Yeoman Interview – Matt Lewis

Multi-award winning trombonist Matt Lewis has recently performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, English National Opera, Philharmonia and BBC Concert Orchestra. A former Royal Academy of Music BMus and MA student, he has studied under the tutelage of trombonists including Mark Templeton and Ian Bousfield and is now highly regarded nationally as a leading freelance performer and educator.

When did you start playing the trombone?
My first performance on a plastic trombone actually came aged two but I think it’s fair to say I started properly aged five, learning with my father Jeremy until I went to Brentwood School in 2000.

Is it really one of the hardest brass instruments to learn?
You’ve obviously heard me play! Every instrument has its challenges but in an orchestra we are blessed with relatively simple music to play so most of the challenges we face are working to achieve the best results as a team, often in a short timescale.

What kind of trombone do you enjoy playing most and why?
I play a Conn 88h; it’s the most common in the profession as it makes a lovely warm sound. (Sometimes).

What other instruments do you play?
I don’t play any other instruments but, much to many people’s surprise, I do have a grade 8 in singing.

Who are your inspirations musically or otherwise?
I have to say my friends are my biggest inspiration. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by some incredible musicians while studying and now in the profession. They inspire me to push myself to learn and achieve more musically and in other areas of my life, like on the golf course.

How influential have your tutors been on your playing?
Massively influential. At first my teachers ironed out any technical difficulties I had and then I spent the final three years of studying working to form my own way of playing – taking ideas from everyone I heard and copying the things I liked. My teachers helped make my ideas more convincing and added in a few of their own. I now work alongside most of my teachers and enjoy discussing new ideas and discoveries at work too.

Do you get involved in outreach or educational work?
I do lead quite a few workshops across the country, stretching as far as the Isle of Man last year. I very much enjoy working on the spot with an unknown group of people and hope they always learn something from our interactive workshops.

You’ve won many awards. Which have had the greatest impact on your career?
While it was fun winning awards at college, they don’t really have any impact on my career as work now is about producing consistent, high standard performances and playing in a way to match my colleagues. I take most enjoyment out of coming off stage knowing we played the best we could as a section and as an orchestra. Spirits are often raised by a good meal at dinner time too, my favourite is spicy sausage and broccoli pasta with lots of garlic and chilli!

Where are you happiest performing, in an orchestra, ensemble or other?
For me, the key to being happy as a freelance performer is variety. I love that one day I’ll be playing in an opera, the next in a concert hall with an orchestra and the next day with my quintet. I don’t think I’d ever say no to a whole month with my quintet, though, it is a great opportunity to play with incredible musicians and great friends. The orchestra is where you will find me most though and I am also very happy there.

What artists/albums/songs are you currently listening to?
I often just put random playlists on to hear new music but if I had to name a few regulars, it tends to be Stevie Wonder, Gregory Porter, Earth, Wind & Fire or whatever myself or my fiancée Lois are working on. I tend to find making playlists for work music helps us get through the music we need to learn without it becoming too much of a chore.

Where will you be performing in 2016?
Next year looks to be more of the same really. I have dates with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, English National Opera and BBC. I hope to continue working with the Philharmonia, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and other orchestras, some maybe for the first time. There are initial ideas in place to record a CD with Inner City Brass and I hope to continue performing with them as much as possible. Who knows what the future will hold!

You can find out more about Matt at:

Twitter: @TromMLewis
MAS: maslink.co.uk