Our team of Conducting Tutors is led by Darren Hawken, who conducts the band at monthly rehearsals. Tutors also take sectional rehearsals at both monthly rehearsals and on courses.
Darren is a musician of rare versatility – a successful conductor, teacher, trombonist, outreach leader, vocalist, pianist, organist and accompanist.
Darren’s musical career started in Cornwall at an early age. Having started learning the piano at the age of five, the trombone soon followed and it was with the Mount Charles Youth band that he gained considerable success over a period of seven golden years. Soon after, Darren accepted a position with the Bodmin Town Band and it was during this period that he won the West of England Regional Championships, West of England Bandsman’s Festival (Bugle), Yeovil Entertainment Contest, and competed in the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain and Grand Shield Contests playing under some fine conductors in the shape of Dr Nicholas Childs, Dr Roy Newsome, Major Peter Parkes and Russell Gray to name but a few. Darren also held the position of principal trombone with the Cornwall Youth Brass Band for five years, a tenure that brought him four awards including the Albert Chappell award for ‘Best Player’ on two occasions.
In 2003, Darren left Cornwall to embark on a BMus (hons) degree at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) under the tutorship of Dr Robert Childs, Christopher Mowat and Kevin Price. He has performed with the Symphony Orchestra, Brass Band and Brass Ensemble. During his studies, Darren was awarded second place in the annual Linda Mowat Brass Competition on two occasions. After successfully completing his undergraduate degree, Darren furthered his music studies at the college undertaking a postgraduate degree. It was during this time that Darren combined his trombone/conducting studies with the post of ‘Assistant to the Head of Brass’ and also held the position of ‘Vice-President’ on the college’s Student Union.
Away from his college studies, Darren gained a sole invite to take up a conducting placement with one of the world’s leading Opera companies; the Welsh National Opera under the baton of world renowned conductor Carlo Rizzi. A trombone placement with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales soon followed in which he was also a core member of the BBC National Chorus of Wales today. It is during his time at the college that ‘Absolute Brass’ was formed, a brass quintet that regularly performed throughout the UK.
2007 saw Darren become a part-time member of Staff in the Junior Music and Access Studies department at the RWCMD where he was a lecturer, academic teacher and conductor in residence of various ensembles including the symphony orchestra. It was after this successful appointment that he was offered the full time position of ‘Outreach Co-ordinator’ in the senior college of the RWCMD, overseeing and implementing Outreach provision across all areas of the college.
It was in 2005 that Darren was asked to make his brass band contest conducting debut at the age of 21 with the St Breward Band at the South West Brass Band Association Annual Championships. It was on this, his winning debut that further invitations were to be received including conducting St Pinnock at the National Brass Band Championships in 2006. After being in great demand, Darren continued freelancing conducting with various championships section brass bands, orchestras and choirs across the West of England and Wales.
In 2009, Darren was delighted to accept an invitation by the St Dennis Band to conduct the band at the 2009 West of England Bandsman’s Festival (WEBF) at Bugle in which the band were awarded second place. Further immediate success on the contest stage was to come with the Mount Charles Band conducting them to victory at both the Miller Countrywide Entertainment Contest and the Grenland International Brass Festival (Norway) in 2010.
Since Darren’s appointment as the Professional Conductor of the St Dennis Band in 2010, there have been many notable achievements. They include; a coveted Royal Trophy win in 2012 alongside no less than five second places at the WEBF, a third place at the Yeovil Entertainment Contest in 2014, second place at the Pontins Brass Band Championships in 2010, two top six results at the West of England Regional Championships and more recently, promotion from the Senior Trophy into the Senior Cup at the British Open Spring Festival in 2014.
Alongside his conducting duties with the St Dennis Band, Darren currently holds the position of Assistant Director of Music at Plymouth College, one of the leading Independent Schools in the South West of England and more recently, the appointment of Lead Conductor with the Cornwall Youth Brass Band (2015).
In 2008, Darren was invited by the Lord Chamberlain’s office to attend a Royal Garden Party hosted by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace in recognition of his outstanding talent, dedication and commitment to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Tom grew up in Porthleven, playing in the Town Band on percussion and, latterly, Bb Bass as well as playing for many County orchestras and ensembles. In 2006, Tom left the Duchy to study composition and conducting at Birmingham Conservatoire, under Richard Causton and Edwin Roxbourgh. Tom graduated in 2010 with a First Class BMus (Hons) degree and was then awarded a scholarship to study for a Masters degree at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, under the composer Julian Anderson.
As a composer and conductor, Tom has had the opportunity to work with many professional ensembles and conduct performances of his own music. He has conducted his compositions at various prestigious venues across the country, including: Symphony Hall, Birmingham; the Royal Albert Hall, London; and the Wigmore Hall, London.
Tom graduated from the Guildhall in 2011 and returned to Cornwall where he has undertaken several commissions for his compositional work; he was also delighted to take up the position of Musical Director with Porthleven Town Band.
The band has gone from strength to strength, with highlights including two consecutive trips to the national finals in Cheltenham and achieving promotion to the Third section in 2016. Tom is proud to be a tutor with CYBB, an organisation which is an integral part of brass banding in Cornwall.
Aaron began playing the Cornet with the Mount Charles band in 1974. After four years he joined the famous St Dennis band, moving through the ranks of the youth and senior bands to attain the position of principal cornet, a highlight of which was a performance at the National Finals in the Royal Albert Hall in 1985.
After a short spell in the Midlands, playing with a number of Championship section bands in the area, Aaron returned to his native Cornwall, subsequently taking up the principal cornet position with the Bodmin Town band in 1988. Thus began the most successful period of his banding career to date as the band grew in status gaining a reputation as one of the UK’s foremost combinations. The band competed at most of the major contests in the country, including five appearances at the National Finals in the Royal Albert Hall. Interspersed with these competitions, the band made many broadcasts and recordings as well as performing at prestigious concerts throughout the country.
Personal successes in that time have included being named best cornet (5 times) and best player (3 times) at the WEBF (Bugle) contest; best cornet at the CBBA contest (3 times); and best cornet in 3 venues at the Whit Friday March contests, in and around Manchester.
During his time with Bodmin Town Band he also accepted the position of bandmaster, deputising in the absence of the Resident conductor. It was through this and work as a tutor with the Cornwall Youth Brass Band, that he caught the conducting ‘bug’.
Hannah started playing cornet at the age of nine in Mount Charles Junior Band and soon progressed to the Youth Band, competing at her first contest in 1996. After three years on the back row at Mount Charles Youth Band, and a brief spell on euphonium, Hannah moved to St Austell Youth Band on 2nd cornet in 1999. The band was enjoying a particularly successful spell and, in the following year, came third at the National Youth Championships in Salford and won the Youth Section at Bugle contest. She competed at her first contest with St Austell Town Band in 2001 and became principal cornet of both St Austell Youth Band and St Austell Town Band later that year. Two months after being awarded the position, she won the solo prize in the Youth Section at Torquay.
Hannah also played with the Cornwall Youth Wind Orchestra, the Cornwall Youth Jazz Orchestra and has been guest principal cornet with the Cornwall Youth Brass Band.
In 2003 Hannah moved to Salford to study music and graduated with first class honours in 2006. She was fortunate enough to study under David King, Roy Newsome, Peter Graham, Stuart Lingard and Brian Taylor but probably her most important influence has been Peter Minear. While being a registered member of Stalybridge Old Band and helping out other bands in the North, Hannah never missed a contest with St Austell, commuting from Manchester for rehearsals.
Highlights of Hannah's banding career so far include playing at the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005 and winning the Royal Trophy at Bugle Contest in 2008, along with the prize for the best cornet player of the day.
Hannah is also a busy accompanist, playing piano for grade exams, solo contests and music festivals, alongside her regular positions with Imerys Singers and St Austell Amateur Operatic Society. She also plays trumpet with various session ensembles.
Tony was born in Yeovil Somerset, and started learning to play the cornet at the age of 10 with the Yeovil Town Band learners group, tutored by Ken Gay and Dave Hooper.
They soon moved Tony to the main band on 3rd cornet, where he progressed to Soprano at age 14, then to Principal cornet at 16. A move to Sherborne saw Tony playing at a higher level, and again he was soon promoted to the Principal seat.
Work took Tony away from Somerset to Plymouth, where he joined the Crownhill RBL Band, again on Principal and Soprano, and remained for 4 years before being introduced to the Bodmin Town Band.
There followed one of the best periods in his banding career, playing alongside Aaron Harvey on solo cornet, under the direction of Leonard Adams, and qualifying for the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall.
Unfortunately work took Tony back to Somerset but it wasn't long before he was contacted by the local bands. He helped to reform a band at Crewkerne, and Phoenix Brass Crewkerne soon started to make a name for themselves in the 3rd section, winning the area contest 2 years running, and qualifying for the nationals 3 years in a row.
Another spell with Yeovil, now in the championship section followed, and during this time he played at the Glastonbury festival on the Pyramid stage on two occasions, which was quite a unique experience.
In 2008 Tony started his conducting career, firstly with a local village band Burtle Silver, and then with Weston Brass where he stayed until 2014. He took the band from the bottom of the 3rd section to the second section where they were placed in the top six at the area contest.
Tony now works as a freelance conductor and peripatetic brass teacher in schools around his home village on the Somerset levels.