Consensus Process in the Decision-Making of an Alternative Brass Band

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Consensus decision-making has become increasingly popular in social movements and other community projects, ideally amplifying feelings of investment and ownership in a project and its goals. While use of consensus has been notable in amateur musical spaces, this article examines the consensus process of a professionally oriented alternative brass band in the United States, exploring whether consensus can be effective, efficient, and just in a group that requires frequent executive decisions to function. Based on my seven years of participation in the band and an examination of the advantages and disadvantages identified by members, I contribute to an emerging interest in ensemble governance and argue that despite the many benefits of consensus, the process can also fail to build full solidarity and equality between members. I suggest that those seeking to decolonise or horizontalise traditional hierarchical leadership models must engage with the many pitfalls that unconventional governance structures can create.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-51
Number of pages24
JournalEthnomusicology Forum
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jan 2023


  • Brass bands
  • Consensus
  • Governance
  • Decision-making
  • HONK!


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