by Steven Maxwell
An Interview with John Trustcott
Coming from a very musical family, it was easy for John Trustcott to become involved in music from an early age. Starting on the bugle in the boys brigade and then onto the cornet with the Bodmin Town Youth Band, John moved onto euphonium to play in the award winning Bodmin Community School Band.
At the age of 14, after a couple years with the school band he was fortunate enough to be offered a seat in Bodmin Town Band. This was a steep learning curve for him as the band was doing well in the championship section.
Under the guidance of his section leader at Bodmin Town Band, Shawn Woodland, he improved and starting taking his playing very seriously and even gave up rugby! After taking his grade 8 and A Level Music, John wrote to Major David Marshall of the Coldstream Guards Band and was invited up for an audition. After passing the audition, John joined the Army at the age of 18 and found himself at Kneller Hall for a year studying under Patrick Harrild.
Jonathan Truscott winning the RAF Solo Comps 2008
Once in the Coldstream Guards Band John was soon up on his feet performing solos alongside Ben Godfrey and John Storey. After a short time John was promoted to principal tuba and toured all over the world with the band. In 2004 John was delighted to be accepted onto the M. A. course linking the Coldstream Guards Band with Salford University. After an 18-month course he sat his final exams and was awarded a distinction in performance.
During this time john started playing with Staines Brass Band with other colleagues from the guards, enjoying success with Major Ian McElligot. After being promoted from the 1st section to the championship section, John took over as Band Manager. The same year the band qualified for the national finals of Great Britain and achieved 11th place.
In 2007 after 10 years in the Army John transferred over to the Central Band of the RAF for a more stable career. At the same time he was offered a seat in Desford Colliery Band for the Midland Area Contest and is now enjoying the challenge of his position as Principal EE-flat Bass.
(Bio from Desford Colliery band website, http://www.desfordcollieryband.co.uk/profiles/john_truscott.htm)
Steven Maxwell (SM): What attracted you to the military?
Jonathan Trustcott (JT): In 1997 at the age of 18 I found myself at a crossroads. I had just finished my advanced level qualifications and was contemplating which music college would suit me best. It was at this point when a good friend of mine in management in our local brass band suggested the military. He told me that he used to go to school with a trumpet player, which had become the Director of Music at Her Majesties Coldstream Guards Band at Buckingham Palace. After inquiring, I went to London for an audition and was offered a place in the band.
RAF Brass Trio: Jon Pippen on bone and Ben Godfrey on Trumpet
SM: Can you tell us what a typical day would look like for you as a member of the RAF Central Band?
JT: One thing I enjoy about playing with the RAF Central Band is that the job is so varied. We don’t have a typical day as such, we could be rehearsing, recording, performing or even involved in station guard force duties with a riffle. On a rehearsal day we are in for 08.30, brief at 8.50, down beat at 09.00, break from 10.00–10.30, rehearse from 10.30–12.00. The afternoon varies from more rehearsal or secondary duties/personal admin, be it admin/practice or fitness training.
SM: When did you begin to take auditions?
JT: My only auditions have been with the Army in 1997 and when I transferred to the RAF 10 years later.
SM: What was the audition process like?
JT: The audition process was over one day. It started with interviews in the morning with the Director of Music RAF Head Quarters Music Services and the recruitment officer. Late morning was spent playing with the band or in a small ensemble, in my case it was with the brass quintet. This is assessed by a specialist on your instrument. The first part of the afternoon was spent being assessed in harmony and orchestration; this was in the form of examination papers. The audition itself was at the end of the day. I had a run-through with the pianist before the audition and waited in the room for the panel of examiners. After I had played my pieces, the instrumental specialist asked me a few scales, arpeggios, diminished 7ths and dominant 7ths. We then moved onto sight-reading and aural tests. It was a long day, but the RAF standard is extremely high and they had to be sure that I was right for them.
Coldstream Guards Band
JT: Well since my transfer to the RAF in 2007, I haven’t been on tour out of the U. K. with the band. This May the band is going to Cyprus, and this will be my first tour. Most of our work is either recording or playing up and down the country in concert.
SM: What are some of the most memorable moments you have had as a member of the RAF Central Band.
JT: In my first year with the band I was fortunate enough to win the RAF solo competition and became the soloist on the U. K. concert tour that year. It was a great buzz to play for packed out audiences in some of the best concert venues in the U. K. Last year we recorded a CD at the Air studios in London with the record label Decca. The recording Reach for the skies was to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. It was a great success and really enjoyable.
SM: What other type of playing do you enjoy outside of the military band?
JT: My main musical enjoyment outside the RAF Central Band is in brass bands. For the last few years I have enjoyed great success with Desford Colliery, but presently I am concentrating on my family as we were blessed with another child recently.
SM: How has your playing style evolved since you have been playing with the military band?
Coldstream Guards Tuba Section 2007
JT: You have to be so versatile playing in a military band. Within a concert you jump from piece to piece going through many different styles. This definitely broadens your musical knowledge and helps keep your interest in your playing. Currently, I’m working on Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet with the Symphonic Brass and playing in an eleven piece Miles Davis Birth of the Cool band.
SM: What kinds of things have you found yourself doing differently, stylistically, playing with the ensemble?
JT: I love playing with brass quintet and fortunately for me I am surrounded by amazing players. They are always debating in rehearsals about style and interpretation. It really has made me more aware of the intricacies in the music and the end result is incredible. This enthusiasm spreads throughout the band with rewarding results.
Decca recording of “Reach for the Skies” 2010 – Chief Technician Andrew Allot on E-flat Tuba
SM: What has been your most enjoyable piece of music to play with the group? What is your least enjoyable?
JT: Coming from a brass band background, I really enjoy playing in the brass ensembles. Recently we had a recital with the Symphonic Brass at the Central Church of the RAF St. Clement Danes in London. We finished the concert with Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. It was such a buzz that completely fulfilled my addiction for playing. As for least enjoyable piece of music, well it has to be the boring perpetual sustained passages in some standard repertoire.
SM: What advice do you have for students interested in auditioning for a military band?
JT: Have an open mind. You can gain so much experience and knowledge if you apply yourself.
SM: Tell us about your early musical influences, even before you began playing the tuba. Did you hear much live music at a young age?
JT: I’m very fortunate to come from a musical family. My parents are wonderful singers, and it was always around me and my brothers growing up. There is a big brass band scene in Cornwall where I grew up and it was very easy for me to get involved. I knew from an early age that music was in my blood.
SM: How did you begin your musical training? What age did you begin playing tuba?
JT: Well like most children learning brass instruments, I started on the cornet, and as I grew so did the instrument. Tuba became my main instrument during secondary school at the age of 11.
Desford Colliery Band Tuba Section 2009
SM: What types of touring schedule do you follow each year?
SM: When did you decide that you wanted to become a professional musician?
JT: When I started competing with Bodmin Town Brass Band from the age of 14, I was hooked on playing. Playing had become a passion of mine and after being awarded my grade 8 distinction the following year, I haven’t looked back since.
SM: It sounds like performing in a brass band throughout your life had really influenced you. Can you tell us how you got started with brass bands and how that has helped you evolve as a player?
JT: The brass band scene from where I grew up in Cornwall is very strong. I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to have lessons in school, and this lead into playing in Bodmin Town Youth Brass Band. At the age of 14 a vacancy came up in the senior band, and I was given a chance on 2nd E-flat Bass. Since then I had never looked back and enjoyed the challenge of playing with top brass bands. I believe that playing in a high standard outfit at a young age has driven me to strive to get better and eventually to a professional standard. The brass band scene is a great place to learn discipline in your playing, and it is also fantastic for building your ability in all aspects of playing.
SM: What were some of your most inspirational teachers throughout your studies? What specifically did you learn from these teachers that helped you in the military bands?
JT: During my phase-two training at Kneller Hall with the British Army, I was fortunate to spend a year with Pattrick Harrild. Pattrick was a hard man to please, but what I learnt in that year had put down the foundations for what I am continually striving to achieve in my playing today.
SM: You have worked with a number of great artists and conductors. Could you tell the readers about a few of them and what you have learned from them?
JT: My main inspiration has come from Pattrick Harrild. I’ll never forget the long discussions with him and listening to him play in demonstration to me when I just wasn’t getting it right.
There are many great artists within the British Military Bands. Just to name a few: John Storey, Principle Euphonium at the Coldstream Guards. John is a great musician and always made me think of producing a lovely big round sound to match his. It was a pleasure to sit next to him for 10 years in the Coldstream Guards Band. Philip Convey (Sweede), Principle Tuba of the Welsh Guards for many years, was the sound of the massed bands. You could feel the aftershocks of his pedals in the next county. The best B-flat bass player I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Nick Stones, Principle Horn of the Coldstream Guards Band, is the most driven enthusiastic player I have ever come across. His drive for musical excellence is infectious and was a real inspiration to strive to achieve my goals. Ben Godfrey, Trumpet, has a reputation as principle cornet with the Yorshire Building Society Brass Band that was second to none. Ben left the Coldstream Guards Band after 6 years and began playing in and around London including the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire film score with the LSO and the channel 4 news theme. He has now joined the RAF and is a great person to glean from his experience, especially in the brass quintet.
SM: Thanks so much John for your willingness to be interviewed for the ITEA Journal’s Military Corner. Last question, what instrument and mouthpiece do you use?
JT: I play on an E-flat Besson Soverign, and I also play on a B-flat St. Petersburg (2010 German edition). I play on a Vincent Bach 24AW for both.