The idea to form an organization that would support the band movement crystallized during an international conference for conductors, composers and publishers held in Manchester, England in 1981. Frank Battisti (Director of Bands, New England Conservatory, USA), then president of the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) obtained seed money for the Manchester venture in an attempt to bring an international representation of wind band professionals together. With the assistance of William Johnson (Director of Bands, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, California) and Timothy Reynish (Conductor of the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra, Manchester, England), Battisti succeeded in bringing about this conference, hosted by the RNCM.
With unusual foresight, the founding group envisioned a world organization of band and wind ensemble directors that would share ideas and discuss common problems and opportunities. There was much enthusiasm by those who attended that first gathering. Over 300 participants from Europe, Africa, North America and Asia met for concerts, seminars, discussions, and fellowship. A board of directors was elected and the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles was formed. The first biennial conference was planned for 1983 in Skien, Norway.
Working with neither funds nor members, Trevor Ford (President) and Egil Gundersen (Secretary-Treasurer) managed to recruit nearly three hundred members from thirty-four countries by conference time. By 1983, ten issues of the Bulletin, the official WASBE newsletter, had been distributed in English, French and German to the burgeoning list of founding members.
Extended articles on the history of WASBE’s first thirty years were included as part of the 2011 issue of the WASBE Journal, which can be downloaded from the Members’ area.
We are still the only international wind band organization in the world and we remain dedicated to enhancing the quality of the wind band internationally. Our own success has changed our profession and, in the process has changed WASBE. We now know one another and, through the Internet, we are able to communicate with each other on a daily basis. We have become close friends without international borders. We are no longer provincial and we are now willing to freely exchange artistic ideas and perform the magnificent international repertoire that would have been unknown to us prior to the advent of WASBE.
To some extent, our cultures have merged and we have learned to get around language barriers. We have learned from our mistakes and we now have a level of sophistication we could only dream about in 1981. We often change our personality through the change of our leadership, but our purpose remains the same. In the positive meaning of the word, WASBE is the essence of globalization. We were ahead of our time in 1981 when we set out to dissolve artistic barriers and borders and become a single force to enhance and even recreate an art form that is now in line with mainstream serious music performance throughout the world. Perhaps we are some of the pioneers of globalization. The danger of artistic globalization, however, is losing our cultural and artistic differences. Through mutual respect and the embracing of those differences, we can all wear a “coat of many colors.”