What was your earliest musical experience?

I come from a home that was full of music; if the radio wasn’t on then the record player was. My Dad, in particular, loved his music and taught me that you were allowed to like all different genres so my musical tastes are wide ranging – something that has stood me in good stead. In primary school I was in the choir and had class recorder lessons - my introduction to the magical world of harmony.

What attracted you to studying in Leeds and what do you think of the musical community here?

Dick Hawdon ran the course and had called upon an amazing group of seasoned professionals, so it was that and his reputation. I loved Dick’s playing with Johnny Dankworth. I came from a classical background so I naively asked him once ‘how do you play be-bop?’ His answer of ‘Wiggle your fingers and blow like *%&!’ is a story I’ve dined out on ever since.

The musical community could be summed up in one word - diverse. Some of my contemporaries such as Chris ‘Snake’ Davis, John Thirkell, Enrico Tomasso, Pete Beachill, Alan Barnes, Peter Fairclough, Stuart Curtis and Chris Whitten went on to have very successful careers and yes, you could tell how good they were while we were at college.

Could you briefly tell us a little bit about your career to date?

Angular, although I can trace my career path through all the people I’ve met. I did a lot of writing and arranging on spec for various producers, record companies and publishers. I moved through live work to studio work, from radio to TV to film scores and my career now encompasses all of these areas. There have been lows as well as highs along the way. Some lessons were hard learned, especially the ones completely out of your control and you got caught in the crossfire. For sure, there is an element of luck being in the right place at the right time and being given opportunities but it’s down to the individual to make the most of those and have the abilities required to capitalise on them.

How did studying for a degree in Music prepare you for your current career?       

I’ve used every practical thing I learned on the jazz course. Sorry, Light Music course! There were a couple of subjects that were compulsory in order to give the course respectability that I don’t use so much, but apart from those, Leeds gave me not only a good grounding, but confidence in my ability. As I mentioned, the staff we all professionals with decades of experience between them. They instilled in all of us that professional attitude.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get their 'foot in the door' in the industry you're in?

First and foremost, find your own voice as every other voice is taken. The industry is more democratised than it has ever been and there are numerous platforms to promote you and your music so take advantage of them. Internships at studios or becoming a composer's assistant are good gateways too. Accept that you will be starting at the bottom (mainly to test your attitude) and that you will never stop learning. While you may be the best at something, there will be others in the room who are better than you at other things so celebrate that and learn from them. Realise it's a team sport, so being seen as a supportive member of a team with a good, positive attitude will stand you in good stead. Finally, be on the lookout for the opportunities that will present themselves and remember, they may not necessarily be front and centre of your vision but be in the periphery.

What's coming up next for you in terms of projects, releases or tours?    

I've just completed recording James Newton Howard's score for Disney's Jungle Cruise in which is set for release in July 2020. There are a number of other film scores planned for the next 12 months but I never talk about them until they are completed. Call it superstition or learning from bitter experience.

An ongoing project for me is 'Therapeutic Music in Medicine' which is an app streaming original music to those undergoing treatment; from chemotherapy to mental health and wellness.

Who encouraged you to study music?

It never occurred to me to do anything else. Along with my parent’s belief and support, music at school was a big deal when I went through the system so that provided both a pathway and the encouragement to follow it.

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If you’d like to share your experiences of studying at Leeds Music Centre, City of Leeds College of Music or Leeds College of Music, get in touch with us: alumni@lcm.ac.uk

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