Overture? Cairnorrie Primary School, 26 miles north of Aberdeen, was a country school with two teachers and an average of about 40 pupils. It had a visiting music teacher every Friday, who took singing and recorder groups. This was probably the highlight of the week. Low notes? Round about the age of eight I began to find it difficult to understand what was being said in the classroom, and at 10 I began wearing a hearing aid.
Secondary movement? Ellon Academy, 16 miles north of Aberdeen, was a comprehensive of 1,300 pupils. There was a very good music department, a good art department and a debating society - it was a healthy, well- rounded comprehensive. I spent a lot of time in the music department and would play for shows and Christmas concerts.
Exams? I took eight O-levels, with As and Bs but a C in Latin, which was a surprise as I wasn't meant to pass. I did Highers in a year: music, French and English. When I was 16 I took the entrance exam to the Royal Academy of Music in London.
RAM raiding? I knew my career would be in practical performance but I needed the back-up of a degree. A university would have been more theory- based than music institutions such as RAM. All the students were at least two years older than me. Some, like me, knew what they wanted to do afterwards: some playing in an orchestra, some teaching, some becoming composers. They are all scattered throughout the world, but very occasionally I bump into my fellow students.
High notes? I used to enjoy the visits, one day a term, from James Blades, the grandfather of British percussion, who had come into contact with composers such as Britten and Stravinsky. I gave the first solo percussion recital in the history of the Academy, and also the first percussion concerto; this was composed by another student. History lessons were boring, and no one understood anything.
Applause? I have maybe six or seven honorary degrees. Each one is special but the first, from Aberdeen, was important because it was on home groundnReuse content