Education: Passed / failed

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The Independent Online
Overture? I was surrounded by music the moment I was born - and probably before. My mother taught the piano to pupils in our flat and elsewhere, tottering round South Kensington on her bike and causing traffic chaos. My father was a composer. I started learning the cello when I was four. This was a ruse to avoid learning the piano, which I hated. My mother took me to a children's concert at the Royal Festival Hall and I liked the way the cello looked when it was being played. I said, "I'd like to play one of those." Then a tenth-size cello arrived and I was dreadfully disappointed.

High Notes? I went to Wetherby School down the road, a pre-prep school where my mother was the music teacher. There was a lot of music - and there still is; my son David goes to it. Outside the school, I was taught by a wonderful old lady called Alison Dalrymple; Jacqueline du Pre was one of her older pupils. Then I went to Westminster Under [prep] School. On Saturday mornings from the age of nine to 13 I went on Saturday mornings to the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music, where there was a big orchestra and we learnt harmony and counterpoint. By 11 or 12 it was pretty obvious that my main talent was in music so I didn't try for Westminster [public school]; it was more academically minded and I'd seen the kind of pressure my brother was under. I went to University College School, where I knew I'd have more time for music.

Going Solo? Until I was 13, the cello was a hobby. Then I became a musician who happened to go to school, when I had a wonderful private teacher, Douglas Cameron, who was at the Royal Academy, and I became almost obsessed with the cello. I got 6 O-levels. I probably failed maths, certainly science. I was very frustrated at doing Latin; the parallel form did German instead, which would have been very useful professionally to me. I left at 16 and spent one year with Douglas Cameron on my own. I was lucky with my schools - but I couldn't believe the relief I felt at not having to go to school. I look back with such affection to that time: just practising the cello for four, five, six hours a day on my own.

Another String To Your Bow? At 17 I had a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, the imposing Victorian building opposite the Royal Albert Hall. I had to play in an orchestra and learn the piano again. When you go to a normal school, you're one of the best music people there; but now I was suddenly in a more competitive environment, up against people from specialist music schools who were technically far more advanced - although a lot of them, after four years at music college, never really improved and the students from more normal schools caught up. There was some jealousy because I had taken the final exam in my year off from school and was already ARCM - an Associate of the Royal College of Music, the equivalent of a music degree. I am now a Fellow, of which there are only 50 in all, so you have to wait for someone to die!

Facing The Music? To play your first concert in front of your fellow students is the most scary thing you can do. They are going to pick you apart. They'd say awful things, sitting in the front row with the score open in front of them. Up to the age of 16 I had been a very carefree performer. At music college, I became much more nervous. But it's a great preparation for the music profession. It's no good suddenly being nervous at a major concert later in life.

Am I My Brother's Time-Keeper? I gave my debut concert at the Albert Hall when I was 20; Jesus Christ Superstar happened in America shortly after that. Andrew had left university very young and spent about five years trying to get things put on. Musically, we diverged when I became very serious about the cello at 13. He was into theatre and was not a performer.

Low Notes? I studied trumpet for a time. I wasn't very good and it is a very loud instrument. One day my father sold it without telling me. I got the message.