Tag Archives: Concert Band

Scholars’ Spotlight: Euan Bonnar

Continuing the series profiling current Music Performance Scholarship and Music Award holders at the University of Kent. This week, first-year Biochemistry student and Music Performance Scholarship brass-player, Euan Bonnar.


My musical journey began very early, aged four, with piano lessons at school. Although it would eventually become a secondary instrument later, I immensely enjoyed being able to learn and perform what were initially very complex pieces for such a small person. Looking back, it is easy to see that my love for the piano sparked my passion for music, with endless hours spent either hammering out scales or a wide variety of pieces. I vividly remember my eccentric piano teacher at the time handing me Bach’s ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier,’ telling me to take a look and play around with some of the pieces. Much of my early musical life was spent pursuing a solo venture, rather than any ensemble playing. The closest I got to playing with other musicians on the piano was performing in the Portsmouth Music Festival with my brother, who ironically is now a much better pianist than I ever was.

I picked up the Baritone as a second instrument halfway through Junior School and began to play in the school’s orchestra. Although the sound produced was crude in retrospect, I enjoyed playing with the type of ensemble and would return to playing in this setting much later in the form of brass ensembles, dectets and concert bands.

Throughout the rest of my school years, I learnt both instruments at the same time. However, there came a point where I had to choose a primary instrument to focus my efforts on as my workload increased. As I had recently achieved Grade 6 in the piano, I decided to put it on the back burner and continue with the Euphonium as my primary instrument. As I was learning outside of the school system, my only ensemble playing was with the school orchestra. However, in the final weeks of secondary school, I spoke to Jock McKenzie about my plans for ensemble playing at Sixth Form, and if I would be interested in joining his ensembles in the new academic year. Having been playing with his student and orbiting his ensembles for the past five years, I couldn’t wait to play in the calibre of the band that he conducted.

During my time at Sixth Form, I joined in on every musical opportunity I could; taking AS Music, joining the Porchester, Gosport and Fareham Youth Band and the Sixth Form’s Dectet. Although I had come very late to the party in terms of ensemble playing, I grabbed every opportunity with both hands and learned a completely new way of playing my instrument. The PFGYB played an amazing variety of pieces which vastly expanded my appreciation for music, and although I missed my solo opportunity in Holst’s ‘Second Suite in F’ in the summer concert as I was on the way back from my Gold DofE expedition in Snowdonia, it still was an extraordinary experience that I will never forget.

A highlight of my time playing the Euphonium was when I was invited to participate in the ‘Low Brass Day’ at the Royal Marines School of Music in Portsmouth, hosted by the British Trombone Society. This day was attended by professional musicians including David Childs, Les Neish, Simon Minshall, Robbie Harvey, as well as many members of the Royal Marines Band School. The day included masterclasses from the invited professionals and was based on a variety of techniques and topics and was truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

As a biochemistry student here at Kent, I enjoy music as an extra-curricular activity as a way to stay in touch with my creative side between lectures and long periods of study. I take part in the University’s Concert Band (pictured in rehearsal, below) and Pops Orchestra but have also formed my own Brass Ensemble to continue to play the type of music that I played in the brass. I am very grateful to be the recipient of the Music Performance Scholarship, which has allowed me to purchase a new euphonium to use at University and continue to fuel my passion for music alongside my studies.

Scholar’s Spotlight: Megan Daniel

Continuing the series profiling new Music Performance Scholars and Award Holders. This week, first-year Law student,  flautist and saxophonist, Megan Daniel.


When I was 8 years old, I found my Auntie’s old flute in the attic and I was determined to be able to make a sound out of it. So, I began lessons and immediately discovered my passion for music. Soon after, I started piano and alto saxophone lessons and, 10 years later, I can say I have achieved grade 8 distinctions in both flute and jazz saxophone.

Throughout my school years, I was an enthusiastic music student, finding myself to be involved in almost every ensemble possible, such as concert bands, big bands and choirs. I was a member of my local student wind ensemble for 9 years and my county-wide ensemble in Hampshire for 5 years, taking on the responsibilities of principle saxophonist in each. In these ensembles, I was able to tour around Europe, playing in Berlin, Prague and the Black Forest, as well as many others! These were amazing opportunities which allowed me to visit places I may not otherwise have been able to see.

When I was 15, my school big band were lucky enough to be invited to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland – we played two shows to an audience of around 600 people, and it was the best experience of my life! Consequently, we were invited back again for two consecutive years. The same year, our big band and wind band won the regional Music for Youth competition and made it through to perform in the finals, held at Birmingham Symphony Hall, one of the country’s most incredible concert halls.

As I got older and joined college, more opportunities arose for me. I began to learn the clarinet, which allowed to me perform in pit bands for various musicals, such as‘Anything Goes and Guys and Dolls. I soon realised my immense love for playing in pit bands for musicals, because the vibe is really exciting and the music itself is so much fun to play! It was here that I truly began to appreciate the community that playing music allows you to be a part of.

Last year, I was a founding member of a student led wind ensemble which was assembled by a close friend of mine. What began as just a wind ensemble grew into an orchestra, big band and string ensemble that still put on concerts today, including a jazz evening this Easter! We play a mixed range of repertoire, from Holst’s First Suite in Eb to Malcom Arnold’s Four Scottish Dances.

In my final year of college, I played alongside the Scots Guard at Buckingham Palace with Hampshire County Youth Wind Ensemble, performing the Lord of the Rings symphony. To play amongst such talented musicians was amazing! Also, in April 2018, the same ensemble was invited to perform at the Royal Albert Hall and participate in the ‘Hampshire at the Hall’ event that had been organised by Hampshire Music Service. Our group played A Jazz Funeral by Christopher Coleman, which features two complicated alto saxophone solos which I was lucky enough to play. This was a truly nerve-wracking but extraordinary experience which I will never forget.


As a law student at Kent, I continue to enjoy music as an extra-curricular activity and as a way to relax after lectures and seminars. I am part of the University’s Concert Band, Big Band, Chorus, Cecilian Choir and Symphony Orchestra and Flute Choir.

I have also met many amazing people through music at Kent and am extremely grateful to be a recipient of the Music Performance Scholarship.


Read about other Music Scholars and Award Holders in the dedicated column here.

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.

Band substance: the Concert and Big Bands

Depending upon what time you pass by Colyer-Fergusson on a Wednesday night, you’ll either hear stirring film scores such as Gladiator, swing classics by Count Basie or versions of Stevie Wonder tunes ringing out. It can only mean one thing: rehearsal night for the University Concert Band and Big Band (though thankfully not at the same time…)

On the conductor’s podium is the sprightly figure of Ian Swatman – Bob Marley devotee and possibly the most dedicated fan Hull City will ever have – vigorously taking charge of Wednesday rehearsals and leading the assembled forces through repertoire in preparation for their various termly concerts. In December, the Big Band can be found in Santa hats and jazz-infused versions of seasonal repertoire for the popular Christmas Swing-along, whilst both forces combine each March for their roof-raising Spring concert, and for a farewell concert each June.

Both national and international students, staff and members of the local community find themselves grappling with the complexity of the repertoire Ian hurls at them each year, as they sweat blood to get the music under the fingers. Each year, too, auditions are held for solo singers, for the opportunity to sing with the Big Band.

Phil Veacock (centre) and the Deptford Rivieras in the concert-hall

A particularly exciting aspect to the working life of the Big Band is the opportunity to work with guest musicians; in the past, this has included trombonist Mark Bassey, trumpeter Mike Lovatt from the John Wilson Orchestra, and saxophonist Phil Veacock from the Jools Holland Orchestra. It’s a great opportunity for the young stars of tomorrow to work with, and learn from, accomplished professional performers.

Mike Lovatt with members of the Big Band

The Concert Band has worked with composer James Rae too, when James was commissioned by the Music department to write a piece for the gala concert to open the Colyer-Fergusson Building in December 2012. As part of an action-packed weekend, the Concert Band gave the world premiere of James’ Platform One.

Composer James Rae (right) with Ian Swatman and the Concert Band

The groups don’t just perform in the adaptable acoustics of Colyer-Fergusson Hall. The Big Band also launches the annual Summer Music Week, a musical farewell to the University’s academic year, with a trip to the seaside to perform on the Memorial Bandstand at Deal, which involves combining rehearsals and coach-trips with a visit to the promenade chip shop and the roving ice-cream stand. (It’s a hard life…). The band has also headed down the road to perform alongside pupils at St Edmund’s School, and also in Whitefriars in the heart of the city.

Whether it’s epic film soundtracks, 70s funk, classic big band standards or soul ballads: Wednesday evenings certainly sound unlike any other on campus…

Scholars’ Spotlight: Tom Wust

Continuing the series profiling some of our University Music Performance Scholarship students here at Kent. This week, reeds specialist studying Business and Management, Tom Wust.


As a kid growing up in a family of musicians and wannabe footballers, my ambitions in life were simple: become Manchester United’s record goal scorer (cue the booing from Manchester City fans!) and to play the piano as well my Dad. And in the present day, I still can’t play the piano as well as my dad, and the whole Manchester United thing is looking unlikely as I’m at university down here at Kent; but heigh-ho, life goes on!

The biggest inspiration for me to become a musician was my Dad. He used to give me piano lessons and try and get me started early, but I just couldn’t hack it. This didn’t stop me learning what all the white and black keys meant, which meant whenever we did music lessons in primary school, I was the expert as I could play an F on a keyboard without having the note names written on in whiteboard marker pen. I may have come across to my peers as a piano playing virtuoso, but I knew I was a million light-years away from being the next Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. At this stage in my life I was still very keen on football, and played for my primary school and a local club.

cheltenham-sax-picChoosing a secondary school presented some opportunities to fulfil one of my two ambitions. One of my options was Abraham Darby Academy, a performing arts and business enterprise specialist academy. Their flagship concert band, called the ‘Showband’ had recently returned from Carnegie Hall, New York, and an opportunity like that would have been too good to turn down. I started year 7 at Abraham Darby Academy and was inspired to reach the standard needed for the Showband. I began my first clarinet lessons with the head of music, Rachel Morton, and quickly progressed up through the various ensembles the academy had to offer. The Megaband was the first ensemble I was a part of, where you needed to pass your grade one to enter. Next was the Friday Band, which – you guessed it – rehearsed on a Friday after school. This was an intermediate band with students of around grade 2/3 to grade 7 standards playing. In addition to the concert bands, I was invited to pick up a tenor saxophone and play with the Junior Jazz Band. It was from there where I progressed even further, passing an audition for the Showband and the Senior Jazz Band on 3rd clarinet and baritone saxophone respectively.

As clarinet was my principle instrument, I was trained to play classically. The moment I picked up a saxophone, all of that changed. I was told to forget nearly everything I had learned on the clarinet and soon enough I rebelled against my initial training and became totally engrossed with playing jazz. I would always be willing to improvise in the Jazz Bands, and in year 12 would be invited to be the musical director of the Junior Jazz Band, helping classically trained saxophonists and brass players to find their way in the world of jazz and all it had to offer. I achieved grade 8 saxophone with distinction in year 10 after just 3 years of playing, grade 8 clarinet with distinction in year 11 and grade 8 jazz saxophone with distinction in year 13 to round off my time at the Academy.

Performing at Birmingham Town Hall
Performing at Birmingham Town Hall

Music at Abraham Darby has given me many moments I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. Playing for the Queen at RAF Cosford for her Diamond Jubilee, representing England in the Palaces of Westminster for the Commonwealth Carnival of Music, playing in Symphony Hall five times, winning Gold at the World Music Contest in the Netherlands, playing as a soloist for Prince Edward, and performing in the Royal Albert Hall just to name some.

Tom (centre) with the woodwind section of the Symphony Orchestra
Tom (centre) with the woodwind section of the Symphony Orchestra

I was very happy to learn of the exciting opportunities that music at the University of Kent presents. Playing in an orchestra was something on my musical bucket list that I hadn’t achieved thus far, and at the end of my first term I was part of the ‘Sounding Shakespeare’ concert with the University Symphony Orchestra, which was a very enjoyable experience. And with Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony to be performed in Canterbury Cathedral in term 2, I have plenty more to get my teeth in to and enjoy! I study Business and Management at Medway, but making the trip over to Canterbury to perform with the Concert Band, Big Band, Symphony Orchestra and of course the wonderful General Harding’s Tomfoolery is always the highlight of my week – I’m looking forward to times ahead with the Music Department at Kent.

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Tom (wearing his DJ) playing with Tomfoolery on the foyer-stage

Read profiles of other Scholars here.

New What’s On season now launched

With an heraldic fanfare, we’re delighted to say that our new What’s On season is now available to view online, with a mouth-watering programme of events to see you through to July.

As usual, we’ve performances in the majestic surroundings of Canterbury Cathedral with the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra in Tchaikovsky and Puccini for the annual Colyer-Fergusson concert, and the Chamber Choir and Ensemble will fill the Crypt with Fauré’s evocative Requiem in a new chamber edition. The Concert and Big Bands return in March with a dazzling evening of concert band classics and big band swing, and the Musical Theatre Society is back in action too. CantiaQuorum brings its usual eclectic and innovative approach to programming with a new series of concerts, and our popular Lunchtime Concert series ranges from the shores of Scotland to the heady sensuality of Argentinian tango.

A new collaboration with the School of Biosciences forms the backdrop to a concert bringing together live music with beautiful images from its cutting-edge research, which will also be exhibiting in the Colyer-Fergusson gallery throughout the spring term; and there’s a look ahead to warmer weather and seaside pleasures with events to come during our annual Summer Music Week festival in June.

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Image: Molly Hollman

Take a look at all these events and more on our online page here, and download the new season brochure here. We look forward to welcoming you through the doors of Colyer-Fergusson and to our performances elsewhere over the coming months!

All That Jazz: Summer Music Week Day Four

Colyer-Fergusson got that jazzin’ feelin’ yesterday, as Day Four of Summer Music Week saw music on the foyer-stage from the Sax Quartet and guests, followed by society hep cats, in the afternoon.

WP_20160608_004 WP_20160608_006(1) WP_20160608_007 WP_20160608_009In the evening, conductor Ian Swatman led the Concert and Big Bands in a roof-raising finale to the ensembles’ year.

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Summer Music Week continues today with a lunchtime concert from the String Sinfonia in music by Piazzolla, Borodin, Bach and more in Studio 3 Gallery.

Evening photos © Peter Cook