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Interview: Katrina Marzella

Katrina Marzella4BR catch up with BBC Radio 2 Young Brass Soloist of the Year, 20 year-old Katrina Marzella just before she flew off to Australia, where she will be spending six months studying at Brisbane University.

4BR: Katrina Marzella, 2004 BBC Radio 2 Young Brass Soloist Winner, Scottish Solo Champion, Scottish Youth Solo Champion, where and when did it all begin?

KM: I first started playing at 9 years old at primary school. My Dad was pleased as he was a horn player with Whitburn Band at the time and was keen for us all to play brass instruments.

4BR: What made you take up the baritone?:

KM: Well, I initially wanted to play trombone for some reason! However when I told this to my instrumental teacher at school, she pointed out the fact that I was about 2"4' and could barely reach 4th position. She suggested that I try the baritone as it had the same size mouthpiece and I could play trombone when I got bigger. However when I did grow, I had no inclination to swap over and loved playing the baritone.

4BR: What was your first band?

KM: West Calder Public Band.

4BR: And your teachers?

KM: Margaret Foster was my instrumental teacher throughout my years at school and my dad, Michael, has encouraged my playing abilities since an early age.

4BR: What other bands have you played with?

KM: Broxburn Public, before moving to Whitburn last year. I've also played in several youth bands, including West Lothian Schools Brass Band, the NYBBS and NYBBGB.

4BR: You've collected quite a few prizes in the last few years, does your Mum have room on the mantelpiece for any more?

KM: I was Scottish Schools Solo Champion for 5 consecutive years, twice Scottish Youth Solo Champion, and I recently became Scottish Open Solo Champion. I was also really chuffed to get to the final of BBC Radio 2 Young Brass Soloist and winning that was a real highlight for me. I'm sure my Mum will be quite happy to accommodate any other trophies that I can pick up though.

4BR: What are your favourite solos from these adventures?

KM: I think it's so impressive to play lyrical and expressive solos and I thrive on playing music like that. Recently I've done well with Pantomime and Weber's Last Waltz. Furthermore, I enjoy performing any piece that has been specifically written for baritone, such as Sun by Bruce Fraser. I wish there were more substantial pieces to chose from though.

4BR: What about banding highlights?

KM: Coming second with Whitburn at the 2003 Open was fantastic! However many of my achievements with West Lothian Schools Brass Band, including 3 British Championships and the 1999 European Championships have also been special, as it was an effort from myself and the friends that I grew up with. The Australian tour with the WLSBB was fantastic too - I played in Sydney Opera House when I was 12!

4BR: What's your current instrument and mouthpiece?

KM: 3-valve Besson Sovereign with a Besson c7 mouthpiece that I actually stole from my primary school when I left 9 years ago. I hope the headmaster doesn't mind!

4BR: Any favourite composers?

KM: Derek Bourgeois writes some great test pieces and I think that John Golland's slower music is amazing, due to some of the harmonies he includes. The music of Salvation Army composers such as Eric Ball also really appeals to me.

4BR: And favourite pieces?

KM: I really like Concerto Grosso by Bourgeois at the moment. Any pieces with good baritone parts, such as Jazz or Devil and the Deep Blue Sea appeal to me too. I love playing massive works in their entirety, such as Enigma Variations, Pictures at an Exhibition or the Pines of Rome. I find these very rewarding as a performer.

4BR: A favourite Band?

KM: I've had great times in each of the bands I've played with so they should all be included in this category!

4BR: You've worked with a few leading conductors. Which ones have made an impression on you?

KM: Elgar Howarth was a real inspiration to work under and Richard Evans makes rehearsals an absolute delight. I also really admire the work that resident conductors do, all the so called 'note-bashing' and ground work is such a difficult job and a special skill, so I suppose I will have to say that my Dad is one of my favourite conductors!

4BR: Your playing has attracted many favourable comments recently. Which leading players do you think have influenced your own style of playing?

KM: I think Winton Marsalis is amazing, as he has mastered so many different styles of brass playing. However I try and listen to all performers, not just brass, but orchestral and vocalists to learn from them. Operatic singers like Maria Callas are always so expressive and their phrasing is immaculate.

4BR: Who would you say has had the biggest personal influence on your career?

KM: My Dad, Michael, has undoubtedly been my greatest influence. I also owe a lot to everyone at Whitburn, as I have learned so much from some of the fantastic players in the band since joining last year. Thanks guys! NYBBGB and Cynthia Pules have also influenced my attitude to playing very much.

4BR: What about the immediate future for you?

KM: I'm a third year Law student at Glasgow University, doing my junior Honours at the moment. I'm heading off to Brisbane, Australia for 6 months to partake in a university exchange - I'm really looking forward to going, as it should be an amazing experience, personally, academically and (most importantly) socially!! While I'm there, I will be playing with Brisbane Excelsior Band. It will be interesting to get an insight into the Australian banding scene, particularly at the Australian National Championships in Tasmania at Easter.

4BR: Do you manage to squeeze any hobbies in to your chaotic lifestyle?

KM: Once you've taken off time for the studying I do for my law degree, working part-time at Livingston Football Club, 3 rehearsals bare minimum a week (plus practice!), I'm not left with much free time at all! When I do have a moment, I just enjoy visiting and spending time with my family (I have an older sister, Maria, and a young brother, Mark) and friends.

4BR: Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?

KM: Firstly and foremost, to continue to learn and improve as a band player and as a solo performer. Ultimately, I would love to have the chance to be involved in raising the profile of the baritone in any way. This could be through performing new repertoire, changing attitudes to its potential as a solo instrument and its role in the brass band or just promoting its unique sound. I wish that brass band composers would perhaps write more substantial parts for the baritone. It is such a versatile instrument, in both a stylistic and soloistic way - any good baritone player will tell you that. I would love to see the solo repertoire of the baritone grow, and especially to see the composition of more extensive works - there is only one baritone concerto that I know of. I think it would be great if some established composers tried their knack at it - the gap in the market is there waiting to be filled!

4BR: Finally, what advice would you most like to pass on to young players?

KM: Practice makes perfect!! - the old ones are the best, eh? Surround yourself with players that are better than you - observe, listen and learn from them. But most importantly, have fun!

4BR: Thanks Katrina, and good luck on your trip to Australia.

Katrina will be staying in touch via her Australian Diary. Coming soon on 4BarsRest.

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