Who we are

Who we are...

Richard and musicians playing Smith-Watkins fanfares

Richard Smith: The Theorist & Maker

“Unconventional, maybe; eccentric, perhaps; but then few scientists in their field can claim to have charted new territories of knowledge like Richard Smith.” Yorkshire Post

Richard Smith wrote a doctoral thesis on trumpet acoustics before joining Boosey and Hawkes, where he worked for 12 years as chief designer and technical manager responsible for the world famous Besson brass range.

This included the original trumpets used by Derek Watkins (906) and John Wallace, trombones for Roy Williams and Don Lusher (937), and the cornets used by most brass and military bands (Sovereign/Besson 928)


Richard’s research work into the acoustics, testing and development of brass instruments has been widely publicised in the scientific literature and on TV and radio, and he has travelled in Europe, the United States and Japan, testing instruments with top professional symphonic and session players, and presenting papers at international conferences on acoustics and instrument design.  These can be seen in our resource library.

Millennium Product Status

In 2000, Richard’s cornet ‘The Soloist’  was awarded Millennium Product Status by the U.K. Design Council, recognising its enduring place among the best of British design, creativity and innovation, as “a brass cornet with a unique system of interchangeable leadpipes, providing several instruments in one body that match changing playing conditions and genres.”

These awards were granted to only 1,000 British products and services, deemed to be challenging existing conventions and solving key problems in an environmentally and ethically sound manner, as judged by a panel of judges drawn from design, business, science and the arts.

Richard moved to North Yorkshire in 2005 and in 2010 celebrated, with Derek Watkins, 25 years of designing and building specialist brass instruments.

Honorary Fellow of the College of Science and Engineering

In 2008, Richard was made an Honorary Fellow of the College of Science and Engineering (University of Edinburgh), in recognition of his collaborative work within the School of Physics on the measurement and understanding of the acoustics of brass instruments.

He continues to maintain a close association with Edinburgh University and is furthering the training of the next generation of British brass instrument designers and makers through a series of apprenticeship schemes.

Science and Music students from Edinburgh University on a day visit to Smith-Watkins®

Derek Watkins: The Practitioner

Derek assisting with research into ‘Hi Notes’

When you speak of lead trumpets, Derek was “Mr Lead”. Derek Watkins had an international reputation as one of the best all-round trumpet players, making a particular speciality of the ‘Super C’! He played for Johnny Dankworth, Maynard Ferguson, Benny Goodman, Ted Heath, Frank Sinatra and the James Last Orchestra.
Derek was awarded Hon RAM at the Royal Academy of Music, London.

He regularly played for TV and West End shows and also gave concerts and made recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. His last recordings included a solo album ‘Increased Demand’ and sound tracks for the Batman and James Bond movies.

Throughout his career, Derek worked as a design consultant with Richard Smith on instrument development from 1974 until his untimely death in 2013, testing every aspect of each new Smith-Watkins design.

Derek played exclusively on instruments designed and made for him by Richard Smith; it was this personalised service, available to every musician, that has set Smith-Watkins® in a league of its own. http://www.derekwatkins.co.uk

Mike Lovett: The Professional

Mike is a leading trumpet performer at home and abroad and is Professor of Jazz Trumpet at the Royal Academy of Music where he has followed in Derek’s footsteps as the Derek Watkins Chair of Trumpet. http://mikelovatt.co.uk

Since 2016 Mike has worked with us to design our latest instrument – The Professional (ML) Trumpet which incorporates our unique leadpipe system.

Richard Wright: The Technician

Richard Smith, Derek Watkins, and Richard Wright

Richard has many skills, developed while working on brass and woodwind instruments in the UK and USA.

He is an essential member of the team since 2008 and regularly plays cornet (Smith-Watkins ®) with the Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band.

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