Biography

A Brief Biography of the Band

The Strathclyde University Big Band is one of only a few long-standing University-based Big Bands in Britain. It has established a reputation for developing young talent and playing varied, interesting and challenging music.

Since its formation in 1978, dozens of musicians have passed through its ranks. The members of the band are mostly students, ex-students, staff or ex-staff of the university, augmented by a few enthusiastic friends from outwith the University.

The band’s extensive repertoire is jazz-orientated and includes, for example, arrangements of jazz standards by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, Benny Golson, Joe Zawinul, Oliver Nelson, Hank Mobley, John Lewis, Nat Adderley, Pat Metheny, Chuck Mangione, Clifford Brown, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Kenny Dorham, Duke Ellington, Ray Bryant, Jaco Pastorius and Herbie Hancock, and charts from the repertoires of The Boss Brass, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Bob Mintzer, Thad Jones, Maynard Ferguson, Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Gil Evans, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Shorty Rogers.

At full strength the band is 21 players strong plus the director, Ronnie MacNiven. The band has always included some strong soloists. For example, alumni include Tom MacNiven (1997 Scottish Young Jazz Musician of the Year), Paul Towndrow, Konrad Wiszniewski, Alyn Cosker, Graeme Scott, Brian Molley, Raymond MacDonald, Aidan O’Donnell and Robert Henderson.

The Big Band was founded on Tuesday October 31st, 1978 by John Davies, John Parkes and Phil Nicholson. John Davies was the Director up to 2011 when he handed the baton to Gerry Rossi and took his place on piano. (Gerry handed on the baton to Ronnie MacNiven in 2016.) John Parkes continues to be the band secretary, treasurer and member of the Trumpet section. Phil Nicholson left the band to form his own small group which still plays on the Glasgow pub scene.

To celebrate our 21st anniversary, the band inaugurated a Scottish Universities Big Band Competition. The first event was held in March 2000 at the Crawfurd Theatre on Strathclyde University’s Jordanhill Campus. Six of the eight possible Scottish University based bands attended. Gold awards were presented to the Strathclyde University Big Band, the BA Applied Music Big Band (also from Strathclyde University) and the RSAMD Big Band. Silver awards were presented to Glasgow University Big Band, Dundee University Big Band and St. Andrews University Big Band. The BA Applied Music Big Band took the overall Best Band award with Tom MacNiven from the Strathclyde University Big Band being awarded the prize for the Best Soloist.