Q&A: Andy Johnson

Jan 5, 2015

This is the first in a series of blog posts giving you an insight into the players in the flagship Ferreira Brass quintet. We begin with Andy Johnson, our tuba player.

Let’s start with obvious: What’s your favourite colour?

Definitely blue Believe it or not, that’s not why the website is blue, it started out green!! Although that does mean I am very happy with how it looks now!<

Food or drink?

Always pizza, of the pepperoni kind! Although that’s about to be excluded as I embark on a diet! I’m also a massive tea drinker which I also plan to cut down in lieu of plain water.

Ok, what about you as a person? Can you tell us a bit about your family?

Absolutely, although there’s not much to tell! It’s just me, my mum and my step-dad or “pop” (who has been like a father to me). Mum is a health visitor, who despite working full time has completed a degree and post-grad, which makes studying full time seem like a joke. Pop is retired, so he’s earned the right to play golf whenever he wants. Believe it or not, he also enjoys a good shoot up on the Xbox 360, so I guess he’s still young at heart too! Seriously though, without their support, I wouldn’t be where I am today so I am eternally grateful to them. Almost forgot the dog, who is just as much a part of the family! His name is Bruce and he is a golden retriever, but he’s nearly 12 now so is getting old!

So how did you get in to playing your instrument?

I started at the Rushden corps of the Salvation Army when I was 12. Like most low brass, I started on cornet, but a very wise man told me there would be much more opportunity on tuba. Oh how I wish he could have seen how right he was! There also happened to only be 2 other tuba players in the senior brass band at the time, so there happened to be a vacancy! From there, I took lessons at school from a number of teachers from the Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust (NMPAT). I am privileged enough to call those teachers my colleagues now and in a classic “circle of life” example, I now teach my first teacher’s son the tuba!

Greatest musical moment so far?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great musical moments so it’s difficult to choose! I suppose it would have to be playing on the central rostrum at the Royal Albert Hall with my tuba quartet in the finals of the National Festival of Music for Youth. We played Peter Smalley’s arrangement of Verdi’s Force of Destiny, which remains one of the hardest pieces I’ve ever played! The performance was incredible for a group of our age (even if I do so say myself!), the atmosphere electric and the applause was very generous! Just a shame I had pharyngitis at the time!

What about your plans for the future?

Well, at the moment I’m doing a few days teaching for NMPAT and freelancing, which I love! There has been several questions about a PhD, which I won’t rule out in the future but I’m done with studying for the time being! You never stop being a student of your instrument though so the plan is to keep working hard, doing the auditions when they come up and try to make money from what is my passion - “living the dream”!

Finally, what is it like playing with Ferreira Brass?

Great! We’ve got a good variety of musical backgrounds (which keeps the repertoire suggestions varied), a bunch of good players and our key strength is that in rehearsals, we can be brutally honest with each other about what we are thinking (and believe me, it does get brutal!), which means we can work quickly and nobody is treading on eggshells with each other. Although we joke about having a “band manager” (Tom D!), everyone participates and contributes, both in and out of rehearsals. The guys also bring a plethora of other skills to the table - for example Tom D is great with the website and Rob rules when it comes to audio stuff like editing recordings!