Welcome to the first LMN Musicians' Spotlight! We spoke to Tom Hawthorn of North East jazz quintet Steppin' Out, some of our newest recruits.
LMN: Hello! Please introduce us to the band and the music you play.
TH: Steppin' Out consists of five Leeds College of Music graduates, who met on the Jazz course. We have been playing together in various ensembles over the three years at the college, and we decided to form this band in 2012. We play a mix of standards and original compositions as well as traditional New Orleans tunes
LMN: How long have you been on the scheme?
TH: We have been on the scheme since around April 2013, and started doing performances in June.
LMN: Why were you interested in joining the scheme?
We first heard about the scheme from other Leeds College of Music graduates we knew and played with, who were already on the scheme. We were all excited by the idea of taking live music to people who don't usually get a chance to hear and experience it. We knew that it would be challenging and quite emotional at times, but this was an area none of the band members had had a chance to work in, and we knew Live Music Now would help us gain this invaluable experience.
LMN: What have been your highlights of working with LMN so far?
TH: All the concerts have been a lot of fun so far. We had a particularly enthusiastic man at one performance, who did some incredible conducting for us. He got very carried away doing Rihanna type dance moves and completely stole the show… it was great! Also one young lad who had a giant birthday cake hat really enjoyed his personal 'Happy Birthday' and took multiple bows when we finished. We have also seen some great response to the music and instruments with people holding and touching the instruments we play. One blind girl was able to get in before our performance and we were able to show her the instruments by letting her hold different parts and play with the instruments, it was lovely to see her excitement. And of course Andy's Salsa dancing always goes down a storm…
LMN: Have there been any challenges from being on the scheme so far?
TH: One of the things we have all found hard is being able to judge the response from the audience. Sometimes a response we think may be negative and feel a particular person may not be enjoying the music or activity, is actually really enjoying it. We have learnt to trust the staff and if they are calm then it is most probably normal for this person to act this way and to not worry!
LMN: Do you feel that your LMN experience has helped you as a musician? If so, how?
TH: LMN provides many challenges such as communication with the audience and understanding how to work with special needs. But we have found from the six performances we have done is that they have helped us as musicians too. At first we did quite a well-rehearsed performance but at the last few performances we let the structure go out of the window a bit as it wasn't suitable for the audience we were playing for. This meant we had to be flexible and adaptable to whatever was going on or whatever one of the band members decided to do. LMN also pushes you with things like dynamic control and being able to perform in an open and accessible way. For instance playing suitable music for the audience, looking at the audience whilst we play and not staring at the floor… something jazz musicians struggle with!