Wind Orchestra students get expert advice from RAF musicians


Trinity Laban Wind, Brass and Percussion students were recently invited to the RAF base in Northolt, North London, and roving reporter Lucy Drever went with them to share this fantastic experience.

The visit to RAF Northolt was an opportunity to not only see what being a musician in the RAF was like, but, play alongside seasoned professionals. And, let’s not forget, to kind of feel like James Bond. Once past the barbed wire and security checks, we were shown around the specially designed music building. Rather fantastically, it has the only recording studio in the UK that is built next to an airfield (that just so happens to be the one the Royal Family use). The facilities also include massive studios, endless practice rooms and, because a musician will always be a musician, a well-stocked bar.

The students and the RAF musicians used the opportunity to rehearse repertoire for their upcoming concert this week at Blackheath Halls (Thursday 5March 2015). There really is nothing like hearing a wind orchestra playing Dambusters on a Friday morning…or a Queen medley on a Friday afternoon…

Derryck Nasib, a 4th year French Horn student, says: “It’s amazing having this opportunity to play alongside professionals, particularly those who play your instrument, it gives you that extra buzz.”

As one of the Trinity Laban students mentioned, they weren’t aware that the RAF was even an option for musicians. But with a good salary, cheap rent (£60 a month, and on the Central Line) and a varied programme of music and events, it’s easy to see why this option is so attractive.

Ben Godfrey, Principal Trumpeter with the RAF, says: “There’s so much variety in this job and we cover so many musical genres. We have a real mixture of musicians; people join as a classical or jazz musician, but this job makes them much more diverse. Days like today, it is as much a challenge for us, as the students…I’ve so, so enjoyed working with students who are already so talented.”

For students, the opportunity to be mentored and play alongside the RAF’s top musicians was a welcome change from the four walls of a practice room.  Being a music conservatoire student requires such a lot of personal focus and self-motivation, that having opportunities such as this provide much needed inspiration.

 “Working with professionals is always so useful because you learn so much by hearing them play,” says Deanna Greenwood, 4th year bassoon student. “You’re constantly comparing yourself and constantly striving to get better. With the professional players, everyone raises their game.”

Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs (that’s the ‘top guy’ to us civilians) is Principal Director of Music at the RAF. He explains the sheer variety of music within the military; from bugle calls and signaling across the battlefield to helping promote charities and public engagement. He even wrote and conducted the first piece of music that Kate and Willz heard as a married couple. No biggie eh?

Everyone’s enthusiasm during the whole day was tireless and as Wing Commander Stubbs so aptly puts it: “The whole experience [with Trinity Laban] has been so fun - I mean, what’s the point of doing music if you don’t enjoy it?”


Trinity Laban Wind Orchestra performs with the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, Thu 5 March at Blackheath Halls, 19.30h

Duncan Stubbs, Principal Director of Music RAF Music Services, will conducta programme featuring Paul Mealor’s Hymn to Endless Light. The concert will also feature Corporal Ben Godfrey (trumpet) and Senior Aircraftsmen Lewis Musson (instrument?) as soloists in Tom Davoren's Ascension.

Admission is free but ticketed -