Within the Canberra City Band organisation there is Spectrum Big Band, comprising the traditional instruments of trumpet, trombone and saxophone plus rhythm section and vocalists. It plays a wide range of big band music for both dancing and listening, from the swing of the '30s and '40s through to funk, Latin and the latest jazz charts.
Established in 1997 under the leadership of Sergeant Glenn Rogers, it has continued to draw on the expertise of The Band of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, with virtually all of its Musical Directors having come from that body.
Spectrum plays for balls and concerts and appears regularly at interstate jazz festivals. These have included festivals held in Manly, Thredbo, Wagga Wagga, Moruya and Merimbula where they were well received by jazz devotees. Among the prominent artists it has backed are jazz musicians Dan Barnett and John Morrison and singer Carl Risely of Australian Idol fame. In 2007 it won the Jazz Section of the National Eisteddfod under the leadership of Warrant Officer Rod Mason, OAM.
Although not continuous, the Canberra City Band has had an association with big band/dance orchestras going back many years. From 1931-1937 the Band Master was Les Pogson. He had played in or led big bands in Albury, Sydney and possibly Britain. Over the many years that he was in Canberra he led what were considered the citys most popular dance bands and in 1948 recorded in the 2CA studios Jubilee Stomp, a Duke Ellington big band arrangement and one of the first jazz recordings made in Canberra. He played frequently at the Albert Hall, then Canberras main social centre with the largest dance floor. Pogsons orchestras varied in size according to the requirements of the occasion but they were known to often exceed twenty players. To raise funds for the band during the Depression years Pogson ran Canberra City Band Balls at the Albert Hall. On those occasions the Canberra City Band, augmented with saxophone players from his orchestra, played dance band arrangements especially written by Pogson. For a ball held on 29 May 1936 it was reported that the band consisted of 35 players!
In 1983 the Youth Division of the band formed the Capital City Big Band under the leadership of John Helgesen, son of the then Musical Director Keith. It was later to change it name to Kickbrass and continued through to the early 1990s. Virtually all of this bands members were still at school and this placed some restrictions on where and when they could play but there were appearances at the Canberra Jazz Club, Southern Cross Club, and Canberra Festival and at the Merimbula Jazz Festivals in 1986 and 1990. While youth big bands from Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere are now a common feature of the Merimbula festival, the Capital City Big Band was the first youth big band to appear on the program. A number of the people associated with this band went on to become professional jazz/studio musicians in Sydney.
A second big band also operated within the organization at this time. As the Capital City Big Band had an age limit of 25, the senior members in 1991 decided to start their own, under the leadership of Colin Fischer. Entitled The Canberra City Stage Band, it won the Open Jazz Band Section of the National Eisteddfod that year and continued playing at balls up until Fischer retired in 1993. The senior members regarded it as a side line interest and it was never as specialized, serious or as busy as the previously established junior big band.
While interest has fluctuated over the years The Spectrum Big Band currently caters to those members and public who want to play, dance or listen to this style of music.