LCoM alumna set to perform in Pinter at the Pinter

Note: This article refers to Leeds College of Music (LCoM), the former name of Leeds Conservatoire

By Kath Hartley


What would you say are your top 3 career achievements?

  • Playing at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam on their summer jazz programme in 2015 and working with artists such as Dick Oatts, John Riley and Jay Anderson
  • Starting up and directing my own big band (we did various gigs around Leeds during my final year at LCoM)
  • Playing in the WOW (Women of the World) Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in 2018 as part of a big festival for women with Sandi Toksvig

How has your career progressed since leaving LCoM?

Studying at LCoM meant that I could receive tuition from some of the best jazz musicians in the world. My 1-1 lessons with Sebastiaan De Krom were priceless! I had time to hone my art and know what I should be practicing. At the same time, it provided opportunity to meet like-minded musicians and get playing.

You’ve performed in lots of large ensembles and bands – can you talk us through some highlights?

A major highlight for me was setting up and directing my own jazz big band in my third year. I also got to support saxophonist Derek Nash at Wakefield Jazz Club with my Quartet which was amazing! During my time at LCoM, I performed with a community classical orchestra on trumpet, which was a really worthwhile experience.

Before I came to Leeds, I worked with the Durham Music Service who helped me massively when I was learning to play the drums. I used to play with all the county bands - I owe a lot to everyone there!

I've also played with the NYJO Academy Big Band for the last 2 years, which has been great.

You’ve performed with numerous styles and sizes of ensemble – how has this broadened your versatility as a musician?

In the music industry you need to be both versatile and broad-minded. I listen to everything from jazz to rock to musical theatre - I love it all. I've played with lots of different ensembles including jazz ensembles, wind and brass bands, orchestras, samba bands, rock bands etc. It's important to keep an open mind and take the opportunities that come your way.

The jazz sector has traditionally been a very male-dominated arena – do you feel that the playing field is starting to level a little in the wake of recent industry initiatives to redress the gender imbalance?  

I don't think the whole gender imbalance has made a huge difference to me so far. Sometimes I don't feel like 'one of the lads' and that can be quite frustrating at times as music is a very social thing, but you just have to get past that and show that your playing is great. There's a lot of push at the moment to create gender parity and I think that's important. However there's not enough female jazz musicians to do that and you see the same couple of names cropping up all the time - there's no variation. Girls need to be targeted and encouraged to start an instrument at a young age.

Can you tell us a bit more about your latest theatre project – how did this come about, what does your role entail and how has your experience to date set you up for this?

I'm currently in London rehearsing for a show at the Harold Pinter Theatre called Night School. It's part of a season of 1-act plays called Pinter at the Pinter and is a celebration of the great Harold Pinter's work. I've been cast as Mavis and will be drumming live on stage throughout the show. Someone I know saw the role advertised and put my name forward, which was very lucky. I went down to London and did 2 separate auditions and got the gig! The show is playing from Nov 1st to Dec 8th.

How does it feel to be involved in Pinter at the Pinter, comprised of a stellar cast?

I still can't believe I'm involved in such an exciting West End play. When I saw my name amongst actors such as Martin Freeman, Lee Evans and Michael Gambon, I was so shocked.

What’s coming up next for you in terms of projects, gigs and further musical training?

I don't have anything else in the pipeline just yet as I'm currently rehearing intensely for the show. I'm excited to see what other opportunities might come from taking part!


To learn more about Abbie and her work – visit her website.

Alternatively, read more about Pinter at the Pinter.

Find out more about what our successful graduates have been up to in our Alumni Profiles

Are you a Leeds Conservatoire graduate? Reconnect with us here

Or find out about our BA (Hons) Music (Jazz) Degree Programme.

By Kath Hartley

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