Connaught Brass wins Philip Jones International Brass Ensemble Competition

Connaught Brass_Aaron Akugbo.jpg

First prize in the 2019 Philip Jones International Brass Ensemble Competition has been awarded to Connaught Brass.

Chineke! trumpeters Aaron Akugbo and Harry Plant are members of the quintet, which was formed in 2016 by the students of the Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Trumpet 1 - Aaron Akugbo
Trumpet 2 - Harry Plant
Horn- Robyn Blair
Trombone- Chris Brewster
Tuba- Aled Meredith-Barrett

The inaugural week-long competition, held at the Royal Northern College of Music in July, brings together young brass quintets and showcases excellence and enterprise in brass chamber music performance, building on the legacy of Philip Jones CBE (1928-2000).

The ensemble faced stiff competition from 13 other groups from across the UK, the USA, France, Germany, Austria, Croatia and Italy. You can watch all the performances from the competition online.

We talked to Aaron about the Connaught Brass win and his long-term goals

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What does your PJIBEC win mean to you?

Winning the competition has given us confidence in knowing that there is the possibility of brass groups and ensembles having a successful path world of chamber music.

What are your longer term ambitions in your music career?

I’ve been trying to give my options open when it comes to trumpet playing. I’ve been competing in international solo trumpet competitions as well as playing across in London in its orchestras. In regard to quintet, with our competition win, we’ve been given the opportunity to perform at Wigmore Hall in May and as part of the Debut Series at Lucerne Festival in September. I aim to keep as many of these aspects of trumpet playing going for as long as possible and trying to find a balance of all sides of the trumpet.

How has performing with Chineke! impacted on your development as a musician?

Chineke! was the first time I’d played in an orchestra a.) that wasn’t a youth orchestra, and b.) was my first time having left home for music college. The prospect was daunting, playing alongside professional musicians for the first time in my first week of moving to London but the atmosphere of the orchestra was very open and made the whole process very enjoyable. Learning as I went and getting whatever guidance I needed.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue your trumpet studies more seriously?

Having studied at music school, I didn’t really know much else. My heavy chorister schedule from the age of 8 meant that I was not longer available for sports clubs etc after school. It was one of few hobbies I had as a child at the age of 5 and as I grew up, I just took it more and more seriously until now when it’s basically my job.

What was it like performing at the Ferrandou Musique in France recently?

This was the second year of our quintet getting the opportunity to perform as part of the Ferrandou Musique Festival and it was a brilliant chance to perform a lot of new works, as well as some old ones, to a fresh audience. The feedback was incredibly positive and the whole experience is always very enjoyable and our hosts, David Wilson-Johnson and Matthijs Engbers, were very welcoming.

What advice would you pass on to your younger self or anyone who wants to pursue a career in music?

Staying authentic to yourself as a person and your musical goals is advice I certainly wish I had heard from a younger age. The idea of nurturing and developing your individual musical voice and working your professional life around that is something of paramount importance to me.