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Thornton’s Original: Interview with David Thornton, the newly crowned Euphonium Player of the Year 2001.

There was a lovely moment at the end of the Gala Concert on the Nationals weekend, when David Thornton, Principal Euphonium of the Black Dyke band was surprised by his playing colleagues.

Instead of the usual round of backslapping and verbal congratulations that greet a player when he has won an award for his playing, there was magnum sized bottle of Moet and Chandon champagne off the band as a gift in recognition of his achievement of being awarded the 2001 Euphonium Player of the Year. It says something when your own band player’s chip in the money to show their appreciation of your talents, and David was as amazed and flabbergasted.

“I’ve been with Dyke since June 2000, and this is the best band I’ve ever played in, not just for the standard of the performances but for the friends I now have around me. We’ve really got a great atmosphere in the band and that’s meant we’ve been able to enjoy our win at the Nationals even more - because we’ve all gone through the disappointments of not winning, together.”

David Thornton started his playing career at the age of 8. He was born in Nottingham but moved to Dudley in the Midlands at the age of 2 and as a young boy got involved in the excellent Dudley Music Centre where he was encouraged to take up the euphonium and develop his talents by Craig Sprinston a local peripatetic teacher. The talent soon exploded and David became a border at the famous Cheethams School in Manchester at the age of 13.

“Neither my mother or father are musical, and both my brother and sister have talents in different fields, so it was a bit of a shock that I seem to be able to get on so well with music. Going to Cheethams was an amazing experience for me and I was so lucky to come under the guidance of Bill Miller who instilled in me the basics of good technique and the fundamentals of euphonium playing. I owe him a great deal.”

His talents were quickly recognised by the banding world and in 1992 he actually played second euphonium for Kennedy Swinton at the National Finals, whilst in 1993 he played solo euphonium for Tredegar as the band came second to Fairey’s at the Nationals.

“I had a great time with Tredegar and they were such lovely people – looking after me and making sure I didn’t have too much to drink in celebration! I still keep an eye out for how they do at every contest and I’m delighted they still are doing so well as a band”

Following a year with Wingates, he moved to Williams Fairey and this coincided with him being taught by Stephen Mead, a relationship that has now lasted seven years and that has been of immense benefit to him as a player.

“Steve has moulded me into the payer I am today really. I am so grateful to him and have learned so much that it goes without saying that I’m in his debt. His influence on euphonium players in general has been immense and he has been a major figure in developing the euphonium as a recognised solo instrument in orchestral circles.”

2000 saw David make his final move to Black Dyke after three very enjoyable years at Fairey’s.

“I had some wonderful moments at Fairey’s and they were a great bunch of blokes to play with. James Gourlay is a fantastic conductor, and perhaps we didn’t get the luck we deserved at the time to win more major titles. However, the opportunity to play for Black Dyke was something I’ve wanted to do since I started playing in bands and when it came I took it with both hands.”

David has just completed his degree at the Royal Northern College of Music and in June was awarded his BA/GRNCM. This means that he is now in demand not only as a solo player but as a teacher as well, and in addition to his duties with Black Dyke he has just about got the time to teach at Huddersfield University, teach at the Royal Northern and at a sixth form college in Barnsley. He has also started to get the itch with the baton!

“I enjoy teaching very much indeed and have been lucky to be able to take lessons to students in Steve Mead’s absence as well as teach in my own right. I’m also a member of the Northern Tuba Quartet with Mark Bowsie, Carl Richardson and Shaun Crowther and through “Live Music Now!” we are contracted to play in adult day centres, hospitals and schools a number of times a month. Its really rewarding being able to take music right to people’s doorsteps in effect and the response to the group has been tremendous.” The future is very bright then for this talented and likeable young man.

“I hope to be able to start conducting a bit more in the near future, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of conducting with the Arklow Band in the Midlands. The problem of course is that Dyke is so busy that it’s making time to fit everything in that’s the problem. We’ve got one free weekend off between now and Christmas and then we are doing a masterclass in Rotherham!”

The award of the Euphonium Player of the Year came as a complete surprise to him and to have the award made to him at the Royal Alert Hall, and in front of his mother and father was something he won’t forget.

“I knew nothing about the award and was completely shocked when it was made. I’m please though that both my parents were there to see the award being made – my mum would have had a tear in her eye! Knowing that I’ve been recognised by fellow players means so much, especially as I follow so many great names on the trophy such as Stephen Mead, who won it twice, Nicholas and Robert Childs, Sverre Olsrud and last year’s winner, David Childs – it’s a great honour”.

It’s an honour well deserved not only for the standard of his solo playing but as an integral part of the new resurgent Black Dyke. David Thornton has won numerous honours in his short euphonium playing career, including a Yamaha Music Foundation Scholarship of Europe and the Leonard Falcone Student Award, but the recognition of being awarded the 2001 Euphonium Player of the Year means more than any of these out together. It is a well-deserved achievement.

Back in June, 4BR published a personality profile on David Thornton.

Personality profile: David Thornton date: 08.07.01

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