Yeoman of the Month January 2016 – Chris Avison
I don’t remember ever deciding that the trumpet was what I wanted to do, but I have been playing it for most of my life. When I was four my mum, a peripatetic brass teacher by profession, started teaching me the basics of playing the cornet. From her I learnt and developed as a musician, competing as a soloist and performing in ensembles at school and in the local area. I made a lot of friends who were in many of the groups I was in and, as friendships developed, music just became a part of life. We all seemed to do almost everything together which was great and really taught me to enjoy collective music making almost without a second thought, which is still second nature to me.
I had lessons at home with my mum until I was 16, by which time I was thinking about what to do after school. Alongside music, I had been a talented rugby player for my school and county, getting to the point where I trialled for South West England, and by this age, I had to choose whether I was going to try and play rugby professionally or be a musician. At that point I was also playing the piano and reached Grade 8 on drum kit and after some thought made the choice that as much as I loved playing rugby (and still miss it to this day) I wanted a lifelong career as a professional musician.
During my A-Levels, I went on to have lessons with Dan Newell, Paul Beniston and Paul Archibald before taking a place on the BMus course at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) in Cardiff.
I studied with Philippe Schartz, the Principal Trumpet of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) during my four years at college. While in Cardiff, I was fortunate enough to play in all the ensembles available to me from the second term of my first year, despite the tough competition to perform in these groups. I was in the brass 10-piece, the college orchestra, and formed a successful brass quintet in my second year. Called Bute Brass, we quickly developed as an ensemble and began taking on outreach visits – some of which were organised by RWCMD and others we solicited ourselves – as well as perform for several college events including fundraisers and concerts.
After four fantastic years in Cardiff, I was undecided whether I wanted to take on a masters qualification or to remain in Cardiff and make a living as a musician there, having already developed strong contacts and regularly performed in the Welsh National Opera (WNO) and BBC NOW. Despite not really knowing what I wanted to do, I decided to apply for an MA. I auditioned for several colleges, but found I was most struck by the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) – as I walked into the building I had the feeling I was in the place I was meant to be before I had even played a note. I was awarded a scholarship from the ABRSM to take a two-year MA at the RAM, where again I was fortunate enough to feature in almost all of the ensembles. I formed a brass quintet called Inner City Brass, and we went on to win the Worshipful Company of Musicians Brass Prize which qualified us as Yeomen of the Company. Inner City Brass still perform together across the country and are always looking for new challenges and performance opportunities.
Since graduating from RAM, I have performed on several recordings. Most notably I featured as a soloist accompanied by Marylebone Brass on ‘Dragons’ Rise – A Tribute to Professor James Watson’, a CD recorded in 2011 to raise money for the James Watson Fund.
I have performed across the UK and further afield with several orchestras since leaving RAM. As well as successfully trialling for the Principal Trumpet position of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO), I have worked with the Philharmonia, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Welsh National Opera and ensembles such as Onyx Brass, Fine Arts Brass and Superbrass. After being on trial for the Principal Trumpet chair at BSO for two years, I was offered the position, which I accepted and started in September 2013.
Currently, I am performing with the BSO, on trial for the Principal Trumpet chair at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, and working as often as I can in my spare time on stage and in recording studios with other orchestras, the Inner City Brass quintet, and can even occasionally be seen in the pit of the hit musical Matilda in the West End. I really enjoy the variation that can come with being a versatile trumpet player with a dynamic orchestra and a variety of outside interests, which helps to keep things fresh and never boring.
In the future, I am sure Inner City Brass will continue to feature in festivals and concert venues around the country (often gratefully aided by the support of WCOM), and I personally hope to take on more projects which will help me continue to develop as a musician, as well as take on projects that will challenge me in other ways too.
You can find out more and keep up to date with me at: www.chrisavison.co.uk .