Interview with BMS Violinist James Warburton
Can you tell us about your journey with music? When did you start playing and how did you become involved with Bolton Music Service?
I had no real experience with playing an instrument until Year 3, when a “Wider Opportunities” programme came in one morning each week to introduce my whole class to string instruments and I was sat down in front of a violin on the first day. The reason I’m a violinist today and not a cellist or violist is solely due to the order we entered the room! After these initial whole-class lessons, I gradually progressed to smaller group lessons, then 1-on-1 lessons, whilst progressing through the music service ensembles.
What fond memories do you have of playing music as a young person?
As I progressed, I received many opportunities to play in “spotlight concerts” which are recitals for all levels of musicians to play a piece each to gain confidence performing – these were some of my first solo “performances” which I remember fondly. I’m also very thankful for the solo performances I did in the “Music Centre Presents” concerts, which showcase every ensemble the service has to offer. As well as these, I went on trips to Patterdale and Paderborn (in Germany) with the Music Service which was great fun and gave me more memories to cherish.
How did you benefit musically from your lessons and ensemble practice?
Over the years, thanks to my teachers (Neil McErlean, the late Colin Green, and Sarah Reed) who were able to inspire, encourage and motivate me (even if they were too humble to give themselves enough credit), I was able to progress through all the music services ensembles quickly, and was leader of both the youth orchestra and string orchestra for my last 3 years in the Music Service. I was also able to join the Junior department of the Royal Northern College of Music, which I led the orchestra of in my final year there and am currently studying at in my 3rd year of an undergraduate degree. Additionally, I joined the Hallé Youth Orchestra and co-led that in my final year there. I was able to grow musically for the whole duration of my time as a member of the Music Service and that pushed me in the direction of the career I want to pursue today, which would be nearly impossible without their support.
What other benefits did you gain from learning a musical instrument as a young person?
Aside from the obvious skills I’ve gained to help me towards a career in violin performance, the social aspects of music can’t be understated – I’ve made many friends in the music service due to mutual orchestras and shared interests; some of which I’m still in contact with 3 years later. I’ve gained a lot of confidence from leading orchestras and doing solos, and a few years ago I even had to do a speech in front of hundreds of teachers at RNCM, which was a new experience to me.
Does music remain a part of your everyday life now? Has it helped you during lockdown?
Most of my life now revolves around music – daily practice, orchestras (or virtual orchestras now!) and my degree take up most of my days. Practicing has been tough at points over lockdown, but I’ve tried to stay focused on long-term goals and introduce a lot of fun to my practice (playing familiar pieces, shredding through difficult pieces…) to keep it enjoyable. Over last summer, I went outside on my street once a week to play a few pieces to my neighbours to try and raise their spirits too.
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