers in the UK.

The study revealed significant wellbeing impacts as well as physical, psychological, social, emotional and spiritual influence, with correlation being acknowledged with other similar choral research. This study, however, showed impacts more strongly represented in brass bands, ‘In particular… relating to the unique physical demands of brass instrumentation and psychological demands of this music performance form.’

‘In terms of the social capital of brass banding, we [Drs Williamson and Bonshor] have drawn attention to the social exchanges that take place within this unique music-making environment and which members identify as key benefits to their wellbeing, including the strong sense of family and bonding outside the practice room, and the interactions that take place across the generations.’

In a pre-emptive article published in the summer issue of the Making Music Highnotes magazine, Dr Michael Bonshor reported that, ‘respondents had a great deal of combined experience; 75% had been playing in brass bands for more than 10 years, and over 50% had been playing for more than 20 years… The participants’ ages ranged from 18 to over 80 years old, and they all generously provided detailed answers to our questions. The demographics showed a high level of intergenerational engagement in brass band playing…’

Dr Bonshor also confirmed that in their study, ‘We did not gather statistical data regarding socio-economic status, but many participants appreciated the fact that brass band membership introduced them to a diverse range of people.’

Coincidentally, in the same Making Music publication, Brass Bands England’s CEO, Kenny Crookston, discussed the image challenge brass bands face in the 21st century and proposed that success will only come by ‘making brass banding a fun and rewarding experience that gives young musicians a unique sense of community and valuable interpersonal skills to carry into later life.’

The new Williamson / Bonshor research is well-timed and its content may well add further credence to brass bands’ grant applications seeking to promote the wellbeing aspects of the brass banding tradition.

The ‘Wellbeing in Brass Bands: The Benefits and Challenges of Group Music Making’ research article can be read in full here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01176/full


  1. Williamson Victoria J., Bonshor Michael. ‘Wellbeing in Brass Bands: The Benefits and Challenges of Group Music Making’. Frontiers in Psychology Volume 10, 2019 pp 1176 https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01176
  2. Making Music summer 2019 issue of Highnotes https://adobeindd.com/view/publications/caae58da-7ca7-4b9b-b7a9-505b10e28a2c/1/publication-web-resources/pdf/Highnotes_40.pdf
  3. Header illustration “Figure 1. Visual depiction of the five wellbeing categories and their emergent themes. Themes are ordered in terms of their descending relative size as given by the number of quotations” from https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01176