SMS Student Council May 2021

The student council has been out and about this month getting behind the scenes of the ensembles and interviewing our conductors. Here is their Interview with Roger Willey, Sutton Youth Training Band, Sutton Youth Symphonic Band, and Sutton Youth Wind Orchestra.  Roger talks about his music career highlights, his best Sutton Music Service experience, and the funniest story of his career.

What has been your Musical career highlights?

I left the RCM in 1985 and went into professional playing, working in every aspect of the business from the London Orchestras, Chamber Orchestras, Opera, Ballet companies, West End Shows and commercial work such as Pop, Films and Jingles. I was in the Glyndebourne onTour Orchestra for ten years. I started teaching soon after I left college on a part-time basis, and this increased through the years and ultimately was the catalyst for a sideways move into education when I was in my late 40s. I started teaching Academic Music in 2011, mixing this with instrumental teaching and other freelance work. Things have moved along somewhat, and I am to take up the post of Director of Music at Reed’s School in September 2021.    

What is your funniest story?

It has to be getting disorientated backstage at a concert and mistakenly walking into Beyonce’s dressing room. I was rapidly removed by a very large bouncer!    

What is your favourite thing about being a conductor?

Without a doubt performing. The rehearsals are fun, and putting it all together is a wonderful art of construction, (still working on that!), but the final result is always very exciting even if it does not quite go to plan! For those that remember the Tour to Berlin and a gig outside near a lake. It was very windy and after my upbeat to the West Side Story Suite, there was a huge gust of wind that removed all music from the musicians’ stands, and the only player left playing at the start was the second oboe! We somehow recovered and got through the piece; I had one foot on the leaders stand as he played a solo, the other on the principal cellos’ stand and my left hand holding my stand steady!   

How has lockdown been for you?

I was very lucky to be fully employed and busy. Musicians and all performers have had a terrible time through this period, and we all look forward hugely to live concerts and events re-starting. Although I was very busy, the work was very intense and being confined to quarters was claustrophobic. Mental health has been a huge issue for many through lockdown, and I fear more will come through in time on this. I found the daily exercise crucial to staying mentally fit and always went running or walking every day. I left all devices at home whilst exercising, and this worked well for me; it gave me a total break from the relentless screen time and crackle of Teams, Zoom, Facetime and the rest of it!   

What is your best Sutton Music Service experience?

Now that is hard as there have been so many highs: my first tour was in 1987! A few: Conducting at the Royal Festival Halls, working alongside Marin Alsop and the New York Orchestra for the Bernstein Mass at the same venue, the collaboration concert with the Philharmonia and the Tour of Portugal.