“You can call me ‘MMM’,” says Neville as he introduces himself. “The Mad Military Musician!”

At the age of nine, Summerset at Aotea resident Neville Cudby picked up the tenor horn and learned to play. He never stopped, and went on to learn a range of brass instruments, winning golds at many world championships with New Zealand’s national brass bands.

His walls are decorated with numerous frames of formal band photographs – groups of instruments and uniforms, sitting below impressive lines of dates and locations, tell the tale of years of success.

Neville touring as part of the National Band of New Zealand and Aotearoa Maori Group

With more than 50 years of service in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Band, Neville is still travelling around the country and globe with his euphonium.

“I still play in the Air Force band, as well as other brass bands that ask me to help out. I enjoy playing, and I’ve been doing it ever since I started,” says Neville.

Neville practices up to three up hours every day, and insists he has to practice more now than when he was younger.  “Luckily my villa is beside the fence line. I point the euphonium toward it and play – so far none of my neighbours have complained,” he jokes.

“As long as I can I’ll keep playing.”

Neville with his euphonium outside his villa at Summerset at Aotea

His mother was a pianist and cellist, which he says is what helped him and his trombone-playing brother to get into music at a young age.  “My brother and I joined the Wellington Boys Institute band and were taught to play. From there, I kept going.”

However, surgery on his upper lip when he was a young adult resulted in Neville having difficulty blowing into the mouth piece of the tenor horn. Neville discovered that while the tenor horn sat in the wrong place, both the French horn and euphonium mouth pieces missed his scar just enough.

“I played the French horn in college, and was then approached by the Air Force Band to join as they needed a player. I was young, and at that time it was full of people who had played during the war.”

Over the years Neville has performed with many different bands, including National Band of New Zealand and Aotearoa Maori Group, and the Onslow Brass Band and won national recognition for his skills.   Although he worked as a draughtsman, Neville was able to travel to a variety of countries and attend momentous events because of the RNZAF Band.   “It was a good way to get around. Our first tour overseas was in 1970. I’ve been able to go to Holland, Japan, Russia, USA, and Canada.”

Three years ago Neville joined 12 other international military bands for the Military Tattoo in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  He laughs about the grounds flooding when Malaysia’s tropical weather made an appearance.  

“We couldn’t do the march! We had to play in the grandstand only.”

Because the RNZAF Band is the only military band based in Wellington, Neville still gets to play at many ceremonies and official events.   

“We recently played for the swearing in of the new Governor General, Dame Patsy Reddy. Then she was visited by the Australian Governor General, which we played for too.”