Tag Archives: Big Band

Scholar’s Spotlight: David Curtiss

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholarship students and Award Holders. This week, foundation-year physicist and reeds player, David Curtiss.


I started my music-making on the piano at age 7, something that I have tried to continue developing throughout my years of study. I then decided that I wanted to be part of my school orchestra and so chose to start the clarinet, leading me onto the local area wind ensemble and a host of fantastic opportunities that followed.
I started on third clarinet in the youth band, and after 4 years found myself principle in the main band. I was then offered the chance to play the tenor saxophone, I took it (because who doesn’t want to play the coolest instrument?). This then opened the door to join big bands and play in different ensembles.

Because I could now play multiple reed instruments, including the oboe, I was invited to play in the pit band for the school productions, such as The Sound of Music and We Will Rock You. It’s something I have thoroughly enjoyed and made sure to take part in every year. I also had a brief trip onto the stage for our production of West Side Story where I played the lead role of Tony, a fascinating experience which gave me a new respect and insight into musical theatre.

My next venture was into the baritone saxophone when I was asked if I’d like to give it a go and I haven’t looked back! It has given me the opportunity to play alongside the Scots Guard in their chapel next to Buckingham Palace and at The Royal Albert Hall as part of the Hampshire County Youth Wind Ensemble, as well as a host of other locations that I would never have thought possible.

I continued my musical education at college however switched courses to pursue a scientific route. Last year, a few friends and I had the idea of starting up an orchestra for fellow college students. This idea spread into a full orchestra, wind band and string orchestra resulting in a full concert last year in Winchester. This new musical venture also gave me the opportunity to do more conducting with the string orchestra when we performed Grieg’s Holberg Suite. We have also just planned a concert for Easter where we will be putting together a jazz band and some smaller ensembles which is very exciting!

David, third from left, with the Big Band sax section

My musical journey has continued to grow here at Kent where I am part of the Concert Band, Big Band, Pops Orchestra, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, Chorus and Cecilian Choir. One of my goals for my time here at Kent is to assemble a sax quartet. I have some pieces that I have arranged that I would love to be debuted by an ensemble such as this. I am amazingly grateful to be a recipient of the Music Scholarship, as it has allowed me to purchase some desperately needed upgrades for my instrument, and also to have the chance to be taught by the fantastic Peter Cook. I look forward to developing my playing and getting involved with everything that the brilliant Music Department here at the University has to offer…


Read more in the series here.

Scholars’ Spotlight: Leon Schoonderwoerd

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholars and Performance Award students. This week, second-year Physics post-graduate and clarinettist, Leon Schoonderwoerd.


My name is Leon Schoonderwoerd, born and raised in the Netherlands. I am a second-year PhD student in Theoretical Physics, as well as a recipient of the University of Kent Music Performance Award.

My musical journey started with clarinet lessons at age 7, which I continued all through primary and secondary school. A few years later, I joined a local wind orchestra where I worked my way from third clarinet in the youth band to first clarinet in the main orchestra in a few years time. Meanwhile, I taught myself to play drums and played in a few small bands, unfortunately none of which made it very far.

After a trial lesson at the Amsterdam conservatoire, I decided to not enrol there but instead pursue a science degree. I studied at the University of Amsterdam for six years, obtaining first a BSc in Natural and Social Sciences, then an MSc in Theoretical Physics. During this time, my music-making was mostly on hold, with the exception of a band I started with a few friends during the master’s. We played a few gigs, but when our frontman moved to Germany to pursue a PhD, we decided to quit while ahead.

After finishing my Masters, I lived and worked in Amsterdam for another year, during which I joined a student orchestra. My background in classical music combined with my experience on the drums allowed my to fill their vacancy for a percussionist. When after one programme the opportunity arose to switch over to bass clarinet, I took it. This was a truly great year for me, playing pieces such as Ravel’s Piano Concerto, Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and Janáček’s Sinfonietta. The year ended with a bang when we joined forces with a student orchestra to give a series of concerts in the Netherlands (ending in a sold-out Concertgebouw in Amsterdam) as well as a three-concert tour abroad in Freising, Germany and Bologna, Italy.

By this time, I had accepted a PhD position with Gunnar Möller at the University of Kent, so in the summer of 2017 I moved from Amsterdam to Canterbury in pursuit of science. Here, I joined the lively music programme, which awed me with its beautiful concert hall and proceeded to take over most of my free time. During my first year at Kent, I played bass clarinet and percussion in the University Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band, sang bass in the Chorus, joined the pit band for two musical theatre shows and started a woodwind quartet.

This year, I vowed to take any musical opportunity I possibly could, as a result of which I am playing clarinet in the Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band as well as in an array of chamber ensembles, bass clarinet in the Pops Orchestra, and the odd percussion part for different performances (I hear there are still some tickets for Dido and Aeneas…) [deftly plugged there, Leon: well done…ED]. Additionally, the Music Performance Award has allowed me to take lessons with the incredible Ian Swatman, also director of the University Concert and Big Bands and legendary Hull City supporter…)

Music at Kent thus provides me with ample opportunity to take my mind off physics. Many thanks to the Music Department and Music Society for making all this possible!


The Music Performance Award is open to returning students at Kent, and offers a year’s worth of instrumental / singing lessons in support of a holder’s contribution to the musical life of the University: read more here.

Everybody’s Waiting: Merry Christmas from the Music department

As we reach the end of a busy period marking the festive season, there’s just time to wish all our loyal readers a very Merry Christmas from the Music team, in the company of the University Big Band, conducted by Ian Swatman, with first-year Elle Soo singing Everybody’s Waiting for the Man with the Bag from the band’s recent ‘Christmas Swingalong.’

We’re back in the New Year; watch out for an action-packed spring season to be unveiled early in January!

University Big Band featured on BBC Radio Kent

The preparations to the University Big Band’s annual Christmas Swingalong were featured on BBC Radio Kent last night on The Dominic King Show.

Your Loyal Correspondent is heard talking with the conductor of the Big Band, Ian Swatman, as well as student players Owen Kerry (Physics), Megan Daniel (Law), Fleur Sumption (History of Art) and David Curtiss  (Physics) about life in the ensemble, fitting music into their academic life, and Christmas jumpers…

Talking heads: l-r Owen Kerry, Fleur Sumption, David Curtiss, Megan Daniel
BBC Radio Kent presenter, Dominic King

You can listen to the interview online here, starting at 1 hr 28 mins and 31 secs. Many thanks to Dominic King for featuring the band on the airwaves.

Festive image gallery: Flute Choir, Minerva Voices and the Big Band Swingalong

An action-packed finale to the term; a festive sprinkling of seasonal Baroque music and carols from the Flute Choir and the upper-voice chamber choir, Minerva Voices, followed by the annual roof-raising Christmas Swingalong with the University Big Band, conducted by Ian Swatman, featuring singers Elle Soo and Fleur Sumption.

Warning: there are selfies…

New season, new brochure: a look ahead

We’re delighted to reveal the new season of our What’s On is now launched online!

Ferio Saxophone Quartet (Image: James Mccormick)

Our customary Lunchtime Concert series this term brings the Ferio Saxophone Quartet, an exploration of the music to Hitchcock’s classic Vertigo and seasonal music from the CantiaQuorum ensemble; the University Chorus and Orchestra explore the ‘Old and New’ in a programme of seventeenth century music and modern realisations and responses to it; the University Musical Theatre Society performs its termly showcase including songs from Chicago, Hamilton and Dream Girls, and the term concludes in festive style with the traditional Christmas Swing-Along featuring the University Big Band.

Hansel and Gretel (Image: Still Moving Media with permission from Cheltenham Festival)

Together with the Canterbury Festival, we also bring a dark realisation of the story of Hansel and Gretel in a blend of chamber music, puppetry and animation, with music written by composer Matthew Kaner to words by Simon Armitage; the Festival also brings percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and Trio HLK in November. Elsewhere, Aurora Orchestra brings Mozart, Mendelssohn and Jorg Widmann, and there’s a chance to hear Sir Thomas Allen. With visits too from local societies and orchestras, the new autumn season will see Colyer-Fergusson Hall filled with music old and new as we head towards the festive season.

See all that’s to come online here, or download the brochure (PDF) here; we look forward to welcoming you to Colyer-Fergusson over the coming months.

The most wonderful time of the year…

And so our music-making this term came to a festive conclusion last night, in the company of the University Big Band, directed by Ian Swatman.The annual Christmas Swingalong always draws a packed crowd, and last night was no exception, audience spilling out onto the balcony around the hall to enjoy a lively seasonal programme with jazz-infused takes on traditional repertoire. Third-year singer Dottie Grenfell joined the band for renditions including The Man With The Bag and Santa Baby; the Brass Band provided the accompaniment for communal carols to the give the Big Band a breather, and the event came to a conclusion with Dottie leading everyone in White Christmas.

The enthusiastic audience flooded out into the foyer afterwards to the strains of a jazz trio with pianist and alumnus Chris Manley (a neat touch). Congratulations to everyone involved, the foyer was buzzing afterwards (nothing to do with the mulled wine and mince pies, of course…) and Colyer-Fergusson was brimful of Christmas cheer.

Summer Music Week: Days One and Two

Our annual Summer Music Week festival launched in fine style over the weekend, as the Big Band headed to the seaside to perform on the Memorial Bandstand at Deal.

Big Band at the Beach!

Blue skies, clear weather and a great crowd greeted the players under the baton of Ian Swatman, with audience scattered on the greensward around the bandstand in deck-chairs and sun-hats.

Summertime and the livin’ is easy…

Day Two yesterday carried on the jazz theme, as General Harding’s Tomfoolery filled Colyer-Fergusson Hall with swing music from the 30s, 40s and 50s in Five O’Clock Stomp. The thirteen-piece dance orchestra were joined by The Minervettes, and unveiled an energy-filled programme of popular favourites including The Charleston, Puttin’ On The Ritz and classic Glenn Miller tunes.

Today, Day Three, sees a Lunchtime Recital by University Music Scholars in music by Piazzolla, Joseph Horovitz and Sonny Rollins at 1.10pm, followed by the presentation of the annual Music Prizes. Summer Music Week continues until Saturday; details here.