Jade MayJean at O2 Academy

A few of the wonderful photos and videos I have been sent from Jade’s set at O2 Academy Islington last Thursday night, capturing a little bit of the incredible atmosphere at the show. (Big thanks especially to Jae Storer for some brilliant photography of the band onstage!)

It has been a huge privilege to spend the start of this year working on creating a live show for Jade from the songs on her 2018 album 20Sixty. I wanted to capture the cool, retro vibe of the album in the arrangements, whilst also making a visually impactful performance which grabs the audience’s attention with timecodes programmed lighting as well as a dynamic live band onstage.

Video of ‘I Cry’ from the 20Sixty album, live at O2 Academy Islington

Seeing this all come together in such a fantastic way on Thursday night last week – at a venue like O2 Academy, with a packed crowd watching the set – was an amazing feeling. I feel so proud of these performances, and I am very happy to have been able to deliver the audio and visual effect which Jade wanted from her live show.

Video of ‘Better Luck Next Time’ from the 20Sixty album, live at O2 Academy Islington

Now onwards and upwards to the next exciting performance with Jade’s live band: on the main stage of the Ipswich Music Day in Christchurch Park, on Sunday 7th July.

Sold-out crowd (Photo by Steve Elsom)

Ultra ’90s at Boston Gliderdrome

Barely seems like a week ago that we were playing Ultra ’90s at the iconic Boston Gliderdrome… In fact, it was late February – and it’s now the start of April! Where does the time go?

Still, what an absolutely fantastic gig to look back on now! To play at a venue with so much history – and such an incredible atmosphere – is definitely something which stays with you.

As ever, huge thanks to everyone who came out to the show, and to our brilliant photographers who captured the totally electric feeling of the night wonderfully. So here is a selection of some of my favourite images from the Gliderdrome.

Ultra ’90s Jam – Thomson Holidays Reunion 2017

We had a great time headlining the Thomson Holiday Reps’ big reunion at the Irish Cultural Centre in Birmingham.

All photos by Waltham UK Photography.

Sold-out crowd at The River Rooms (Photo: The River Rooms)

Ultra ’90s at The River Rooms, Stourbridge

Pictures from Saturday night’s sold-out gig at The River Rooms in Stourbridge – on keys and vocals with Ultra ’90s, in preparation for the launch of Ultra ’90s Jam this coming weekend…

Conducting the Keyboard Camp 'Rain Choir' performance, outdoors in the sunshine! (Photo: Will Jones)

Keyboard Camp 2017 a huge success!

10 Years Of Keyboard Camp! (Photo: Will Jones)
10 Years Of Keyboard Camp! (Photo: Will Jones)

The first time I’ve got ’round to sitting down to write about it, even though it was now three weeks ago… (After Keyboard Camp finished, it was straight into four gigs over three days that weekend; an exhausting four-day studio refit; another weekend of gigs right down in the toes of Cornwall; and a day of PA system setup in readiness for new ventures this summer… More on all of that soon enough!) But I am delighted that the tenth anniversary of the (by now) famous NKO Keyboard Camp was such a success!

With music drawn from the material we have learnt as an orchestra over the previous nine residentials (plus some new music thrown in especially for this year) – as well as party games, birthday cake, a nostalgic photo slideshows from Keyboard Camps gone by – and culminating in an evening performance showcasing all the hard work and preparation over the past four days, the tenth Keyboard Camp was a true celebration of what makes it special, and exciting.

Sectional rehearsals in The Big Room at How Hill
Sectional rehearsals in The Big Room at How Hill

I have always been proud to be associated with a residential music course which is always evolving and improving, and where the students keep coming back year after year (for nine years in a row, in some cases!), and still want more…

As well as sectional and full orchestral rehearsals covering a wide range of musical styles, students at Keyboard Camp are treated to workshops which allow them to be more creative, and work with music in other formats; this year’s Keyboard Camp workshops touched on arranging music and songwriting techniques – and, for the most advanced students, a technology-rich session on creating a remix of a hit song.

Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)
Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)

Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)
Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)

Non-keyboard based musical activities have formed a larger and larger part of Keyboard Camp as the years have gone, and this year saw us attempt some of our most ambitious projects yet – our ‘Tin Can Orchestra’, taking on the Heinz Can Song Challenge, and our ‘Rain Choir’ singing in four-part harmony – with great success.

It is the ever-increasing focus on providing this well-rounded musical experience which helps to make Keyboard Camp unique; giving our students the opportunities to express themselves and make music in different ways ensures that they are not only developing their keyboard skills over the four days they are with us, but also their overall musicianship, cooperation and ensemble skills, and general understanding of what being a musician is really all about.

'Tin Can Orchestra' rehearsals
‘Tin Can Orchestra’ rehearsals

And of course, no Keyboard Camp would be complete without the team Quiz, and our world-famous Talent Show (which, this year, saw the Staff team enter a cover of The Bangles’ ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’, to universal acclaim).

Quiz night at Keyboard Camp
Quiz night at Keyboard Camp

Since the course ended, we have had all kinds of lovely feedback from the students who attended this year’s Keyboard Camp – showing once again what an incredible difference this yearly event in music education, and what a positive impact it can have on the students who come back time and time again.

Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)
Remix workshop at Keyboard Camp (Photo: Hannah Brigham)

And it is never too early to register your interest for next year’s Keyboard Camp! In 2018, we will return to How Hill for the sixth time (it will be the eleventh Keyboard Camp, in total) for more musical fun (on keyboards and off them!); more games; more whacky talent show entries; more late-night hot chocolate; and more opportunities to enjoy learning about music, and progressing as a musician alongside other like-minded young keyboard and piano students.

Conducting the Keyboard Camp 'Rain Choir' performance, outdoors in the sunshine! (Photo: Will Jones)
Conducting the Keyboard Camp ‘Rain Choir’ performance, outdoors in the sunshine! (Photo: Will Jones)

'Loading' the van – on tour with Axel Loughrey, 2010

Ten Years, No Day Job

March 2017 is something of a landmark for me, so here is a short piece of writing (and a few old pictures) all about it.

Cardiem live on BBC Radio Norfolk, 2009
Cardiem live on BBC Radio Norfolk, 2009.

It was back in March 2007 that I officially declared myself ‘a professional musician’. Nothing materially changed for having said it, of course – I was still doing one gig every few months, teaching two or three private students, and earning very little – but it meant something to have said it, to have ‘made it official’. It was a line in the sand.

'Loading' the van – on tour with Axel Loughrey, 2010
‘Loading’ the van – on tour with Axel Loughrey, 2010.

I registered myself officially self-employed not long later (although it would be another couple of years before I was earning enough for that to have any real tax implications), and I joined the Musicians’ Union. And I resolved not to give in to any of the pressures to get a ‘real job’ (even just while I was building up my income from music).

In the ten years since then, I have gone from intermittent gigs and two or three students to having a thriving business gigging, recording, teaching, writing and arranging music (and – yes – doing actual tax returns).

Crystal Bats at Norwich Arts Centre, 2013
Crystal Bats at Norwich Arts Centre, 2013.

I have had some amazing opportunities, and met – and worked with – some incredible people. From my work with the Sistema programme, and the chance to travel to Europe and perform at iconic venues like Milan’s La Scala, to touring with Axel Loughrey, Ultra ’90s, Crystal Bats, etc…

I have learnt a lot, improved as a person and as a musician, developed new skills, and done things I never expected I’d be able to. And along the way, I have played some huge shows, made some really fun records, I have recorded tracks at my own studio, and seen my students go on to study music at university and start to build their own successful careers in the industry.

Showing the Carrera Cherry Custom at London Drum Show 2014
Showing the Carrera Cherry Custom at London Drum Show 2014.

Obviously, I am hugely grateful for everyone who has been supportive over the last ten years – especially right at the start…

Too many people to mention have helped me, supported me and given me advice in that time. But a few who deserve mentioning in particular are Rory Marsden, Simon Dring, Chris and Kelly at PXP, Ivan at Pellwood Drumsticks, and Dave Carrera.

Recording keys for Jamie Roe Band, 2015.
Recording keys for Jamie Roe Band, 2015.

There is so much left to do, and so many more goals I want to achieve… The last ten years have been hard work, incredibly difficult at times, and the whole thing has often seemed hugely daunting – but most of all, they have been more fun, and more rewarding, than I could have ever hoped. Which is why I can’t wait for the next ten years.