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Alumni spotlight: In Conversation with… Gav Hall

Sat 26 September 2020

Trumpeter Gav Hall studied as a part-time postgraduate music student at Trinity Laban whilst also serving in the British Army.

Since graduating in 2006, he has continued his career in the forces. He currently serves as a Sergeant with the Band of the Grenadier Guards.

We caught up with him to reflect on his time as a student, understand what it’s like to be a military musician, and to hear what’s next.

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

“I never intended to pursue a career in music and actively avoided music education until around the age of 21 when I commenced undergraduate studies in Manchester. By luck, I was performing to a very high standard with Brass Bands in Yorkshire at the time and a degree was a perfect next step.

“Upon graduating, I fell into office-based jobs. I found they got in the way of music, so I looked around for other avenues. I knew I wanted to be able to play for a living. When I started looking into what the Army offered, I was sold. After contacting one of the bands in London I was invited for an audition. Shortly after, at the age of 25, I commenced Basic Military Training. The rest has been a fantastic and rewarding experience.”

What was your experience of studying at Trinity Laban?

“Trinity Laban was a fantastic experience for me. I studied on the part-time PG Dip Course alongside my duties within the British Army. The band I was in were exceedingly busy at the time, undertaking numerous overseas tours and also ensuring that the daily State Ceremonial duties such as Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Trooping the Colour and The State Opening of Parliament were completed to the highest of standards.

“The staff at Trinity Laban were understanding of my commitments and ensured that, where possible, I didn’t miss out on the performance opportunities available. I made friends for life both from the student body and staff. I truly believe Trinity Laban made a huge impact on the musician I am today.”

How has your training at Trinity Laban prepared you for your career?

“Trinity Laban certainly opened my eyes to more aspects of music and also encouraged me to become more free thinking as both a musician and an individual. This has enabled me to think outside of the box.

“We  undertake huge amounts of outreach work and I have been lucky enough to be part of the planning processes for this. I have drawn upon all my experiences at Trinity Laban to ensure we plan and execute high quality outreach at all levels including schools, universities and conservatoires.”

Tell us about your experiences as Sergeant with the Band of the Grenadier Guards

“My time within the Grenadier Guards, amongst some 200 musicians, has been rewarding in myriad ways. As a performer, being in the Army has taken me all over the world including Australia, Japan and the US in addition to most of mainland Europe. I have been very lucky to play in some amazing concert halls, to sell out audiences and luckier still, to be a featured soloist on numerous occasions.

“Work in the UK sees us perform as musical support to State Ceremonial and the main engagements, including the Queen’s Birthday Parade, Remembrance at the Cenotaph and the State Opening of Parliament. A recent highlight has been performing fanfares at The Commonwealth Service with Her Majesty the Queen in attendance.

“More recently I was honoured to play a part in the national response to the Covid-19 outbreak working as part of a Mobile Testing Unit. This was a far cry from the day job but was an amazingly worthwhile and rewarding experience.

“In all of these tasks I have worked alongside fellow Trinity Alumni  who always give their all and are equally as versatile as they are talented.”

Any advice to aspiring young brass players?

“My advice to aspiring players would be to grab every opportunity and immerse yourself in as many styles and genres as possible. More than that, try to enjoy every experience and take a moment to really appreciate where you are and what you are doing.”

What’s next?

“As we start moving back to some semblance of normality after the pandemic and lockdown, we are looking at new and ingenious ways to interact with audiences. A big part of my work sees me putting together outreach projects up and down the country and we are working on the creation of virtual platforms to continue encouraging the next generation of performers. We hope to be able to help music educators jump start their programmes and to help their students to make the most of all opportunities that may arise.

“I’m very fortunate, especially given the current climate, to have the opportunity to serve for at least another ten years. I hope to use this time to gain further experiences, performing at a host of nationally important events and enthusing future generations.”

Image credit: Dan Griffiths