Who are you, Sarah Leeves?
Brass teacher Sarah could hardly carry her euphonium, but was hooked from her very first band practice. She tells us here about her love of Dvořák, and her favourite musical experiences.
What do you do?
I teach brass for Brighton & Hove Music & Arts (BHMA) – trombone, trumpet, tuba and euphonium and also lead Soundmakers projects, sometimes on ukulele. I also conduct Brighton and Hove Youth Concert Band (BHYCB) and Brass Ensemble and work with wind band on a Saturday too. In May this year I will have worked at BHMA for 10 years.
Can you tell us about your first musical memory?
That was Heathfield Silver Band playing at my primary schools’ summer fête. I used to sit cross-legged right next to the euphonium player, Sid, and listen to him as I made daisy chains!
When did you first take up a musical instrument and what attracted you to music?
I took up the euphonium when I was 10. My dad’s friend had popped down to see him and called out to me on my climbing frame asking if I wanted to go to band. I came home with a euphonium much to my mum’s amusement. I could only just carry it then! It happened to be the only empty space in the band. I was hooked from then.
What was your first album and first gig?
That would’ve been Dvořák New World Symphony Serenade for Strings. My mum bought it from a petrol garage for me, as I had just learnt the ‘Largo’ on my euphonium. I think I listened to the tape so much it wore out in the end! My first real gig was probably Status Quo in Brighton. My friend George and her brother loved them and invited me along. I remember Frances Rossi waving at us! It was so loud, my head was spinning afterwards.
Which would be your three ‘desert island discs’ and why?
This is an impossible question. If I really had to pick three today, they would be: Dvořák New World Symphony Serenade for Strings (I love Dvořák and the Serenade for Strings is beautiful); The London Saxophonic playing Michael Nyman film music, as I love the floating melodies and the playing is superb; and Billy Joel ‘Best of’. He’s a brilliant song writer and it’s great in the car.
What is the most challenging part of your working week, and what motivates you when working with young musicians?
Hmm, this is probably actually getting to Saturday morning music centre with enough energy to wake up some often very tired young people, and get the best from them with a broad smile on my face! Which to be honest there usually is – Saturday music centre is great. What motivates me is helping young people do their best in order to develop a life-long love of playing music. Enjoyment and enthusiasm is just as important as progress – in fact inextricably linked!
Could you tell us about one of your recent musical highlights?
Great to hear the Philharmonia Orchestra in London conducted by Andris Nelsons. He conducts likes he’s painting, such imagination energy and joy – he’s my hero. The way they play for him and the interaction is great. I even take my monocular to pick up tips!
What would be your top tip to any aspiring young musician?
An instrument is for life, not just for Christmas!
Finally, if you were to learn another instrument, what would it be?
Accordian. So I could join a Morris Troop or a Balkan Gypsy Band - that would be amazing.