Age has proven no barrier for Hamilton musicians at the 2021 New Zealand Brass Band Championships last week in Christchurch.
Competing in the junior solo competitions, where all competitors must be under 19 years old, 16-year-old Walter Hughes won the Junior Euphonium event and 17-year-old Leighton Ginever won the Junior Basses event.
All winners of junior events then compete in the prestigious Junior Champion of Champions. Walter was placed second and Leighton placed third in this hotly contested event which showcases the best of New Zealand's brass banding youth.
Playing a range of instruments over his four years of learning, Walter, a student at Fraser High School, has now settled on the euphonium.
Earlier this year, Walter was a member of the 2021 National Youth Band – his first experience representing at this national level.
Walter comes from a very talented musical family with his mother Te Reo Hughes playing solo horn and father Walter Genefaas playing solo cornet in Hamilton City Brass.
Walter plays for Hamilton Auxiliary Brass and played principal euphonium with Matamata Brass when they were victorious in the D-Grade band competition at the national championships in Christchurch.
Brass banding is also a family affair for Leighton Ginever with his parents and sister playing brass instruments in either Hamilton City Brass or Hamilton Auxiliary Brass. A Year 13 student at Morrinsville College, Leighton enjoys composing music for brass bands.
The New Zealand Secondary Schools Brass Band performed one of his compositions during their 2020 programme when he was a member of the band.
Leighton has again been selected for the 2021 NZ Secondary Schools Band and will hold the principal bass seat with Walter Hughes in the principal euphonium seat when they convene in October.
Moving up the age spectrum, Richard Edgecombe, baritone player with Hamilton City Brass, was recognised with a prestigious award by the Brass Band Association of New Zealand for his dedication and achievements for competing in solo events at a national level for over 60 years.
Since 1956 he has played in the New Zealand national solo competitions every single year with just one exception due to a family bereavement. This record is virtually unmatched at a national level.
Richard started learning the baritone as a young boy in Te Awamutu and since then has had an impressive record of national successes.
These include winning the Open Baritone solo in 1971, 1975, 1976, 1990 and 1991 and winning the Veterans section in 1995. He was a member of the 1970 National Band that toured overseas for five months travelling and visiting Japan, Hong Kong, UK, behind the Iron Curtain in Russia, USA and Canada and The Netherlands where the band won the World Championships at Kerkrade.
Richard says one of the many positive aspects of brass banding is that a variety of ages can be involved and it is not uncommon for an experienced player in their 60-70s or even 80s to be seated alongside a teenager in a band.
With Richard on stage playing baritone and Leighton playing Eb bass, Hamilton City Brass competed in the A-Grade section at Christchurch this year and under the musical direction of Mason Elliot placed sixth – a creditable result given they have only been in this section for a short time.
Hamilton's successes continued with principal euphonium Ross McAdam being recognised for his services to Hamilton City Brass winning the coveted 'Administrator of the Year' Award.
Hamilton City Brass and Hamilton Auxiliary Brass are now preparing for the Waikato Bay of Plenty Brass Band Contest to be held in Tauranga in September.
Richard, Walter and Leighton will each compete again in their respective solo events and full band events and hope to see further success.