I took a very early interest in music, starting piano lessons at the age of 6 years. However, it was soon clear that I was not destined to become a concert pianist! My lifelong association with brass bands began in 1969 when I attended Raans School in Amersham and was first introduced to brass playing under the watchful eye of Salvationist Lou Tiederman. During this time I became a member of Raans School Brass Band and the Wycombe Youth Band on E Flat Bass. Moving with my family to Exmouth in 1971, I went to Exmouth Community College, and joined the church choir of Holy Trinity Church, Exmouth where I studied Theory of Music under organist and choirmaster Hope Bardrick, and gained Grade VIII in Theory of Music at 14 years of age. I also joined the 14-20’s Music and Drama Society (now Centre Stage) and performed in many stage shows with them. Also playing Tenor Horn with the Lympstone Band in 1972, in 1974 I was amongst the early ranks of what is now the hugely successful Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra, and also played drums and trumpet with Clyst Vale Big Band under both Stan Hacking and the sadly missed Alan Hempstead. At Exeter College I studied the trumpet and percussion, obtaining an A Level in Music in 1976.
Attending C F Mott College of Higher Education in Liverpool from 1976 to study music, art and drama, I played drums in the college band ‘The Beagle’s Principal‘ alongside none other than Julian Cope on fretless bass guitar – later famous in his band The Teardrop Explodes and as a solo artist, and keyboard player Paul Rapi – who later formed The Afternoons in South Wales.
Sadly, this short spell at University did not result in the award of a degree.
Much to the surprise of my parents, I joined the police service in 1981, and I spent many happy years as a member of the Band of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary (I refuse to call it ‘Devon and Cornwall Police’) under the baton of Keith Whittall RM (sadly missed). During these years, the police band was extremely popular with the public, and performed concerts all over the counties of Devon and Cornwall, and at some huge venues and parades, including London’s Guildhall, Wembley Stadium (the original one), Dartmouth and HMS Raleigh Naval Colleges, and VE Day celebrations in St Helier Jersey, complete with the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
I was fortunate enough in my capacity as Soprano Trumpet of the Fanfare Team to play all over the country, including performances for Her Majesty The Queen and Anne the Princess Royal. I was a founder member and Principal Percussionist of the British Police Symphony Orchestra in 1989, and embarked on three national tours of Great Britain, and trips to Paris and Jersey with them, including my first ever performance at the Royal Albert Hall.
During this time I also spent time as a member of the Band of the Devon & Dorset Regiment (TA) in Exeter (now the Salamanca Band and Bugles of the Rifles), and played trumpet/cornet and drums/percussion with them, becoming a regular feature on drums in the Dance Band. I recall an eventful tour of Guernsey with the band!
Returning to my love of brass bands, in 1996 I rejoined the Lympstone Band (now the SW Comms Band) having been posted to my home town of Exmouth, where I soon took over the post of Soprano Cornet. In the space of a few years under the idiosyncratic and inspiring baton of Charlie Fleming, the band won many contests, earned promotion to the 1st Section, and became recognised as one of the finest brass bands in the South West. The band continues to be generously sponsored by the South West Communications Group PLC. I was latterly playing at the opposite end of the band on double BB flat bass, almost back where I started out in 1969.
It was in 1998 whilst with HMS Heron Volunteer Band that I went to the Royal Marines School of Music in Portsmouth and trained to be a Drum Major for the Royal Navy Volunteer Band movement under the wing of the now retired Corps Drum Major of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Band Service Warrant Officer 1 J R Whitwham MBE RM. In 2000 I won the award for Best Drum Major with Devonport Naval Base Volunteer Band (HMS Drake)at the annual festival in Portsmouth, following this in 2003 when I won the award for Best Solo Instrumentalist, playing my own arrangement of Hugh Nash’s (Goff Richards) Demelza on Soprano Cornet.
Regularly playing with many local bands, I have been a familiar (and hopefully popular) sight on the concert stage, and one chance performance with the City of Exeter Railway Band early in 2004 resulted in my being appointed as their Musical Director in June 2004, which continued until 2010. In 2006 I was awarded a 1st Class Honours degree for the Accrington & Rossendale BA (Hons) Band Studies course where I had studied conducting and composition under Arthur Butterworth, David Golightly and Richard Evans, and arrangement with Alan Fernie.
When it was suggested in 2007 that I might like to play drums again in a local rock band, I jumped at the chance and had three happy years drumming in arguably one of Exmouth’s finest groups – Wired . In the last year of my tenure, the band performed upwards of 50 gigs in venues as diverse as Exmouth pubs, to weddings at Powderham Castle, and as support for The Wurzels at The Imperial in Exeter.
I feel extremely fortunate that my musical career has been so fulfilling and varied, and have recently found that the direction my career is now taking me in has become the most rewarding and challenging time I have ever experienced. I’ve had opportunities to work with the Devon Youth Wind Orchestra, Tiverton Concert Band, and Exmouth Town Concert Band, all of whom have performed my compositions and arrangements.
I also had a great deal of success since 2011, first with the publication of ‘I Believe‘ by One Life Music – a book of inspirational original songs for primary school children written by Dan Callow and David Anderson that I had the privilege of arranging for vocals and piano. I have since been involved in the publication of Dan’s ‘Children’s Mass‘ and ‘Family of Faith‘ projects, and more latterly the scoring and arrangements for Dan’s latest projects – albums of his songs called ‘Let His Glory Shine‘ and ‘‘We Will Go Out’.
In November 2015, after their fine performance and well deserved 3rd place at the SWBBA Contest in Torquay, Tiverton Town Band announced my appointment as their new musical director,. Sadly, my decision to move to Taunton made my continued appointment impossible, but I still turn out for engagements when they are short on percussion or bass.
Life has its twists and turns as you all know, and I’m delighted to have been appointed by The Cherubim Music Trust as their social media and website editor. This fantastic charity loan high end musical instruments to young gifted musicians at a time in their lives when little other help is available. Top people helping some top students. I’m very excited about it – and it gives me an excuse to be on social media all the time!
Having made the difficult decision to leave Devon and move to Somerset in 2016, not that far away – but far enough, I had to find a brass band to play in near Taunton. I tried out Wellington Silver band, but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t work out. I went for a trial for a post as MD at Burnham & Highbridge Band, but again, it wasn’t to be. I then approached the newly formed Glastonbury Brass – formally Yeovil Town Band, and am delighted to say that I’ve accepted a position on BBb bass with them. They are a very high-standard band – currently in the 1st Section (formerly in the Championship Section as Yeovil Town Band), and two concerts and several carolling sessions later, I’m loving it. I’ve also become the percussion and brass coach for the Devon Youth Concert and Symphony Orchestras, and it’s a privilege to be able to pass on at least some of what I’ve learned over the years.
I am an associate member of NAMIR Ltd and a professional member of NABBC, and I run Dance is With Music in my ‘spare time’. I am ably assisted by my wonderful wife and soulmate Catherine, who may well answer the phone should you ring with an enquiry!