Jonathan Bloxham

We catch up with the very busy young British conductor and cellist Jonathan Bloxham this week - his Orange Twist photo was taken as he was writing this interview during a break from the "crazy good" Pärnu Music Festival Järvi Academy where he is currently soaking up knowledge and inspiration...

We all know HELLO STAGE’s favorite color! What’s yours?

I’m a typical boy - blue! I always wonder if that is because we’re brought up in a ‘boy wears blue, girls pink’ world… I’m performing at the Pärnu Festival this week and the sea here is incredible - especially calm at about 4am as we found out last night…!

What was the best advice a teacher ever gave you?

To be emotive, not emotional. It is of course important to enjoy playing, and also to have a deep emotional response to music, but when we’re on stage we should trying to conjure these emotions in the listener - not ourselves. I remember coming off stage many times as a younger student thinking that I’d given a particularly emotional performance, only to find out that very few of the feelings I felt were communicated to the audience.

As well as performing at the festival here I’m also participating in the Järvi Academy - an intense conductors course with Maestro’s Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi and Leonid Grin. Watching these incredible conductors work and teach with a total dedication to the craft and the music, always combined with a lightness of human spirit, has been an inspiration.

How has your practice changed with time?

I think one of the key responsibilities as a teacher is to guide a student towards effective practice. My inspirational cello teacher from the Guildhall School of Music, Louise Hopkins, always warned me to use my time at college wisely as in the future I’d have much less time to practice. I’m not sure I always succeeded in taking her advice back then but she was totally correct!

When travelling on the road I use every moment to look at a orchestral score, or to practice a tricky passage from a cello piece. But it is important to do so with peace of mind, and full focus. I didn’t always have this focus, and enjoyed the luxury of hours of scales a day. Now I find practice not only essential but also cleansing for my mind. Even after a stressful day it can bring me back to the centre.

What do you think is the most important trait of a successful artist in today’s modern world?

I try not to think of things in terms of old world/modern world. Of course there are some practical elements of a performing career that have changed but the focus should be where it has always been. On the music. This is really the only true responsibly artists have.

How much time do you spend every day on Facebook, twitter, and which other ways do you use to promote yourself?

I check in on both the above each day, normally when on the move. I use Facebook more for my social life, but I try to keep followers updated on Twitter with more career related things. I still think word of mouth is one of the most effective ways of promotion - and beautifully one we don't really have much control over!
Jonathan, by Kaupo Kikkas

Tell us more about Northern Chords :)

Northern Chords is my music festival based in the North East of England. I started it when I was 19, kind of by accident! While studying at the Yehudi Menuhin School we were often set specific chamber works to play but sometimes we all wanted to play other ones. So I thought if I organised some concerts then we could choose exactly what to do. I decided to call these concerts a festival and Northern Chords was born.

It has now grown into a week long annual fixture in the regional calendar. It gives me so much pleasure to invite colleagues and friends from around the world to the festival and to share incredible music with the my hometown audience. I adore being on stage, but sitting in the audience in some of these concerts is one of the most special moments of my year.

When did you decide to become a conductor and what inspired you?

Ever since playing cello in the local youth orchestra in Gateshead I knew that I wanted to conduct. I love music and I love people and this role combines both these in a way that no other position does. I feel very lucky to have spent the last few years focussing on the cello and chamber music, rather than starting conducting straight away. I think that spending as much time inside the music, as a real tactile performer, is very important for a conductor. Not only does it give a glimpse in to the mentality of orchestral musicians but also compared to waving a baton around how difficult it is to play!

Which piece best describes the mood your are in this summer?

On Friday I’ll be performing one of my favourite pieces of chamber music - the Korngold Suite Op.23 for two violins, cello and piano left hand - with the violinists Benjamin Baker and Andres Kaljuste, and pianist Sophia Rahmen. You can already hear Hollywood in the sound scape of this piece and this is going to be an epic summer and so an appropriate piece to describe my mood!

Do you have an all-time favourite CD?

Thats a tricky one… I’m actually hoping that a performance I recently heard by the LSO and Rattle of Schumann’s Das Paradise und Die Peri will be released in the near future on LSO Live - and if it is I am sure that this will become my favourite as the performance was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

What are your best travel tips for your home, North East of England?

Go to the coast! There a beautiful castles, fantastic pubs, and at Tynemouth the best fish and chip shop in the world - Marshalls!

Follow Jonathan Bloxham on HELLO STAGE!
Author: Nina Lucas HELLO STAGE
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