Kevin Price - My First, My Last, My Everything
Continuing this popular series of interviews. I am delighted to introduce:
Kevin Price ARAM FHEA BMUS LRSM LTCL
Head of Music Performance at RWCMD
Kevin Price was born in Wellington, New Zealand and studied at Otago University and the University of Auckland whilst working as sub-principal trombone with the Auckland Philharmonia and as a freelance player with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. He moved to London in 1989 after winning a three-year Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) scholarship for postgraduate study at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music, leading to freelance work with a number of London orchestras. Kevin was subsequently appointed Principal Trombone of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and taught trombone for Chetham’s School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music. In 2005, Kevin was appointed RWCMD Head of Brass and Percussion Studies, enabling him to build on a rich tradition of high-level performance and to oversee the development of vocational activities in brass chamber music, historical performance, educational outreach, brass teaching methods and healthy practice. Kevin examines at specialist music schools and UK conservatoires and works as a reviewer, competition judge and festival adjudicator. He is a Diploma examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM) in 2012. He is a member of the Court of Assistants for the Royal Society of Musicians, and supports the work of the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund and British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), aiding performing musicians to pursue active and healthy careers. From 2016, Kevin served as RWCMD Interim Director of Music, leading to his appointment as Head of Music Performance in 2017. He is an ABRSM Diploma examiner (Conducting, Teaching and Instrumental), and is also a Diploma Syllabus Advisor (2013-). He has served as external examiner at Chetham’s School of Music and is the Brass Assessor for the Purcell School. He has been the external brass examiner at the Birmingham Conservatoire (2017) and the Royal Northern College of Music (2016). He is also on the Advisory Committees for the National Youth Brass Band of Wales (2012-), and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales (2009-).
First Live Musical Experience You Can Recall?
Walking in the park on a Sunday with my parents, and seeing a Salvation Army brass band march by. Looking at the trombones, I remember saying to my Dad “I want to play that thing”. I’ve always been small, and had to be a cornet player until my arms became long enough. I used to hang from the rail in my wardrobe, trying to stretch them.
First Musical Instrument Owned?
A Bentley piano, which used to belong to my Dad. I spent hours playing chords and trying to work out how to be a pianist. I never really figured it out, so my parents paid for lessons. Miss Bartlett my piano teacher was very good-she taught me to subdivide triplets by saying “Three Funny Frogs” and I still quote her.
First Music Lesson You Can Remember and Who Taught You?
My Dad taught me the cornet and I remember just loving being the centre of his attention during the lesson and playing duets together. He was a gentle man who taught me how to play in a gentle way, always prioritising sound and a singing style.
First Trombone Owned?
Yamaha YSL352-a bright and shiny birthday present with the best slide I’ve ever owned. It was indestructible too, which is a very good quality in a beginner’s instrument.
First Music Ensemble You Played In?
The Boys Brigade Brass Band in Wellington, New Zealand where I was born. I loved the sense of belonging and the parade drill. The first time that I played on the march, my music fell off the lyre and I stopped to pick it up. The whole band opened up in a scissor movement to avoid squashing me, but the bass drummer had different ideas, and taught me a very quick lesson.
First Concert You Can Remember Performing in on Trombone?
My trombone teacher in middle school was called Bruce Kirk. He was the Deputy Head teacher, and played in the local Salvation Army Band. I became a band member and Mr Kirk wrote some variations on the Welsh Folk tune All Through The Night for me to play with the band. I know that I played in quite a few concerts prior to that solo, but that’s earliest the concert that I vividly remember. He was a great teacher, and made a sound like runny honey-so lyrical and gorgeous. He also has a small farm, and I remember being quite shocked, hearing him swearing at his cows.
First Record You Can Remember Buying?
Philip Jones Brass Ensemble-Easy Winners. It’s such a wonderful recording, and the sound of the ensemble still leaves me speechless-it’s so musical and full of energy.
Who Was The First Trombone Player To Really Inspire You?
Philip Jones Brass Ensemble-Easy Winners is when I first heard John Iveson playing the trombone (I was ten years old. I started saving my pocket money up so that I could travel from New Zealand to London to study with him. His gorgeous sound and natural musicianship shines through every note, and there’s a mixture of power and sensitivity that I’ve always been drawn to. John was a wonderful teacher and he means the world to me as a musician and as a man.
First Professional Orchestra You Performed With?
The Auckland Philharmonia, when I was 16. Whilst I was living in NZ there were very few professional players, and I was lucky to meet some very generous and supportive professionals who gave me opportunities and encouragement. I played second trombone regularly with the APO, amongst other Kiwis who had studied in the UK and in America. I loved it.
First Recording Session You Played On?
I went to 6th form in Dunedin, at the bottom of the South Island, where an amazing jazz musician called Calder Prescott ran a jazz band. Calder was often asked to record for Radio, and for jingles and he was very kind to me, often asking me to play. My jazz trombone hero is Urbie Green, and I loved the opportunity to indulge in freedom and slide vibrato, trying to copy Urbie. Those players were so respectful and professional, and they always wore ties too-even in the studio.
First Brass Teaching Post?
Essex Music Service, as a trombone tutor in 1990 when I was studying with John Iveson. It was hard work, and kept me thinking all of the time. My teacher in NZ from the age of 15 was a Geordie
trumpeter called Jack Lauderdale who was in the RLPO, and then moved to the NZSO.He used to give me trombone lessons on the beach in NZ , and his words are tattooed into my brain. His way of guiding and mentoring me gave me a lot to say to my own students and informed my life. Jack died last year and I think about him every day.
First Overseas Tour You Took Part In?
An American tour with the RLPO in 1991. I had just joined the orchestra and we spent the best part of three weeks on tour in January. I’d never felt as cold as that, especially in New York and it took me a while to learn how to look after my chops in that kind of extreme weather.
First Ensemble/Orchestra You Appeared with as a soloist?
That goes back to my moment with the Salvation Army Band playing variations on the Welsh Folk tune All Through The Night. We played in a gorgeous Salvation Army Citadel in a place called Palmerston North, and the acoustic was very flattering-it made me feel very happy.
First Ensemble You Conducted?
I conducted the Otago University Symphony Orchestra, stepping in when the regular conductor was ill. It was Sibelius 2, and I didn’t do it very well at all. The Strings really struggled under my misguidance and I realised how much I had to learn.
Can You Recall Your First Paid Playing Job ?
Dunedin Symphony Orchestra when I was 15. I played second trombone and my teacher Jack played principal trumpet. I felt very sophisticated in my tails, which of course were far too large for me.
First Car You Owned ?
A light blue Ford Fiesta, which my friends called “the skip”. I liked it.
Last Instrument You Purchased?
A blue P-Bone to use for outreach and beginners. It would have matched my old Ford Fiesta.
Last Concert You Performed In?
Welsh Proms with BBCNOW in Swansea, playing in the offstage ensemble for Pines of Rome. I love the BBC NOW brass players, and it was lovely to feel like part of their team for a night.
Last Recording You Bought or Downloaded?
Onyx Brass-Festmusik, conducted by John Wilson. It’s a long time since a brass recording had such a deep emotional impact on me. The programming, standard of performing and engineering is just so classy, and the repertoire tells a collective story which is poignant and sincere. This is easily amongst my most treasured recordings.
Last Recording Session You Played On?
I think that it was Eric Coates, London Again with John Wilson conducting the RLPO. That was just before I left RLPO to join RWCMD as Head of Brass and John was so supportive and warm. Her understood that it was a big thing for me to leave RLPO.
Last Tour You Undertook?
I honestly can’t remember…isn’t that terrible?! It’s all a bit of a blur, but I think that it was Prague and Brno with Peter Altrichter and RLPO. I love the Czech Republic-the people are so warm,
enthusiastic and funny.
Last Book You Read?
Waypoints, by Robert Martineau. It’s about his walk through West Africa and the way that his escape from UK life helps to address stress, anxiety and worry. It’s a sensitive, honest and vivid record of personal bravery and his quest to make life better. The book is very dear to me, because it was given to me by Jim Maynard-a brilliant musician, and treasured friend.
Last Film You Watched?
On the Basis of Sex. It’s a 2018 American biographical legal drama film based on the life and early cases of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1993 to her death in 2020, and became the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. It’s about female leadership. equality and perceptions in society that are still evolving. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s journey from studentship in the 1950’s to empowered leadership in the 21st Century changes the face of gender law in America, and rippled across the world.
Last Concert You Attended As An Audience Member?
Sinfonia Cymru with guest directors Rakhi and Simmy Singh. Rakhi and Simmy worked with Sinfonia Cymru to create and lead a string orchestra programme celebrating their musical roots in Wales, alongside other influences on their musical journeys. Their flourishing careers as violinists began in Llandybie, where they grew up, and they have since travelled the world with their music. Sinfonia Cymru played a part in the early career development of both artists. Rakhi is now Artistic Director of Manchester Collective and Simmy has recently been appointed Creative Associate of Sinfonia Cymru. The programme they devised reflected their curiosity and interest in music of different genres. It featured their own arrangements of Welsh folk tunes, Bluegrass, and traditional music from Bulgaria, alongside music by Arvo Pärt, Bartok, Bach and Haydn. The evening was a beautiful blend of musical backgrounds and perspectives.
Favourite Instrument(s) You Own?
I have a Conn 6H from the 1950’s that makes the most gorgeous sound. I’ve always been a “secret jazzman”, and I adore the great American players from the 50’s and 60’s like Urbie Green, Frank Rosolino, JJ Johnson and Kai Winding.
Don Lusher led our Big band when I was a student, and when I play the 6H I always try to copy his light, warm, vocal honey-toned style. He was the ultimate gentleman too, and I think that’s the most important thing in life-respect for others.
Proudest Musical Moment?
Playing in Stevie Wonder’s band at Sheffield arena. Easily the most enriching, challenging and powerful moment of my musical journey. It was like going for a run with Usain Bolt, trying to keep up with super-human levels of energy and musicianship. It was totally humbling, and so exciting.
Which Concert Venue(s) In The World Did You Use To Look Forward To Playing In?
Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool. It’s an acoustic and architectural treasure in a city that bursts with character and humour. I adore it.
Who Were The Conductor(s) You Enjoyed Playing For And Why?
Vernon Handley was fiercely intelligent, hugely funny and the most sensitive musician. He
was one of our finest conductors, a master of his craft and a tireless champion of British music. His recordings include much by Edward Elgar, the complete cycles of symphonies by Charles Stanford, Granville Bantock, Arnold Bax, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Malcolm Arnold and Robert Simpson, as well as a great deal by Frederick Delius, Rutland Boughton, Arthur Bliss, EJ Moeran and William Walton.
If You Could Play One Last Piece of Orchestral Music Now What Would That Be?
Sibelius 5 is a piece that always touches me. The mix of happiness, sadness, yearning and love is so powerful and personal and it’s a piece that I always return to. The Ashkenazy Philharmonia set of Sibelius Symphonies recordings is my personal favourite and I’d like to play it with that orchestra, please.
Which Countries Did You Enjoy Performing In and Why?
The UK. I spent the first twenty years of my life in NZ, working and saving up to study here and I feel privileged to have been given the chance to work as a UK professional. I love British musicians and audiences and we need to remember how important music is to UK society, and to fight for it. I will never give up on that one.
What Book, Recording and a Piece of Art Work or Photograph Would You Most Like To Have Forever?
Book: The Odyssey of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, by Donna McDonald
Recording: Complete Bach Cantatas, John Eliot Gardiner with Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque soloists
Photograph: A signed photo of Wynton Marsalis
The Best Piece Advice You Were Given?
Humility and respect lead to excellence
The Best Piece of Advice You Would Give To Young Brass Players Just Starting Out?
Listen to music all of the time, and don’t limit yourself to brass or to a specific genre. Get music into your head, without boundaries of style or discipline. That will all come flooding out of you when you have mastered your instrument.
What Do You Wish You Knew When You Were Young That You Know Now?
I wish that I’d known how important exercise is. I rediscovered cycling and swimming in my 40’s, and wish that I’d kept in better shape during my 20’s and 30’s.
Is There Anything You Would Have Done Differently In Your Career?
I would have kept up my piano playing. I abandoned it in my 20’s, and continue to regret letting go of such an important skill.
If You Had Not Become A Professional Musician What Career Would You Like To Have Followed?
I have many generations of firemen in my family, and would like to have maintained that tradition. Unfortunately, I am essentially a coward who is scared of heights.
If There Was One Composer You Would Have Liked To Have Met Who Would That Be And Why?
JS Bach. I love drinking coffee, and so did he, so I would like to make him a brilliant espresso and sit him down with a packet of chocolate biscuits and ask him “how do you do it?”.
Bach encapsulates everything…it’s that simple for me.
Likewise What Musical Performer From History Would You Like To Have Met?
Urbie Green, the wonderful jazz trombonist. I never met him, but his sound, technique and musical sensitivity is unsurpassed. I’ve heard stories about him from friends who met or played with him and it seems that he was a very gentle and unassuming person, with a divine gift.
Which Non Musical Famous Person Would You Most Like To Meet Living or Deceased? What Would You Ask Them?
Charlie Chaplin. He came from extreme deprivation in London and migrated to America to conquer the world with the totally new creative medium of film. The happy/sad artist always fascinates me and Charlie Chaplin projects a beautiful vulnerability which is underpinned with strength and
resilience. I’d like to ask him if I could be in one of his movies as an extra. Our son is called Charlie-that’s how much I adore Chaplin.
Marmite Love it or Hate It?
All black food is delicious. That’s a universal rule.
Many thanks Kevin for taking the time out to answer My First, My Last, My Everything. I have had the real privilege of seeing you work with young musicians over many years in my time at Wells. Not only did you inspire and energise all young musicians with every visit but I learned so much as well. Reading your fascinating answers I learned even more, so much about your wonderful career that I wasn’t aware of and now I am inspired to ask you more! Over a drink next time? Thank you again for this thoughtful insight into your musical life.