To celebrate ten years of the partnership between Southbank Sinfonia and EFG Private Banking, and to highlight how together we have helped musicians from across the world build successful and varied careers, we are presenting 10 for 10: 10 alumni stories over 10 months shining a spotlight on the achievements of our brilliant alumni.
We caught up with 2013 trumpeter Jonny Abraham about what he's been up to since completing the Southbank Sinfonia Fellowship.
When I came to the end of my time at college I was keen to play as much as possible. Knowing that I’d be making music with brilliant musicians every week was the most important thing for me. Southbank Sinfonia gave me the chance to do that with like-minded people from around the world both at home in London and on trips abroad.
What is your favourite memory from your time in Southbank Sinfonia?
I had an amazing time with the orchestra and there were loads of great memories. The trips to Anghiari and Paris, recording at Maida Vale with BBC Concert Orchestra and performing Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels at the Royal Festival Hall were all highlights. But to be honest my favourite thing about my time was spending three days a week with my mates, playing music together and then going to the pub afterwards. It was great.
What have you been up to since completing the Southbank Sinfonia fellowship?
Things have been really varied for me since the fellowship. Immediately after I left I was busy with teaching, freelancing with anything that came my way and auditioning for orchestras. After a while I realised that playing with bands was the thing that excited me the most and when the opportunity came to join Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) in 2014 I didn’t think twice. It’s been amazing to be a part of the band and our touring has taken us all over the world. Festivals like Glastonbury were a huge part of why I pursued music in the first place so to have played there with PSB was a bit of a dream come true. Over the last couple of years I’ve been able to arrange more for band and orchestra and last summer we were lucky enough to perform our album The Race for Space in a new arrangement with The Multi-Story Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
Jonny with Public Service Broadcasting at the BBC Proms 2019
How did being in Southbank Sinfonia help you in your achievements since leaving the orchestra?
Any time spent with brilliant musicians is helpful. With Southbank Sinfonia this wasn’t limited to the players in the orchestra but also guest artists and conductors. Being involved with the orchestra helped me realise what was possible and has had a strong influence on where I am today. Earlier this year I arranged a show for Bastille who were performing at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg with the Baltic Sea Symphony Orchestra and Kristjan Järvi. We then took the show to the London Palladium back in February and I had my first experience conducting an orchestra in a fundraiser for War Child. Without that formative year in Southbank Sinfonia I’m not sure whether I’d have had the confidence to have taken on that kind of project and I’m so grateful to the organisation for giving me the opportunity to learn as much as I did during my time there.
What might a typical working week look like for you at the moment?
At the beginning of lockdown, like with most people, a whole load of my work for the year was either cancelled or postponed. I wanted to try and use the time to finish an album I’d been working on for a few years and now, after a few months of writing, scrapping, rewriting and swearing at a computer I think I’m getting somewhere. Now it’s written I’m spending most of my time recording parts and working out arrangements as I go.
What goals do you have for the future?
I’d love to stay open to anything to be honest. I try not to worry about achieving anything in particular as I feel like the goalposts are always moving and I’d rather leave some things up to chance. With the way the world is at the moment I think all I really hope for is to be able to continue to make music for a living and most importantly, whenever it’s safe, I’d like to be able to do that in a room with other people and for an audience.
Do you have a message to pass on to Southbank Sinfonia supporters?
My time with Southbank Sinfonia was generously supported by Parliament Choir so first of all I’d like to say thanks to them. However, for the supporters as a whole I’d say that by supporting the orchestra you’re facilitating the learning and advancement of a new generation of musicians who will undoubtedly go on to make varied and positive contributions to our artistic culture.
Find out more about Jonny here.