Meet the Team

What our customers say...

I had searched for an alternative from the usual piano and tuba version for ages, then finally Undiscovered Brass made this arrangment available which was exactly what I needed

Wendy, Canada

Mark Leigh BSc. Hons. Electronic Engineering (Director of Undiscovered Brass)

Mark's initial musical influence was acquired from his time as a chorister in Stoke Church Choir. Although only a Parish Church, the choir aspired to be that of a Cathedral choir, and the choir sang evensong on many occasions at a number of Cathedrals in England and Wales. Mark was also a member of the Northern Cathedral singers, based in Manchester that was directed by the late Lionel Dakers. Mark was also particularly inspired by the Choir of Kings College Cambridge.

At about the same time as he was a chorister, Mark started playing the trombone, and played in a number of musical organisations including Brass bands, Brass ensembles, the Staffordshire County wind band, orchestra and Brass band. Unfortunately, Mark's academic skills weren't matched by his enthusiasm for music, and during his years at high school this caused him a number of problems, so much so that on   one particular school open evening, one of his teachers once put to his parents that "Mark only comes to school for a rest from his music". The teacher concerned had more or less hit the nail on the head with that statement!

Mark's rebellious tendencies were evident from an early age, and a prominent example of this was that at the age of 9, he entered into an argument with his primary school music teacher about the existence of the soprano clef!  Mark actually considered himself capable of taking on adults in active debate even at 9 years of age!   The Music teacher was so furious with Marks apparent subordination, that she threatened to take him to the Headmaster. Unfortunately, if she had done this, then she would have effectively been trying to punish him for arguing the truth! The amount of time Mark has since spent transposing soprano clef parts from scores in his head bears witness to this, since the Sibelius software writers evidently also fall into the same category as his first music teacher! Despite Marks clash with the music teacher, he still admired her both for her ability as a music teacher (discounting her lack of awareness of the soprano clef) and her ability to instil discipline in the children during the School hymn practise sessions. For this, she would place monitors all around the assembly of children, and if any one of them created a fuss, the monitors would pick them out and the child concerned would then be required to sing a solo in front of the rest of the school of the hymn being practised! As a result, there were not many rowdy children! If teachers followed this same approach today, then school discipline would improve dramatically! 

For those that no him, regarding Mark's rebellious nature, nothing has since changed! 

Regarding Trombone playing, Mark's biggest influences were from Don Lusher, and Christian Lindberg, but not necessarily in that order! These two world class players helped Mark to fulfil his desire to be able to cross the boundary between the "Legitimate and non-Legitimate" styles of trombone playing that Don Lusher so accurately described. Mark also admired Tommy Dorsey, but if Mark's ambition to be nicknamed "Don Dorsey" ever happens – only the future can decide this! However, one important fact should be made, which is that Mark has experienced very severe difficulties in achieving anything like a decent standard of Trombone playing, and this is borne out by several factors. The most blatant fact is that mark is NOT a natural trombone player, and this is very clearly demonstrated by the fact that despite playing in many different musical groups throughout his life, he never once played a Solo with any Brass Band, orchestra, wind Band or swing Band until he was 47 years old simply because he wasn't good enough even with a 2nd section Brass Band!  Also, he couldn't even play pedal notes correctly until he was 42 years old! Mark did improve his playing to some extent, but even then, he experienced some setbacks. He used to live in a small village, (he won't say where for fear of embarrassing a certain Brass Band) but Mark , despite his inability to play a solo , was still good enough to play in 2nd section Bands for most of his life (he played in the Royal Doulton  Brass Band from 1981 -1991), but when Mark offered to help out with his village 4th section Brass band, he was told "If you are not committed to our Band , then we are not interested in you playing for us under any circumstances" . Mark, to this day wonders what the criteria required was to be a guest player in this particular Band, because if that Band had needed a guest player who was very likely to play in other Band, then that player would obviously NOT be committed to the Band in question, but if they were still asked to play, then what was the criteria? Was is that you have to be committed to some Band? If it was, then Mark was never told this! He still ponders if this very weird logic is down to small village mentality, or Brass band mentality or both!

Curiously, Mark experienced a significant leap forward in his trombone playing AFTER his first serious bout of depression in 2008-2009. For some inexplicable reason, his playing reached the standard where he could at least play a solo with a 4th section Brass Band that he joined in the attempt to combat his depression and anxiety. Mark continued to advance his playing by developing a number of practice techniques, up until his 2nd major bout of anxiety and depression in 2013. Mark only realised how effective his Practise techniques were, when in May 2017, after finally beginning to recover from his 2nd very serious bout of anxiety and depression, it only took him 3 months to restore his lip to what it was in 2013 even though he hadn't played a single note on the trombone (or any other instrument for that matter) in 3 years!

Mark's advice to anyone who thinks that they are not good enough to play a trombone, then, if they have at least a basic understanding of logic, and can play in tune (and even this can be improved sometimes), is that you are fooling yourself, and if you ask him nicely, he will show you why!

The direction that Mark goes from now on with his  trombone playing is mainly in the lap of the gods, but at least he has a very powerful armoury of trombone playing techniques at his disposal!

From a career point of view, Mark was persuaded by his parents, that pursuing Music may not be the safest idea, and as a result, he studied Electronic Engineering at University, and for 20 years he worked as an Industrial Control systems Engineer. However, due to a number of mishaps including his Marriage break up, and the realization that the alternative career path he had taken was actually a very bad decision, caused him to suffer a very serious depression.

Although it sounds hard to believe, it is likely that the string of terrible misfortune that he experienced may well have been the catalyst that turned his desire of being able to make Music his full-time occupation into a reality!  

Mark had been arranging music mainly for brass quintets, just for fun for about 25 years, but while he was still suffering from depression, it occurred to him, that there was a mass of highly suitable works from the vast repertoire, that had simply not been considered as suitable for Brass Ensemble, at which point Undiscovered Brass was born.  

 

Ellen Davies: MMus (Composition with Distinction), BMus; Bangor University, Wales

We are delighted to have Ellie in the team, since Ellie is our Composer in residence!

With a performance background in piano cello and clarinet; first studying piano under Jana Frenklova and then composition under Guto Puw at Bangor University; she has written and  directed various projects including immersive theatre pieces.

Commissions include 'Tri o Lefydd – un bont' shortlisted for the William Mathias Competition Prize, Bangor New Music Festival 2017, a fanfare for the opening of Colchester's Firstsight gallery; Shugborough String Quartet performed in Shugborough Hall Staffordshire and 3 Cries Boudicca for Kaleidoscope Ensemble.

Professional performances include: Silent Refrain (BBC NOW 2016) The Dream of Maxen Wledig (BBC NOW 2009) and November 1918 (Ensemble Cymru 2008).

Ellen makes intuitive connections through pictures words and music. Her workshops for schools in a Pottery museum combining her original music, rhythm, action and words to enhance communication and historical facts became Gladstone 2013 – Fired up!, a multi age, multi-arts community celebration of the Potteries and its people, written and co-directed by Ellie and performed in the museum courtyard.

For more info about Ellie's work please refer to www.elliedaviesmusic.co.uk/home/

 

Max Debon Dip ABRSM (Distinction)

We are very grateful to Max for making the swing/Jazz Band aspect of Undiscovered Brass into a reality.

Max attended the Guards School of Music after leaving school and later graduated to the Band of the Scots Guards in London performing concert tours and ceremonial favourites such as changing the Guard and the Trooping the Colour.

Following this Max played freelance trumpet in the London area, finally forming his own band, the Mainstream Showband which he lead for 10 years on the dance band circuit.

Taking it a little easier, Max later joined the Alex Gordon Orchestra for a number of years as lead trumpet and vocalist, before taking a break, and then finally being enticed back to show business by the idea of the Debonaires.

During his 'break' Max studied classical trumpet with prominent trumpet player Tracy Redfern and earned his Dip ABRSM with Distinction.

Max is currently the Bandleader of professional Vintage Swing Dance Band, Max Debon & the Debonaires. The Debonaires are an 8 piece band playing music originally written for 16. Max's artfully conceived orchestral reductions enable the Debonaires to faithfully recreate the music of the big bands with punch and excitement whilst cost-wise being more realistic to hire and to be more economical with space required at venues.

For further info about Max'x endeavours please refer to www.debonaires.net

 

Joe Hearson

Undiscovered Brass is proud to have Joe as part of their team. Joe is something of a musical polymath, currently studying at the University of Manchester and majoring in Conducting and Piano. However, as a keen composer and orchestrator, Joe has been arranging music for over a decade now, and finds the prospect of crafting and combining different musical colours wholly compelling.

Joe is becoming increasingly well-known throughout the North West as a Musical Director specialising in traditional Broadway musicals, and recent credits have included Guys & Dolls, Calamity Jane, and Mame.

As a pianist and singer, Joe has had a vast amount of experience performing music from the first half of the 20th Century from concert halls to residential homes.

For more information about Joe, please visit www.facebook.com/joehearson

 

Phil Carrington

I love to come across interesting but rarely heard music suitable to arrange or transcribe for a different ensemble, and was therefore delighted to receive Mark's invitation to join the Undiscovered Brass team. I was born and raised in Bradford, West Yorkshire in the early 1950s. I had piano lessons for a few years, and at grammar school I took up the baritone - I wanted to learn trombone but there was only one available and another lad got it! My music teacher told me I'd never be a musician, unfortunately I believed him (I'm not as rebellious as Mark, though my partner may disagree!), life took over and my musical activity was mostly reduced to listening.

Two of my areas of interest are: Early Music, preferably played on period instruments; and traditional English music, as exemplified by artists such as The Watersons, The Oyster Band, Brass Monkey, and the mighty Bellowhead, sadly now defunct. Alongside this runs a lifelong love of classical music – Bach, Schubert, Brahms, Shostakovich and Vaughan-Williams being particular favourites.

I semi-retired a few years ago, joined a choir and bought a trombone.

I've sung tenor and bass in several mixed choirs since then and taught myself to use notation software, with which I prepare practice recordings. I had some trombone lessons, joined a brass band (where I met Mark), and started writing arrangements for brass band and other ensembles. I moved to Devon a few years ago and now I sing in the Exeter Bach Choir. I more or less stopped playing the trombone when I moved, however I may well start playing again now that the Undiscovered Brass project has reawakened my interest and enthusiasm!

 

David Cunningham

Based in Stoke on Trent, David has enjoyed a long and varied musical career. He studied at the Manchester College of Music and followed this with a spell as a trombonist in the Reykjavik Symphony Orchestra. On his return to the UK he enjoyed a highly successful career as a trombonist and pianist. He has performed in orchestras, bands and as a theatre musician. He has a considerable reputation as a composer and arranger having written much for television and radio. In 2006 he was commissioned by English Pro Musica to write a trombone concerto which was performed in his home town by the orchestra and its principle trombone Peter Lacey. David remains in great demand as both performer and teacher and currently holds the post of trombone teacher at the University of Keele.

 

Simon Kerwin

We were highly honoured to have had the World-renowned Composer and arranger Simon Kerwin on our team.

Simon was a globally recognised performer, conductor, composer and arranger, and worked as a freelance musician playing, conducting and adjudicating various events around the world. His studies at the University of Salford advanced Simon's performance and conducting skills and studying under some of the world's most influential composers such as James Curnow, John Golland, Phillip Sparke, Peter Graham, Arthur Butterworth and Michael Ball elevated Simon to now be considered one of the most prolific modern-day composers and arrangers for brass and wind instrumentation. Composing and arranging for many worldwide publishers, Simon has over 600 titles published with his works regularly being featured on CDs, radio and television. In 2007 Simon was appointed to the most prestigious position of Bandmaster of The Nottinghamshire Band of Royal Engineers. Building the band from conception, it is now one of the most highly regarded bands in the British Military.

Simon tragically passed away after a short illness in 2018.

 

Sophie Bell

We are extremely pleased to welcome Sophie as a new arranger at Undiscovered Brass!

Sophie is a horn player, currently studying at the RNCM in Manchester. She has much orchestral and chamber music experience. She is currently a member of Symphonia Verbum, RNCM Symphony Orchestra and the RNCM concert orchestra, having also previously been a member of the National Youth Orchestra and the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. She has much experience arranging for Brass ensembles of many sizes and varieties. She specialises in multi-standard brass ensemble writing. Her most recent work has being arrangements for the Young Horns project at the RNCM, giving the less experienced pupils an opportunity to play along with the more experienced ones and gain musicality from the older players. Sophie has also written arrangements for her chamber groups, including film themes, classical arrangements and popular music.