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The Notebenders Mostly Jazz Festival 2023

Notebenders History

The legendary jazz musician Andy Hamilton 1918 –2012, founded the Notebenders in 2004, having had previous success with establishing another community big band, the Blue Pearls, during the 1970s.

Andy had been teaching music since 1949. His passion to develop the skills of aspiring musicians remained strong throughout his whole life and alongside managing his own band, Andy took the time to provide individual music lessons in his home in Ladywood Birmingham. Students, such as, Trevor Huggins, Paul Reynolds, Avtar Kalsi and Ashley Beckford, became founder members of the Notebenders. Each had received individual tuition from Andy at his home before moving to the Ladywood Community and Leisure Centre, where they began to rehearse as a small group. 

Andy appointed Maurice Williams birth until 1958 – 2023, as the band leader of this new group. A qualified music teacher and trombonist from America, Maurice taught band members how to read music and how to play as an ensemble.

During 2004, when membership started to grow, Maurice gave the community big band its name, the Notebenders. The students met weekly to develop skills and build musical confidence.  Andy attended rehearsals on a regular basis.  His passion for music and genuine enthusiasm when observing and listening to the was both encouraging and nerve wracking to some members. His presence and his constructive feedback motivated band members to do their best. 

 

As a result of the band’s popularity, membership increased. Larger rehearsal space was found at Albert Hall in Aston.  The convenience of rehearsing in Ladywood, soon saw the Notebenders return to that area of the city, this time to a larger space at the nearby Ladywood Community Centre. 

Today’s band membership continues to reflect people from different backgrounds, ages, musical knowledge, and proficiency. 

In 2007, the band made its first appearance at the Cork’s Club in Bearwood during one of Andy Hamilton’s weekly gig nights.  Other early performances included Kingstanding Carnival, where the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, local MPs and Councillors were in attendance. Another momentous occasion during the earlier part of the band’s life was when they performed at the grand re-opening of Handsworth Park’s bandstand.

 

The Andy Hamilton Trust

The Andy Hamilton Trust was formed in 2007.  The Trust continues to support and encourage musicians to achieve their potential.  The Andy Hamilton Trust aims to do the following:

  • To provide aspiring musicians with access to tutelage and workshops to develop their talent through the Notebenders’ Band

  • To work with individuals, organisations and partners who will support musicians and develop their skills to a competent level

  • To build confidence and pride within and outside of the band as examples of what a diverse group of people can achieve

  • To develop musical programmes that showcase musical talent on a public stage

The Trust has successfully bid for grants to support band member development and to further the musical ability of people who may not have had formal music training and, to support those who are from economically disadvantaged communities in Birmingham.

Notably, in 2008 the Notebenders were included in the celebration of Andy’s Hamilton’s 90th birthday. This was organised by Birmingham Jazzlines. 

 

During 2018, the Notebenders were proud to have organised in partnership with Jazzlines and Birmingham Town Hall Symphony Hall, a posthumous celebration of Andy’s 100th birthday.  Both events took place at the Birmingham Town Hall and were organised to acknowledge how much Andy Hamilton had contributed to music in the City. 

 

He continues to do so today, through the work of Notebenders who act as one of the many legacies that he has left.

Some of the first students of the Notebenders were fortunate to have performed at the monthly Sax in the City sessions alongside Andy and his band at Birmingham Symphony Hall. The Notebenders community big band  were honoured to be offered Andy’s monthly slot after he passed away in 2012.  

 

The band also regularly plays at the Christmas Rush Hour Blues sessions, organised by Birmingham Jazzlines, now B:Music. 

These sessions continue to take place at Symphony Hall, in the Jennifer Blackwell Suite and the Notebenders are proud of the regular support received from audience members. 

The Notebenders have continued to perform at other prestigious venues, such as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) Centre and Birmingham Council House, plus, the Big Band Day at the Spotted Dog, a well know local jazz venue.  The band has organised as well as contributed to several fundraising events, and has been booked to perform at charitable events as well as a range of private functions across the West Midlands. 

During 2019, the Notebenders performed at the Mostly Jazz Festival, Birchfield Jazz Festival and they were privileged to be the support act to The Jazz Jamaica Allstars during the Birmingham leg of their tour, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Trojan record label.

The band has benefited from forming longstanding relationships with several professional musicians, such as, Gary Crosby, bassist and founder of the Jazz Warriors. 

The impact of the pandemic did not dampen enthusiasm to keep the band’s spirit alive. Between April 2020 and July 2021, the regular Friday night rehearsal slots became a time for band members to meet online, to socialise and perform from their own homes.

 During 2022, in recognition of the Commonwealth celebrations, famous saxophonist, Soweto Kinch, was commissioned by the Flourish Project to deliver workshops with the Notebenders and to write a piece specifically for the band.  This resulted in the ‘Notebenders Fanfare’, a piece now firmly fixed in the band’s repertoire and performances. 

The support and friendship of professional musicians as well as regular audience attendees, has been inspirational to band members.

News of former players who have progressed in the musical world:

  • Ashley Beckford, saxophonist, is a member of the Reggaelators

  • Kirk Ricketts, singer and saxophonist, now leads his own excellent ska and reggae band, "The AC30s"

  • Romarna Campbell, who attended the Berklee Music College in USA, now has a successful solo career and leader of her own trio.

  • Rueben James, multi-talented, keyboard player and singer has had success performing with international artists and his own solo projects          

  • Archie Tulk, saxophonist, and Alexander Polack, trumpeter, are studying at Trinity Labann Music College in London. They are making a name for themselves on the jazz scene.

The band’s motto, “Once a Notebender, always a Notebender”, remains true because all of the names mentioned above, plus, many of the other past members continue to support and maintain contact with the current membership of the band, including past conductors as well as parents of those who joined the band when the needed to chaperoned as minors.

The band also participated in the Commonwealth Games events, plus, Jamaican Independence Day celebrations during 2022.

In addition to Maurice Williams, a series of other professional musicians and qualified music teachers have supported the development of the Notebenders. Many of the band’s music directors were trained at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.  All remain firm friends of the Notebenders.

 

Music Directors:

  • Maurice Williams

  • Huw and Chris Morgan

  • Jonathan Silk

  • Andy Bunting

  • John Fleming

  • Richard Foote

  • Matt Gough

  • Elliot Drew

  • Alicia Trejo-Gardener

  • Andrew Woodhead

 

The Notebenders continues to grow from strength to strength under the excellent tuition of

  • Liam Brennan and James Borland.

If you would like to book the Notebenders or to find out more about the band please contact the Chair, Trevor Huggins, at info@notebenders.com

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