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Music, Music, Music...

27 August 2015

It’s going to be a big year for performing arts at NAIS Pudong, with the introduction of the Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Programme for students from Year 1 to Year 9, plans for a whole school production and a new Director of Music and The Arts, Mr Phillip Bailey.

A graduate of the Royal College of Music, a professional musician and conductor and with a wealth of experience leading music learning, Mr Bailey says he is excited to have a “blank canvas” to work with and wants to see music permeate the school. We spoke with him about his own start in music and his vision for NAIS Pudong.

  • Phil Bailey
  • Phil Bailey Conducting

Q: Do you remember when you first started playing music? How did it feel?

A: Yes, I remember I was seven and my step dad, who was also a brass player, gave me the beginner book for trumpet and I used my fingers to play, without the instrument. Then I remember him showing me how to make a noise with the trumpet and I tried and was able to play a scale. It came very easily to me and playing trumpet wasn’t the sort of thing I had to work at. It was very different when I was 15 and started playing the piano which I found really difficult!

Q: Was it your step dad who was your musical influence?

A: Yes, it’s true. His whole family played in the town band… all brass… my step dad played the trombone, but they all played different instruments. I think my musicality comes from my maternal grandfather who played the piano and piano accordion and studied at the Royal College of Music.

Q: You embraced music from a young age, playing in your village band from the age of 8 and then joining the Royal College Juniors and travelling from your home in Salisbury to London each Saturday for the programme. Now you’re a musician and a conductor. What is it about music, and brass in particular, that drives your passion?

A: I love the timbre (the sound)… I love it when it’s full; when I’ve got a full brass band in front of me and they’re playing full throttle. It’s like riding the crest of a wave.

Q: Did you always know you would be a musician?

A: I knew from 14 what I was going to do. If I hadn’t been accepted to the Royal Academy of Music, I would have joined the RAF music corps.

Q: While you were at the academy, you played with the London Symphonietta and at age 23 took on the role of principal trumpet in the Athens Symphony Orchestra, even performing music from Zorba the Greek conducted by its composer, Mikis Theodorakis.  You have played and conducted at the best concert halls in the UK and Europe… Do you have a favourite and why?

A: Definitely playing and conducting at the Royal Albert Hall… that venue tops them all. It has an amazing history and acoustics. Just think of the famous conductors that have performed on that stage…

Q: What is your vision for music at NAIS Pudong?

A: I want to flood the school with the musical instruments we’ve got so the students get really excited by playing in ensembles. This term, in their usual music classes, our Year 4, 5 and 6 students will have the opportunity to try playing different musical instruments; brass, woodwind and strings. They will have lessons in each to give them a taste of the different instruments, and the chance to see if they enjoy playing. I’ve had students before who’ve never played an instrument but picked it up and loved it, and ended up going on to music college.

Q: It is very exciting to be a launch school for the Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Programme. How will the new programme work?

A: This is a really quality programme which we can add to and adapt to what we’re doing with the students. Initially, it is for Year 1 to Year 9, and it focuses on every aspect of music – listening, composing and performing. All students from Year 1 will be reading music and learning to play keyboard…yes, and even composing.

Q: NAIS Pudong has a strong tradition of choral music… what are your plans for our choirs?

A: We will certainly still have the choirs, but this year we’re planning for the Secondary girls and boys to have a combined 4-part choir, allowing them to sing a greater range of harmonies. We’ll do this in the Musical Theatre CCA, giving them show music to perform. We’ll be bringing in the orchestra and our drama students as well, with a performance at the end of the term to showcase what the students have learnt.

Q: How would you sum up your thoughts about NAIS Pudong looking ahead?

A: I’m excited! The facilities are fantastic, the performance space is brilliant, and I feel like I have a blank canvas to work with! Working at a through school, being able to watch the progress of younger students as they develop, means we can target abilities and really build music throughout the school. I’m also planning a music competition this year for beginners through to experienced musicians, as well as a lunchtime concert series with guest artists and our own students.

Q: Do you have any personal music ambitions or plans while in China?

A: Well…..I would like to form a Brass Band here in China. There are zero bands here so it would be the first of its type! They have them in Japan and it’s becoming very strong there, too, so here is the next step….