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Born and bred Ashburton trombonist finally set for hometown debut

Ashburton musician Flight Sergeant Ben Robertson has a musical CV that would rival many globetrotting musicians, but it has one glaring omission.

27 February, 2024

“I’ve never played in the theatre in Ashburton, so it will be great to show off this wonderful band to friends and family.”

Not just any band, but the full might of the Royal New Zealand Air Force Band, which is heading south for their Air Force on Tour later this week and performing in Ashburton for the first time in 15 years.

“I’m really excited to be able to play in my hometown, I don’t get back very often,” he said.

The band will perform a considerable repertoire of music from big band to bag pipes, marches to musical theatre, and classical to country, showcasing the instrumental versatility and talent of a truly professional military band. 

It’s set to be an extra special homecoming for Flight Sergeant Robertson, who will perform a solo rendition of Glen Campbell’s country classic Wichita Lineman by Jimmy Webb on the bass trombone, understandably one of his upcoming highlights.

“But I really do love Leonard Bernstein’s music, so the three dance episodes that we’re performing will be one to watch.”

Flight Sergeant Robertson got his first taste of brass bands when performing with the Ashburton Silver Band as a nine-year old, where he started at a similar time as fellow RNZAF Band member Corporal Byron ‘Buzz’ Newton.

“After school I joined the New Zealand Army Band and spent six years heading all around the world performing at various tattoos and ceremonies,” Flight Sergeant Robertson said. 

“I studied performance bass trombone with Dave Bremner in Wellington, and also over at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London with Roger Argente.”

He joined the RNZAF Band as a reservist while studying at Victoria University of Wellington and hasn’t looked back since.

“I was appointed Bandmaster in 2017 and work fulltime with our small team in the office, so I get an insight into most of the jobs we do,” he said.

“While overseas trips are always great, I genuinely get excited for all of our concerts and even some parades. That said, I was especially privileged to lead an NZDF group to perform at the Gallipoli commemorations in 2019.”

Those experiences are among the reasons he wholeheartedly recommends pursuing a career with the Defence Force.

“There are so many amazing experiences that I have had in the NZDF that you just don’t get in any other workplace,” Flight Sergeant Robertson said. 

“From playing at Anzac Cove at Gallipoli to the Coronation of the King of Tonga, or running around with a rifle at Dip Flat Military Training Camp in Marlborough to playing a school concert to screaming kids in south Auckland.

“I have had so many experiences that I am truly thankful for.”

Tickets for the RNZAF Band’s upcoming concerts are available here.

Concert venues and dates:

  • 28 February, 7pm - ASB Theatre Marlborough, Blenheim
  • 1 March, 7pm - Ashburton Events Centre
  • 2 March, 7pm - Mountainview High School, Timaru
  • 3 March, 1:30pm - James Hay Theatre, Christchurch