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Craig Wild [Lead Trumpet]

Craig Wild

Craig Wild is one of London’s most in demand lead trumpet players. Regularly found in all star big band sections at Ronnie Scott’s, session orchestras, in pop sessions and west end pits, his roaring sound is something to behold. With a CV including working with bands and orchestras such as The Glen Miller orchestra, Nancy Sinatra, Barry Manilow, Tony Christy, Strictly Come Dancing, Katie Melua, Bobby Shew, James Morrison and leading the acclaimed Maynard Ferguson tribute band ‘Blue Birdland’, we talk to Craig about the demands on him as a player and what it takes to survive at the ‘high’ end of the business!

Most recent work has included: The current series (Series 5) of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. Depping on shows such as ‘Wicked’, ‘Spamalot’, ‘Dirty Dancing’ & ‘Chicago’. BBC Concert Orchestra, Radio 1 broadcast with ‘Pendulum’ (an Electronica/Dance act).

Hi Craig. Thanks a lot for taking time out to talk to us.

What made you start playing? Do you remember what your early influences were?

My mum works in a school (Wardle High School) that has numerous brass bands and at age 6, I was offered the chance to try playing the cornet. I’m not sure I had any influences at that point, but I remember seeing Phillip McCann play at a young age and thought he was amazing. I’ve still got a signed album of his somewhere!


At what point did you realise that you wanted to make playing your career?
I probably realised that just after I went to college at 16 and started playing in big bands and soul bands around the Manchester area, I remember not needing a student loan out as my beer money came from doing gigs.

 Like many of the country’s top players, you came up through the brass band scene. In what ways do you think this gave you a good grounding as a player?

Brass bands were very important to me growing up and definitely helped with my technique and stamina, and I have great memories of the Whit Friday contests! I was very lucky to have lessons with trumpeter Roy Ramsbottom who taught me classically, but also varied my lessons between the brass band techniques and more commercial things like Glenn Miller.


What were your first steps into the profession? Do you remember your first pro gig?
Yes I do. Whilst I was taking my ‘grades’ I had an accompanist called Jennifer Mitchell. Her husband George ran a function band called ‘Orion’ and I remember when I was about 15 having a great time playing function music at a hotel in Halifax.


Do you think the business has changed at all since you entered it, if so how?
I’ve only been in the business a short time so I don’t know if I’m the right person to comment. Ask me in 10 years if I’m lucky enough to be still playing!!!. 


Can you give us an idea of a typical week in the life of Craig Wild?
No two weeks are the same really. A lot of work comes in at the last minute so it’s hard to say what would be typical. Mostly I work in the west end, so I spend a lot of time on the train, in theatres and in pubs. Not too bad a week really (especially if I manage to get a round of golf in as well).

 With such physical demands on you and your chops as a lead trumpeter, are there any playing or lifestyle routines that you rely on?

I find that maintaining my chops for playing lead is down to a regular warm up, concentrating on my breathing. The breathing allows me to take a lot of the strain out of my chops when I’m playing lead trumpet. We all get bruised chops and need a day off now and again though, that always helps.

 You’re known for your blistering high register. Do you practise playing high in order to play high, or are there other techniques to develop and maintain your range?

I tend not to practise high playing too much. I try to work on general flexibility, tonguing, and breathing exercises. I always try to practise throughout the whole range of the instrument though. If I know I have a gig coming up where I have a lot of high stuff to play then I’ll concentrate more on that for a few days before hand. Generally though, I have to be ready to play whatever type of music is required when I go to work so I have to vary my practise.

You know we had to ask! What is your instrument setup?

I play a Smith-Watkins 460, R25. With a No.10 lead pipe. My mouthpiece is a slightly deepened Yamaha, Bobby Shew Lead model.


Do you alter it for different circumstances?
I used to alter the lead pipe depending on what I was doing, but now I just swap to a larger mouthpiece if needed. Usually a Yamaha, Allen Vizzutti model.


Is there a piece of kit that you never leave home without?
My iPhone.


Have you ever experienced any problems as a player? And if so, how did you overcome them?
Yes, constantly, & I never seem to. There was a short period where I was really struggling with things. I took some time out, went back to the Arban studies and practised with friends. It always helps to practise with somebody else as you get some feedback and tend not to doubt yourself as much, as most problems arise from a lack of confidence in your own abilities.


Looking back at your career so far, do you have any advice for young players who want to follow in yours and other top players footsteps?
Listen to the people you’re playing with. It’s no use playing high if you have no musicality. I remember someone told me just after I moved to London to, not worry about playing double C’s because if ever there were a session or a gig where it was needed, I wouldn’t be the first person they’d ring!


Has there been a gig/tour/artist you’ve played with so far that you consider to be a highpoint in your playing career?
There are a few high points, such as playing lead for Barry Manilow, touring with Nancy Sinatra, and not to be cheesy, but working with such great musicians on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ every week is a great pleasure. Probably the most bizarre feeling was fronting the Ronnie Scott’s Big Band in their tribute to Maynard Ferguson. A scary, yet proud moment.


What does the next few months hold for you?
Who knows, I just hope the phone rings. I’ve got a wedding to pay for!

 WOW! Congratulations!! - Best wishes to you and Hayley! I got married myself this year. You'll have a great time. Im sure the band will be good - you could sell tickets!!

Thanks Craig. Speak to you soon.

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