It’s funny how you reach a point in your life (both personally and professionally), when you start looking for new challenges and opportunities, in order to bring a freshness and variety to a lifestyle that has perhaps, in one’s mind, become rather mundane, predictable and possibly unfulfilling.
I hit this point in 2006, when aged 39 – “Wait a minute” I hear you cry! “All makes sense now. It was the mid-life crisis!” – Moving on swiftly, I decided that I needed to “freshen things up” in my life. For the previous 12 years, I had been “living the dream” working as a freelance musician and enjoying the variety that goes with the job. I certainly wasn’t bored or unfulfilled, as I considered myself to be in a very privileged position of doing what I loved AND getting paid for it. However, I felt that I had reached my peak, in terms of achievements/ambitions and would be hard pressed to better them in the future.
At this point, I should point out that my CV wasn’t looking too shabby and I had visits to most of Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand under my belt, plus performance at the Grieghalle in Bergen, the Royal Albert Hall, Symphony Hall Birmingham and Brisbane City Hall, as well as having performed with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Harpist Catrin Finch and Trumpet legend Maurice Murphy, to name but a few. So what was the problem? I guess, like most people, I craved not more perhaps, but something …….. “different”.
Then, in March of that year, whilst attending the Welsh Area Brass Band Championships in Swansea, a chance encounter with a brass band colleague who was working on the Recruitment stand for the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh, led to a conversation about the Band and it’s activities. I had always been interested in all things Military and was aware of the Band and its activities, however, never in my wildest dreams had I given a second thought that I might even consider joining up or becoming a part-time soldier.
Well, fast-forward just short of 9 years and I am now a Corporal in that very Band, having visited Australia, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg and Germany. I have performed for Her Majesty the Queen, Princes Charles and William and appeared at Sydney Opera House, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo and the Millennium Stadium for the Welsh International Rugby Internationals (including performing the “Last Post” live to 70,000+ fans and on Global Television), as well as performing alongside Katherine Jenkins, Only Men Aloud and the Band of the Welsh Guards.
It would also be remiss of me, not to mention the huge honour and privilege of performing the Last Post at the Funerals of 4 serving soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a repatriation Service at RAF Brize Norton.
I write this, having returned yesterday, from a 10-day tour of Uganda, as part of a Corps of Army Music (CAMUS) Short Term Training Team that worked with the Ugandan Peoples’ Defence Force Band, as well as the youngsters from the Charity Brass for Africa. This was such a rewarding and humbling experience, that really hammered home the fact that there really were still new challenges and opportunities for me to explore back in 2006 and boy, how glad was I that I took that chance and ensured that “mundane, predictable and unfulfilling” were not part of my vocabulary in the next 9 years and beyond!
For those of you with a curious streak and would like more information about the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh, drop me a line and let’s see where the conversation goes from there. Who knows, this could be your “New Horizon” moment!