The Las Vegas Brass Band Story

Pete Cooper

The Las Vegas Brass Band is one of the longest-running community ensembles in Las Vegas, celebrating over 25 seasons, but in the grand tradition of British brass bands, the band is barely an infant.

In the western US, though, its success is helping lead the way in expanding this rich form of musical expression. In some measure the band owes its existence to the shrinking job market for “live” musicians in the lounges and showrooms of the Entertainment Capital of the World. Many of the its musicians chose to stay in Las Vegas and change careers rather than uproot families and move to where there were even less job opportunities of any kind. One such musician was London born Pete Cooper.

After a successful switch to Realtor, Pete began to look for new ways to use his musical talents. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Community College of Southern Nevada both had community concert bands and Pete has been a member of both. As a brass player though, Pete was looking for a sound that was very hard to find in the American Southwest and nonexistent in Nevada. That sound was from youthful memories of playing with the brass bands of the Salvation Army Chalk Farm, Crystal Palace, and many others back in his London home.

Pete Cooper

Las Vegas Brass Band in 1994

Las Vegas Brass Band, 1994

Las Vegas Brass Band - 2010

Las Vegas Brass Band, 2010

In 1993 Pete opened his wallet to buy enough tunes to start up a British style brass band and opened his phone book to find the brass musicians to fill the seats. Some seats were easier to fill than others. There was still enough jazz in Las Vegas to make flugel horns common, but the average American musician had forgotten what a cornet is, thought baritones and euphoniums were the same instrument, and drew a complete blank when confronted by a tenor horn.

Pete’s salesmanship prevailed, however, and soon a band of trumpets, French horns, trombones, four euphoniums, and a full complement of tubas-traditional pitches notwithstanding-began rehearsal. The transition to traditional instrumentation began quickly with the switch to cornets, followed by the tenor horns and an English baritone.

Some notable milestones can be found in the band's history. Las Vegas Brass Band is proud to have hosted the first North American Brass Band Association (NABBA) event in the Western United States in October of 1999.

In 2002, the band released their premiere album, Las Vegas Swing, comprised of traditional swing charts arranged by none other than the great Don Hannah, composer and arranger for Barbra Streisand, Gladys Knight, Vic Damone, Diahann Carroll, Natalie Cole, Diana Ross, Ann-Margret, the Osmonds and Elvis Presley. The CD was very well received across the globe, and tracks still end up on top 20 lists for brass band music!

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Las Vegas Brass Band, October 6, 2013, was proclaimed as Las Vegas Brass Band Day!

Don Hannah

Dr. Richard McGee

In 2014, the Las Vegas Brass Band was pleased to welcome long-time Las Vegas trombonist and friend of the band Dr. Richard McGee as music director.

Richard has always been a great fan of brass band music, though his conducting career has taken him more in the direction of wind ensembles and orchestras. An avid listener and trombonist, Richard relishes the idea of working with a traditional brass band in the mold of great British bands. “I have always loved the virtuosity and energy of the great brass bands,” Richard said upon joining the band, “and am anxiously looking forward to working with the Las Vegas Brass Band to provide the best musical experience possible in that genre. The LVBB has always given outstanding musical performances, and I hope to continue that tradition and build upon it.”

For more about Dr. McGee, click here.

In the middle of the 2020-2021 concert season, while celebrating the March 2020 spring concert and putting the final planning touches on the program for the June 2020 Summer Concert, the State of Nevada implemented restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only would the 2020 Summer Concert be lost due to the restrictions, so too would the the remainder of the 2020-2021 season and most of the 2021-2022 season. Once health and safety guidelines began to loosen, the band was able to get together a couple of times in a socially-distanced (though acoustically challenged) manner before resuming regular weekly rehearsals (well, regular except for the expanded layout, covered bells, and masked faces) on April 15, 2021, just where we left off a full year prior, to prepare for the Summer Concert.

Pete Cooper and the set list for the Lost Concert