Music has always been a big part of my life. I started playing the bass before I even started school and took mini-bass lessons at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire at their Saturday morning school for very young children. At primary school, I auditioned for the National Children’s Orchestra (NCO) and got into the Under 11s ensemble. The NCO was a great family to be part of; we went on tour and played on a pontoon in a lake at Lady Walton’s home on the Italian island of Ischia. Music was a great comfort to me at this time, with a lot of things going on in my family life, and I met some friends that I still play with now.
I went to a boys' state secondary school which had a real commitment to music. All the boys had to learn an instrument in Year 7 and many carried on beyond, which meant there were tons of musicians and lots of ensembles. I went on learning the bass with the music service and I also learned the bass guitar and played in a great band. School had two very highly regarded jazz bands and I played both electric and string bass for them, which helped me master a lot of complex rhythms and different styles. Playing the bass kept me sane while I got through my A levels. We did competitions, like Music for Youth, and also made our own recordings. It made me realise that music can be many things and that the skills and creativity of musicians apply not only to the classical sector.
I started learning with Charles Wall, bassist in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and also played in the National Youth Orchestra and National Youth Chamber Orchestra. Playing Holst’s The Planets and Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 at the Proms and also performing with great conductors like Vassily Petrenko and John Wilson were unforgettable experiences. Then when I arrived at the Royal College of Music, where I had a scholarship from the Marylebone Educational Trust, I realised how much more work there was to do. I got a placement at English National Opera and discovered I love opera – the music, the drama, and even the pit!
In the past year, I have had some brilliant opportunities. I have played with the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra, the London Mozart Players and Oxford Philharmonic, and made my first commercial orchestral recording with the Shakespeare Sinfonia. I also write music for screen. It’s an interesting and completely different way to experience music – creating my own sound world digitally, rather than interpreting someone else’s ideas on the bass. It’s a great way to wind down from the rush of a concert.
Royal College of Music
What’s your most memorable moment as a musician?
Steve Reich’s face upon hearing us playing Three Movements was a picture, and I will remember it for a long time.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.
I used to race downhill mountain bikes.