Brass Bands originated in England during the last half of the 19th Century when conical bore instruments such as the cornet were developed into a full-voiced family. The first brass bands were sponsored by companies such as mills, factories, and mines to provide a social outlet for their employees. As more companies began to sponsor bands, friendly rivalries evolved leading to the institution of competitions between bands. Competitions remain popular in England today and an annual National Championship contest is held each fall in London for top bands which advance through regional contests. The popular 1996 movie "Brassed Off" offers an excellent example of the British brass band competition system. Corporate sponsorship continues in England. Many bands there have evolved to a semi-professional status where outstanding brass musicians are employed by a company with the full extent of their contract being that they perform with that firm's band.
The Salvation Army first introduced brass bands to North America. These bands play works written or arranged by Salvationist composers only as an extension of their commitment to the work of the Salvation Army. The development of community and university bands began twenty-some years ago when Perry Watson founded a brass band at North Carolina State University.
Since that time brass bands have spread throughout North America representing communities as far east as Nova Scotia, as far south as Florida, and as far west as California. The United States Army Band program fields a brass band and there are notable professional brass bands representing Battle Creek, MI ( Brass Band of Battle Creek ) and Pittsburgh, PA ( River City Brass Band ). Brass bands are healthy in North Carolina where, in addition to the Smoky Mountain Brass Band and the North Carolina State University Brass Band, there are brass bands in Charlotte (the Queen City Brass Band) and Durham ( Triangle Brass Band and Triangle Youth Brass Band