Trevor Herbert was born in Cwmparc, south Wales. He was educated at the Tonypandy Grammar School, and then read music in education at St Luke’s College, University of Exeter (1964-67). He then spent three years at the Royal College of Music as a foundation scholar, where he studied trombone with Arthur Wilson and composition with Jeremy Dale Roberts. He subsequently took a BA degree in humanities at the Open University, and a Ph.D. for a thesis on ‘The Trombone in England before 1800’. He was awarded the Doctor of Letters (DLitt) of the Open University in 2009.
Between 1969 and 1976 he played trombone with many leading London orchestras and chamber groups, most particularly the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Glyndebourne Opera, Welsh National Opera, the Northern Sinfonia, the Taverner Players, Musica Reservata and the Wallace Collection. He has played on many major recordings and broadcasts and taken part in concerts throughout the world.
In 1976 he joined the staff of the Open University. He continued to perform, and developed research interests in two different areas: the history, repertoires and performance cultures of brass instruments, and the place of music in the cultural history of Wales. He has contributed prolifically to New Grove II, The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and The Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. Among his books are The Cambridge Companion to Brass Instruments (edited with John Wallace) and The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History. His book Music in Words: A Guide to Researching and Writing about Music is a widely used reference text. His book The Trombone, the first comprehensive cultural and musical history of the instrument, was published by Yale University Press in January 2006. In 2002 he became the first British recipient of the Historic Brass Society’s Christopher Monk Award.
He is currently working on a major project funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), ‘Military Sponsorship of Music in Britain in the Nineteenth Century and its Relationship with the Musical Mainstream’. The project aims to create a greater and more accurate understanding of military music in the period, and to explain its relationship to wider orbits of art and popular music. In so doing, it will offer a radical and significantly revised approach to the understanding of nineteenth-century British music history. Further information is available from the project’s website.
Another recent AHRC-funded project, ‘Cultures of performance among British brass players 1750-1965’, traced the elements that contribute to a distinctive style of British brass playing. It looked at the relationships between amateur playing and different types of professional music including jazz, orchestral music and military bands. Further information is available from the ‘Cultures of Brass’ website.
In addition to his academic and performance interests in music he has a keen interest in validation and higher educational systems. His work at the Open University has concentrated on teaching and assessment systems in music – particularly for adult learners – and the development of online postgraduate music teaching. He has also developed an interest in the assessment of musical performance through his work as external examiner to several major UK conservatoires including the Royal College of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and Trinity Laban.
He has undertaken work for UK government agencies such as the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Quality Assurance Agency, as well as for bodies such as Open University Validation Services, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and the Royal Marines School of Music. He is also an adviser to several grant-awarding bodies including the Leverhulme Trust and the AHRC.
He is joint editor of the Bucina series of Pendragon Press, a member of the editorial board of the Historic Brass Society, and associate editor (music) of the Encyclopaedia of Wales.
Trevor Herbert is an Honorary Professor of Music at Cardiff University, a Fellow of the Leeds College of Music and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Music.
Follow this link for more information about Trevor Herbert’s publications and recordings.