Helen’s involvement in music began at the age of 12, when she started brass lessons at Ayr Academy, Ayrshire, Scotland, initially on French Horn, then Tuba. She joined the local Ayr Area Schools Brass Band, and then later progressed to adult bands in Ayrshire; Benquhat Band, and Dalmellington Band. In 1980 Helen was one of the first students to embark upon the brand new “Graduate Diploma in Band Musicianship” course at Salford College, at a time when it was very difficult for women to be accepted in the country’s finest bands.
Helen has a vast amount of experience both as a performer and teacher. Over the last 30 years she has held teaching posts throughout the North West of England; in Wigan, Bury, Salford, and in 1988-9 she spent a year in the Sultanate of Oman, as Low Brass Tutor to the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra. She has also worked as Bass Tutor with the National Children’s Brass Band of Great Britain. After a successful 15 years as Head of Brass for Bolton Music Service, Helen is now pursuing a freelance career, and has set up a very successful music teaching company, Minshall Music LTD, working with her daughter, Samantha, and son in law, Neil.
Helen’s many years of hard work with young people in brass bands were formally recognized in 2014 when she was presented with the Mortimer Medal for services to young people in the brass band movement, from the Worshipful Company of Musicians. This followed a number of previous awards; Rotary’s Paul Harris Fellowship, Family and Community Service Award, Soroptimist Woman in the Community Award and 25 Years Service to Brass Bands.
Helen and her husband Stephen started the highly successful Astley Youth Band in 1994, and currently there are 3 bands within the organization with over 100 members. Helen is currently Musical Director of Astley Unlimited Band, and also directs the Lancashire Youth Brass Band. Helen thoroughly enjoys working with all her bands, and is committed to helping players of all ages to achieve their best.