Talking Shop was about eleven years old by now, but I was bored.
When we started the business, it had been all about radio. We made jingles and radio commercials. It was exciting. We were piggy-backing on the launch of Kent’s first-ever commercial radio station, Invicta Sound.
They needed advertising clients; we needed to restructure the business because the bottom had fallen out of the recording studio market we’d been in, and this looked like an opportunity not to be missed. It was.
But like I say, that was eleven years earlier and since those heady, wonderfully creative days of radio, the business was now very corporate. Still creative, with our amazing team of writers, actors and studio geniuses, but nevertheless it lacked the one element that had and has always been closest to my heart – music.
So, it came as no surprise to Chris, my then business partner, that I wanted to leave the business and start a professional symphony orchestra.
I took him out to dinner and announced that I was going to be a conductor (yes, I have heard all the jokes).
His response was pretty sanguine, to be honest. He just said, ‘I’m not surprised’. He knew me well. He wished me luck.
And so started another chapter in my interesting career: the birth of an orchestra.
The deal Chris and I thrashed out was that I would gradually work my way out of the business over a three year period. At first I would take one day a week out to work on the orchestra, and over the three years I would do less and less in Talking Shop and more and more time on the orchestra.
My plan was pretty sketchy, but practical enough, and it certainly took account of the critical aspects of creating and launching an orchestra, including the need that I had to go back to school and study.
I had only got as far as grade six piano by the time I left school, so, in my book, I was nowhere near qualified to stand up in front of seventy-odd professional orchestral musicians and tell them what to do.
I’ve always taken it very seriously that rights aren’t given to us, we have to earn them, and this was no different. In fact, because of the nature of the beast, for me it was even more important that I was ‘qualified’ to do the job.
I hate frauds, charlatans and con-men. I had to earn the right to stand in front of these guys and be their leader.
On a purely musical level, I knew that I could do the job. I have an amazingly good ear for music, but the art of conducting and the personal interaction and dynamic needed between myself and the orchestra I knew I would have to learn from the bottom up.
Over the next three years I had a ball.
Admittedly I had to become a student again, but unlike when I had been at school – where I was one of the worst – this time I knew that I had to be one of the best. After all, this was another career of my choice, but it had a whole new set of rules and qualification criteria which I took very seriously indeed.