Richard Harvey, Founding Owner of ‘Blast Off™ Brass’
• Currently a Lecturer in Music at the University of Salford
• 25 year career as a Royal Marines musician, concluding with 7 years as a Director of Music
• 3 years’ service onboard Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia as a member of the Royal Band
• Performances include the FA Cup Final, British Formula 1 Grand Prix and 2012 Olympics
• Operational service in Afghanistan as the Adjutant of the United Kingdom Medical Group
• Former Bandmaster of the Royal Hospital School
• Master of Music degree in performance (Royal Northern College of Music)
• Fellow of the Royal Schools of Music (Level 7 Diploma)
• Silver Medal winner from the Worshipful Company of Musicians
• Published composer and arranger
• Enhanced DBS certified and Safeguarding trained
• Father of 3 Primary School aged children
When I was 6 years old my uncle, who had been a State Trumpeter in the Household Cavalry, let me have a go on his cornet... I was hooked, I wanted to be a brass player! Unfortunately, despite being offered the chance to learn recorder, there was no provision for brass playing at any of the State primary schools I attended and, like many other children, my parents did not have the resources to find me private tuition and an instrument. By sheer chance, my secondary school Form Tutor happened to be the Head of Music, and in week 3 of my first term he stood in front of the class and spoke the sentence that set me on an amazingly varied, exciting and, most importantly of all, FUN musical adventure: “Someone has just given up the trombone, so there are free lessons and use of a school instrument for the first pupil to bring me a letter from their parents tomorrow.” I made sure I was waiting for him outside of the staff room first thing the next morning, my mum’s letter in my hand. I became 1 of only 2 trombonists in a school of nearly 1,500 pupils...
By the age of 14 I knew that I wanted to play the trombone for a living, but I wasn’t particularly academically enthused (aka lazy), and wanted to leave school as soon as I could. A levels and music college didn’t seem to be an option for me so, on the advice of my peripatetic teacher, I applied for and was accepted into the Royal Marines Band Service as a Junior Musician at the age of 16. Over the next 25 years I travelled the world extensively, making my first crossing of the Equator at 18 and performing on Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia for 3 years. I performed on every continent and in dozens of countries for world leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton. I played on the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium for several FA Cup finals (trombone, not football!), at the Rugby 7s World Cup in Hong Kong, the British Formula 1 Grand Prix and for the arrival of the Olympic Torch into the UK in 2012 alongside David Beckham. I have appeared as a soloist, conductor, arranger and composer at the Mountbatten Festival of Music at the Royal Albert Hall and I was the Assistant Director of Music at the 2008 Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo. I also served operationally in Afghanistan with the UK Medical Group; an experience that was very challenging but ultimately hugely rewarding. I joined the Royal Marines in 1989 with 5 GCSEs, and I left in 2014 as a Fellow of the Royal Schools of Music and a commissioned Royal Marines officer with a Masters degree in performance from the Royal Northern College of Music, all of which I did whilst earning a good salary rather than racking up student debt. As well as being the extremely proud founding owner of Blast Off™ Brass, I am also a Lecturer in Music (Classical Performance and Conducting) at the University of Salford; none of this would have been possible had I not picked up that trombone back in 1984.
Over the years, I have often wondered what would have happened if I had never had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time when the trombone and lessons became available. On the other hand, what if I had been given the chance to start learning a brass instrument at the age of 6,7, 8 or 9? Back then it wasn’t feasible - good instruments aren’t cheap, and cheap instruments aren’t good. Most schools relied on their music teachers to help pupils learn recorder, piano and guitar but, for someone like me, that just wasn’t what I wanted to do. I effectively had a latent passion and talent that I had to sit on for 5 years before an extremely fortuitous opportunity opened up to me. An opportunity that, for the vast majority of pupils, will never present itself.
Today, things could and should be so different. Through the amazing work carried out by Warwick Music Group, (for which they have received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2019), the ‘p’ range of plastic instruments has made brass playing affordable and accessible to all. Specifically, the ‘pBuzz’ has revolutionised brass provision for children as young as Key Stages 1 and 2, and it is around this instrument that ‘Blast Off™ Brass’ has been designed and honed over a four year period, during which I have delivered dozens of workshops to local primary school pupils. Hard wearing, fun, colourful and hygienic, the ‘pBuzz’ can be used to teach pupils the mechanics of brass playing very quickly and with instant rewards. Despite running workshops for thousands of children, I am yet to encounter a single child who cannot produce a note. Based on experience to date, on average, 2-3 children at each workshop will start learning a brass instrument as a direct result of taking part in one of my workshops.
It is widely acknowledged that engagement in music helps children develop in other areas of academic and social life. The Government document published in 2013 states: Music is a universal language that embodies one of the highest forms of creativity. A high- quality music education should engage and inspire pupils to develop a love of music and their talent as musicians, and so increase their self-confidence, creativity and sense of achievement. As pupils progress, they should develop a critical engagement with music, allowing them to compose, and to listen with discrimination to the best in the musical canon.
My ‘Blast Off™ Brass’ workshops were borne out of a desire to give every child the opportunity I had, only sooner. Whether they simply have a day’s fun trying something new, progress on to a career travelling the world as a military musician or even become the principal trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra, it could all start with ‘Blast Off™ Brass’.
Fully inclusive and interactive, the day starts at 10am with a fun demonstration of a wide variety of brass instruments, hosepipes and even hollowed out vegetables before breaking down into the ‘pBuzz’ groups. Over the course of the day pupils will cover many aspects of the National Curriculum for music, and the day ends at around 3pm with a performance by the pupils of the skills they have learnt for parents and teachers. There is then the opportunity for participating schools to purchase their own classroom sets of instruments along with resources and lesson plans. I can also offer ongoing training for school teachers to enable them to carry on with ‘pBuzz’ provision and I liaise closely with local peripatetics to pass on teaching opportunities to them; hopefully a ‘win-win’ for all involved.
If you think that this is something you would like to provide for your pupils, please email email@example.com, or call me on 07812 792 617.
Blast Off™ Brass