Colin J Thomas, Musical Director of Brisbane Excelsior for over 20 years, passed away on the morning of Thursday 20 July, 2006.

Mr. Colin J. (“Colin J”) Thomas was one of the huge contributors to music in Queensland, especially the Queensland Brass Band movement.

From a talented musical family, his abiding passion for the Muse was aroused by his mother, first on piano, then violin and cornet. At the age of eight he joined the Brisbane Institute of Social Services Brass Band (BISS Brass Band), and at twelve, the Naval Reserve Band where he transferred from cornet to tuba.

At seventeen, he joined the Naval Reserve Band which used to practise at Kangaroo Point. It was superior musicianship which brought about his promotion to Band Sergeant and the ensuing skills as Conductor and interpreter of music.

In 1942, Colin J joined Brisbane Excelsior Brass Band. From a humble start as probationer for six months (that being a requirement imposed on all potential members), Colin J progressed from valued member of the Bass Section to Musical Director in 1961.

He remained Conductor until failing eyesight compelled him to step down in 1984, after twenty-four years of devoted service to his beloved Band. The achievements of Excelsior during this period owe much to his outstanding gifts as Musical Director.

When Band Contests were resumed in 1946 after the wartime recess, Colin J won his first Queensland Championship (BBb Bass), a feat repeated another three times. He was also the Australian Champion on three separate occasions, his virtuosity such that he was invited to play with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and to join the South Australian Symphony when it urgently required a tuba player.

His reputation as musician was by no means limited to Brisbane and Queensland. At Brass Band Contests across the nation, he was in demand as a highly-regarded Adjudicator. In 1977, Colin J was one of the few Australian bandsmen invited to the International Congress of Brass Musicians held at London’s Royal Albert Hall where he was specially requested to conduct a number of Britain’s best-known Brass Bands at workshops and performances.

In arranging he had a reputation for excellence. Less well known were other related facets of his work life, including weekly stints on Radio in the late 1940s as “Tiny Tim”, a little boy character who was one of the show’s comedians, and his work as Compere, a role to which he brought a special dignity.

Colin J’s gifts brought untold pleasure to those who heard him play or witnessed his conducting of Excelsior, but his measure as musician ultimately depends upon his peers. There appears to be universal regard for him from both amateur bandsmen who play for sheer love of brass music and from professionals. Brisbane Excelsior made him a Life Member for his work with them.

Rick Casagrande, Life Member, Brisbane Excelsior adds:
“The brass band world is a sadder place today but his passing will leave a living legacy to all of us who knew him.”

History courtesy of Brisbane Excelsior Patron, Dr Dan O’Donnell.