Jack’s jottings…

Posted on 20th January 2021 by

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I owe a great deal to my first band, Chalford, based near Stroud in Gloucestershire, where I was at least raised (without growing up too much). It was Steve Tubb, Chalford’s conductor, who showed me that left-handed people could conduct just as well as ‘righters’, and who also let me study his scores on the way to and from rehearsals and concerts, as he usually gave me a lift. I gained a great deal from Steve’s rehearsals, scores and encouragement.


Whilst I doubt anybody forgets their first contest performance, mine (at the Area contest in 2000) was particularly memorable for me as it’s the only time I’ve performed with a half-shaved, half-stubble look – the Areas were held later in March back then, and the clocks had gone forward that morning…
The biggest driving-force in my musical life at that point was Mike Sallis, a lovely man who took me on at a difficult time in his life, because he saw potential in me. Mike taught me to play both musically and rhythmically, and encouraged me to expand my musical tastes beyond jazz and brass bands. Without Mike, I wouldn’t even have applied to Music College, never mind getting a place and scholarship to my first choice.


Over four years at Trinity College of Music, I studied trombone with Roger Harvey (whose patient approach to practice and analytical approach to teaching have served me well ever since) and piano with Raymond Banning. Ray was very patient with my slow progress (thankfully he was another exponent of slow practice) and we also spoke a lot about conducting in our lessons, since we shared a common hero in Vernon Handley.


It was also at Trinity that I spent a good deal of time playing euphonium – usually on baritone parts – in the College brass band, under the direction of Stephen Maw. A Salvation Army bandsman back when they had to retain amateur status in order to serve, Stephen taught me the importance of playing with a good sound, whatever might be in front of you. From him I also picked up much of my compering style and concert dress sense…
Having studied conducting privately through my years at Trinity, as well as in elective classes at the college, I put on an orchestral concert from scratch (I did everything except playing the notes and pouring the interval drinks) for Elgar’s 150th anniversary in 2007, before taking up a place on the conducting course at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff, with David Jones.


As an opera conductor, David showed me the value of keeping the stick up high, almost at eye-level, so that everyone can see. For choral music I had Adrian Partington, who press-ganged me into the BBC National Chorus of Wales (a fantastic experience; I made my Proms debut in 2008) and taught me how to work at least one good laugh into every rehearsal.


I’m out of space and have only mentioned two bands in my life; if you’ve enjoyed this, perhaps they will let me write again sometime…

Posted in: Band Blog