Here are answers to some of the questions I have been asked most frequently - direct from the mouthpiece!
photo: © Britten Sinfonia / Sussie Ahlburg
What are your earliest musical memories?
My mum and dad were Salvation Army officers and I started playing the bass drum in a brass band around 4 years old. By the time I started primary school I was playing a tenor horn. I loved that instrument. I loved the sound of it, it's shape and the way I had to hug it hard to keep it upright. I loved sitting right in the middle of the band so I could see and hear everything going on. I remember even at that age thinking that the band was the best thing in world. When I was 10 we moved to Glasgow and I became a euphonium player. Our next move took us to Darlington and I switched to cornet. I didn't really play the trumpet until I was 16 when we moved to Nottingham and I began studying at Clarendon College
Who were your first teachers and influences?
I remember my one and only 'lesson' before I was 16. I had just turned 5 and my dad dropped me off at the junior bandleaders house. I was given a tenor horn and told to 'spit the hair of my tongue' into the instrument. When I made a noise he put the hymn tune book in front of me, which had all the fingerings underneath the notes. We took a note at a time. When I got to the end he told me to play it again and not to stop. When eventually I managed to do that he took me straight over for the junior band practice. From then on I just played in the band and tried to learn fast. The kid next to me on horn in the band was called Ian Smith and he eventually became co-principal horn in the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Looking back, everyone I played with was an influence. I just played and listened to brass bands every day until I was 18. I listened to all the myths about brass playing (pour milk down your instrument as it gives a good lining to the tubes) and soaked them all up. I tried to triple tongue as fast as Jim Shepherd of Black Dyke (fail) and play all the hard solos as fast as I could (fail). Even when I was at college in Nottingham and the orchestra rehearsed on the same night as band practice my dad told me the band came first. I had no teachers as such but was surrounded by people willing to give advice.
Why did you choose to specialise in chamber ensemble playing in addition to your solo career?
I came up though the Salvation Army 'system'. I loved the sense of community it fostered and the emphasis that it gave to music as a community resource. I loved playing solos, duets, trios and quartets at meetings, care homes, prisons, and other community events as well as being an enthusiastic member of the band. Looking back now I can see that this upbringing fostered a streak of individuality and influenced my musical personality.

Throughout my student days and early career I soon realised I loved the unpredictability and surprises that a freelance career presents, and so my natural habitat soon became the chamber orchestras and ensembles based in London. Working with high calibre musicians who were happy to explore new ideas and projects in a spirit of collaboration has always been a joy to me. Being a principal player in one of the symphony orchestras is a hugely demanding role but it can also be quite one-dimensional, and freedom from that sole commitment to an organisation allowed me to develop my own ideas. Performing chamber music and the solo repertoire allows great scope for individuality and working with like-minded musicians who share similar values and aspirations can play an essential part in career development.
Heroes and mentors?
Douglas Wilkie (trombonist) at Clarendon College, Nottingham. A maverick teacher, multi-instrumentalist, an individual who said it how it was.
'You're a real chancer Paul. If you actually did more work on that instrument you might just make something of it."

William Overton, teacher at RAM, principal trumpet BBC Symphony Orchestra, Bandmaster of Lewisham Salvation Army Band during the 1940/1950's. Great player, kind and supportive teacher, a good start for me as a student at the RAM

Harry Dilley, principal trumpet at ROH
My first day at the ROH as co-principal trumpet was to sit in with Harry Dilley who by then was about 65 years old. I'd never heard a sound like it. One rehearsal with Harry suddenly raised the bar for me and was an insight into what world-class really meant.

Maurice Andre
Every trumpeters hero. Unique talent with the most distinctive sound. Amongst the greats irrespective of the instrument.

Hakan Hardenberger
The first and only trumpeter I ever met who really did practice for 8 hours a day - and it shows. An astonishing virtuoso, creative energy and all round force for good. Pushed the repertoire forward about 100 years. The rest of us are trying to keep up...

Derek Watkins
The definitive 'Lead' trumpet. Scarily talented, totally natural and always a supportive colleague.

Maurice Murphy
If God played 1st trumpet in an orchestra he would sound like Maurice Murphy. A gifted phenomenon, this was trumpet playing in its purest and simplest form. He played with his heart, fearless and committed, never analysed and totally instinctive. He was humble too. Considering he was born in Hammersmith and started playing with the Salvation Army he personified all the wonderful traits of the northern brass band tradition and presented them to classical audiences as principal trumpet with the LSO. He defined the LSO sound and turned the orchestra's fortunes around when the composer, John Williams, heard him record THAT theme tune...

Edna White (1892-1992)
Edna White was an American trumpet player, composer, pedagogue and poet. She was a child prodigy, wrote books on trumpet technique, led one of the first successful all-female bands and performed in her own very successful trumpet quartet. She was the very first trumpet player to give a recital in New York's Carnegie Hall at which she gave the inaugural performance of Virgil Thomson's At The Beach and Georges Enescu's Legende. An astonishing career and extraordinary talent.
What are your current ambitions?
Well, I’m based in Thailand now and I have a wonderful opportunity to influence the next generation of musicians in my role as Head of Woodwind and Brass at Shrewbury International School, Bangkok. It’s a fabulous school with incredibly supportive parents who really value the life skills playing a musical instrument can bring to their children.

I’m also playing with Thailand Brass, a brass quintet formed in 2022 and I have plenty of opportunity to perform as a soloist or as a trumpet and piano duo with Channarong Jantararat, a wonderful pianist who in incidentally studied at the RCM, London. In addition to this, I'm a founder-member of Big Band Bangkok so I'm gradually learning how to improvise!
What do you do if you're not playing the trumpet?
A musician's life is vocational so much of what I do is linked in some way to music and the dividing line between work and play can become blurred as with many musicians! Practising and performing professionally takes up a large part of my time as does travelling. I'm also learning jazz theory, trying to master the Thai language (or is it taxi-thai perhaps?) and I'm taking more time to arrange music for my publishers, Brass Wind Publications.
What is your daily practice routine?
I'm a fan of the Claude Gordon method of systematic practice so I've used his books and ideas, written my own material, adapted his concepts and added some ideas of my own. I structure my practice meticulously and usually plan my practice sessions into the diary. I often think I'm guilty of procrastination so planning my practice sessions ensures I get the work done! The contents of the practice sessions changes depending on what my goals are but, in a nutshell, it covers, breathing, pedal notes, scales, fast tonguing, upper register, orchestral repertoire and solo pieces. Mostly played on a Bb trumpet but tapping into the C and Eb instruments for elements of work. The piccolo trumpet has an airing on most days too...
What advice would you give to aspiring trumpet players?
For players aged under 18 years
Play in as many ensembles as you can - preferably a brass band
Practice as slowly as you can bear
Work as diligently as you can with your academic work at school and focus on good results for your GCSEs and A Levels. Don't kid yourself you don't need these if you want to be a musician
If you want to study music do your homework to understand the differences between university and conservatoire life. They are different and offer different courses. Make sure you visit first, and pick the one that you feel is right for you and that you think will offer you the best opportunities. University or College life is all about YOU. Prepare for it carefully, have fun, but hit the ground running and be prepared to put the work in and plan for success.

Music students
Don't make excuses
Plan your practice
Be methodical
Have high expectations and aspirations
Don't beat yourself up if things occasionally go wrong - forgiveness is allowed
Be punctual
Organisation, Preparation and Concentration is your mantra
Hang out with like-minded friends
Always be positive
Don't be negative
Eat healthily and don't drink too much
Shock horror - listen to as much music as you can and even occasionally go to a concert
Don't ever give up and always hang in there
Phone your mum every week

Don't make excuses
If you're too busy to practice change things so you can
Be humble and have the occasional lesson
You're never to old to learn
Play in as many ensembles as you can - preferably a brass band
Work as a team player and support everyone. Musicians are sensitive
Plan your practice
Practice as slowly as you can bear
Be methodical but always remember to BREATHE
Have high expectations and aspirations
Be evangelical about music and the arts - we need you
How do you handle the high pressure situations?
The psychological impact on any performance-related activity is well documented especially in the area of sport. It is an important topic in music but health and well-being for musicians lags way behind our counterparts in sport.

Given that most musicians are self-employed it is, therefore, down to the individual musician to think carefully and prepare for the trials and tribulations of public performance. Structured practice that is organised and carefully prepared applied with a positive sense of purpose is a fundamental in coping with performance anxiety. Reducing stress potential is also crucial and time planning plays an important part - leaving adequate time for transport problems en route to a concert venue makes sense and keeps you relaxed. Trusting your work ethic and strategies is important as 'paranoid' practice can be harmful and creates tension. Muscle memory through repetition and visualisation helps the mind prepare and negative thoughts can be replaced by positive mantras.

Musicians are often very hard on themselves so public and self-congratulation is an essential part of staying positive. Allowing yourself some degree of imperfection also eases the pressure. No musician makes mistakes in public on purpose but it's the human element that can often produce vibrant performances. Professional playing is not really about producing euphoric highs. It's more about consistency and reliability whilst ensuring that your professionalism, work ethic and attitude produce regular high-level performances consistent with expectations of both audiences and employers.
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