The Canadian Brass quickly rose to become the world's most popular brass quintet, pioneering a unique and entertaining stage format that has influenced numerous other chamber groups. There were no full-time touring brass quintets when the group formed as an experiment in 1970. At that time, most brass quintet music was played by members of local orchestras or music conservatories.
The impetus for the group came from trombonist Eugene Watts, a native of Sedalia, MO, and a graduate of the University of Missouri. He grew up with a strong interest in jazz, and played traditional Dixieland to help pay for college. After playing in the North Carolina, San Antonio, and Milwaukee symphony orchestras, he came to Toronto at the invitation of the Toronto Symphony's music director, Seiji Ozawa. He is a major contributor to the unique programming for Canadian Brass concerts, which range from traditional classical repertoire to less formal, and often humorous interactions with the audience.
Tuba player Charles Daellenbach is also a founding member. If Watts is the impetus for the group, Daellenbach is the catalyst. He and Watts tend to spark each other's humor, and their in-concert banter is part of the group's distinction. A native of Wisconsin, Daellenbach is from a German family with a long musical tradition. He earned a Ph.D. from Eastman at the age of 25 and was teaching at the University of Toronto when he met Watts.
Trumpeters Bill Philips (1970-1972) and Stuart Laughton (1970-1971) were founding members who became exhausted by the constant touring and subsequently left the group. The two longest tenures, excluding the founders, were Ron Romm (1971-2000), who had been a professional trumpeter in his family's band (the Romm-Antics) from the age of 12, and Fred Mills (1972-1996). Mills intended to be an original member, but could not join for the first year due to contract commitments.
Jens Lindemann, born in Germany but raised in Alberta, Canada, replaced Mills in 1996. He started playing the trumpet in grade school and was inspired by the Canadian Brass, who signed his trumpet case when he was twelve years old. Emulating the Brass, he obtained a gold-plated trumpet. He became soloist in an Edmonton orchestra at 16, and was well established when he joined the Canadian Brass. He brought to the Brass a special facility on the high piccolo trumpet, and also played C trumpet, cornet, and flügelhorn. In 2000, Lindemann left the ensemble to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by Josef Burgsteller.
Ryan Anthony joined the Brass in June 2000 at the age of 31, as a former member of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Indianapolis Symphony. The older Brass members remembered him as the fifteen-year-old member of a quintet that wowed them at a master class performance.
Graeme Page was the original French horn player of the Brass (1970-1983). Succeeding him were Marty Hackleman (1983-1986) and David Ohanian (1986-1998), a founding member of the Empire Brass in 1972.
The lineup for the group since 2011 still includes Charles Daellenbach on tuba, with Brandon Ridenour and Chris Coletti on trumpets, Eric Reed on horn, and Achilles Liarmakopoulos on trombone.
The Canadian Brass has enriched the brass quintet repertoire with many commissioned works and a large number of arrangements of music from the early Baroque onward. The quintet has made over 50 LP and CD releases, and has toured around the world.