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Mark Templeton [Trombone]

Principal Trombone, London Philharmonic Orchestra


Mark Templeton

Mark Templeton began playing the trombone in 1985 aged 10. At the age of 15 he was principal trombone with the Midland Youth Orchestra in Birmingham, (who commissioned a concerto for him in 2001) and at 16 was 1st trombone in the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain. He was the only trombonist to make the semi-finals of the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 1994.

In that same year Mark commenced his studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  During his second year, under the expert tutelage of Eric Crees and Simon Wills, he won the Guildhall Brass Prize and the International Trombone Association Philharmonic Prize in America.  

Over the last few years Mark has been freelancing with orchestras in the UK including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.  He continues to work with orchestras throughout Europe including the Luzern Festival Orchestra. Mark has also taught for some time at the Junior Guildhall School of Music and undertakes educational projects with the LSO and LPO, bringing classical music to children of all ages and abilities.
Mark works widely in the commercial field. He can be heard on many film and TV scores, some of note are Harry Potter, The League of Extraodinary Gentlemen, Final Fantasy 4 and the famous Guiness advert.
In 2006 Mark was appointed Principal Trombone with The London Philharmonic Orchestra.

HI Mark! Thanks alot for talking to us. Congratulations on your recent appointment as Principal Trombone of The London Philharmonic Orchestra, how are you finding it so far?
Great. It’s a dream job. My colleagues have been really welcoming. We have a lot of fun on and off stage, which is the way it should be, and that makes it very easy to make fantastic music together.

You freelanced for ten years all over the world, how has life changed for you now?
Well, when you’re freelancing you have to have a lot of faith that your diary is going to fill up. Seeing big holes around the corner can be quite daunting. That’s one problem I don’t have any more. Having a schedule that already shows what I’m doing this time next year is really useful. I can plan my social life better because I don’t have to wait and see what work comes in. Also, if we’re working every day but at different venues, I have a box to put my trombone case in that a nice man called Mike takes to the next place. I get less backache now.

What were the highlights of your early playing days? Do you remember what sparked your love for playing and music?
I think it was probably when I started playing with the Midlands Youth Orchestra (now the CBSO Youth Orchestra) that I got my first real thrills. Like all young brass players, I wanted to play big, loud tunes. So pieces like Shostakovich Festive Overture, Sibelius 2 and Walton’s music from Henry 5th stick in my mind from when I was about 14. Feeling part of the bigger picture and doing my bit to make the concert go well always gave me a buzz and still does.

Can you describe the route you traveled from those early playing days to your first professional engagements?
Lessons form the age of 10 then playing in the Rugeley Music Centre Wind Band then on to Staffordshire Youth orchestra at about 12 then MYO as a teenager and the National Youth Wind Orchestra at 15. I think it was about this time that I started playing in local shows and getting paid. I’d do panto at Christmas and musicals with the local operatic societies. I had to wear stockings and suspenders cause I was on stage in “Cabaret”. The performance was in the round and as we played the entr’acte to the second half to signify the end of the interval, the punters all had to walk passed where I was playing. One lady twanged my suspenders. It was most off putting. Did the Saturday afternoon choral society gigs through Music College and started working with the London Orchestras when I was in my 4th Year. I did an audition for the Principal Trombone job at the RPO and got a trial. That’s how I got my experience. I went for every job that was going and got some trials and got to know people.

Do you have a daily routine that keeps your playing in shape?
Everyone has a different way of doing things. A sensible warm up is the key. Some people think a “One size fits all” warm up works. The problem comes when a player doesn’t listen to what they’re doing or know when they need to try something a bit different. I see my daily practise as a way of fine tuning things. I’ll play a few scales with no tongue to get the airflow right then a few lip slurs. When that’s all running how I want, I’ll play some melodies and then work on whatever it is I need to practice. I believe flexibility is the most important thing. Some days I’ll need to warm up longer than others. You’ve got to try things out and see what works for you. I’ve got 2 words for the people who need to do a one-hour warm up before they feel comfortable. LONDON UNDERGROUND.

What is your favourite repertoire to play and why?
I’m probably meant to say big loud Mahler or Strauss. Those big pieces are great and some of them leave you on a real high. I’m a bit of a nut for phrasing. The only way to be able to play those “Yee Ha” pieces is with an attention to detail. That’s even more important when playing Beethoven, Schubert and Mozart because when these were written, there was an unwritten rule as far as stresses within the bar. Get that right and all of a sudden the music makes sense. So to answer the question, if a piece of music has stuff in it to challenge my music skills as well as my trombone playing, that’s fine for me.

You know we had to ask!!! What is your preferred equipment and how do you change it depending on repertoire and style?
Conn 88H (open wrap) with a 5G mouthpiece for 90% of what I do. I’ve got various other instruments I get out depending on stylistic considerations and what the conductor wants.

Have there ever been any problems that you have had to overcome and if so, how did you manage it?
I had nerve problems in my latter years at the Guildhall School of Music and again when I was a few years out of college. The way I overcame these troubles was by relaxing. You can get yourself wound up if you’re having a bad day. You do have to be mentally strong in these situations. I did deep breathing and thinking positively. “If I split a note no one’s gonna die” or “I’m gonna have some fun tonight” are good little mantras. Another trick I learnt from my Dad (a singer) was to try to get your surroundings under your control; Arrive early, get to know the space you’re working in, make sure you’ve been to the loo, make sure your shoes are done up and all your concert gear is on correctly. Doing these normal things helps remind you that you’re in control. For example you know you’re not going to fall over as you enter the stage because you just checked your shoelaces. One less thing to worry about, one tiny bit of stress eliminated.

Are there any memorable occasions from your career that you could share with us?!!
I’ve got loads of brilliant playing memories. Playing Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder with Abbado and the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra when I was in my 2nd year at Guildhall is a good one. We did it in the Edinburgh Festival and my parents were there. Doing my first concert with the LSO with Morris Murphy putting one of his solos up the octave at the end of Forces of Destiny was very special. Also doing a John Williams concert with him and the boys is something I’ll never forget. Away from the playing, my wedding day 2 years ago was pretty special. It was brilliant having all my mates in one place having such a good time.
Is there a piece of kit you never go anywhere without?
My Sony Mp3 Walkman. It’s my escape when the tube is crowded or I’ve got a really long flight to survive. Faithless or Chicane work as a great tranquilliser.

What lubricants do you use and how often and where do you apply them?
I use Rapid Comfort once or twice a week. A little squirt on my fully extended tubing using my right hand (holding the bell end vertically with the left hand) and then lowering it down into the slide. I only add a bit of water before going on stage sometimes but not as a rule.

Can you give us any recommendations for studies or new repertoire that you have found?
Yes. I said earlier I play melodies when warming up. The Bordogni vocalises are nice for this. Simple tunes played musically are better than trying to play top Zs. The Jacques Casterede Sonatine is one of my favourite solo pieces. Doing the Mark Nightingale Jazz studies with the CD backing is a great way to have a bit of a work out and some fun at the same time.

Finally, if you had to be concise and offer one particular tip from the top, what is it?
When you’re starting out, say yes to everything; you only know if it’s been a good experience further down the road. If you have to let people down, do it early and be honest. Have fun and be yourself.

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