Although both musicians studied undergraduate music at Southampton, they had very different experiences as students here.
“There was such a broad range of options and modules, we only really crossed over on some of the introductory modules” said Tom.
Craig talked about the strong community of musicians that he is part of as a former student of the department. “We’re both still in touch with a lot of people from our Southampton days – some regularly but others you won’t hear from for years and then they’ll call up and ask if you want to work with them on something. You never know when you’ll need each other.”
In fact, several of their former classmates and other alumni from Southampton were part of the orchestra that came together to play the gig, held in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Speaking about the high number of Southampton alumni in the CSO, Craig says it wasn’t intentional. “I do remember when I graduated feeling that it was really important to keep hold of those connections that I’d made at Southampton, so perhaps on some level that’s played into it. We have about 400 members spread right across the country, and I’d say that perhaps half to two thirds of them have come through Southampton. In terms of this gig though, it was pure chance that we had such a high proportion of Southampton alumni in the orchestra!”
The idea of having big band backing for DON BROCO’s music was something Tom had thought about doing before, but the gig came together at the very last moment. “It was so out of the blue! We had about a month’s notice that the concert was happening, and I think I called Craig about two weeks before to see if he could put together an orchestra for us. We hadn’t sorted out the arrangements until practically the day before, so the orchestra effectively had one day to practise with the music!”
Craig’s process usually involves much more planning and rehearsing. “We’d usually work on a much longer timescale, but it was actually really energising to work in this way with Tom and the band, and have that intense, quick journey all building up to one fantastic performance.”
Performing with the backing of the orchestra changed the way Tom thought about the music he plays with the band. “There was a different energy in the room. There are things you can only achieve with an orchestra and having them there gave the sound so much more emotion and texture.”
Craig was surprised by how emotional the evening was. “There were lots of tears! I don’t really know why I reacted so emotionally – perhaps because I hadn’t seen Tom for 15 years and suddenly here we were working together on this huge thing that was really outside of my comfort zone. I didn’t know what to expect but right from the beginning it was like walking into a family. The journey we all went on was so fast and it came to an end after just an hour of performing. It left me wanting to do more!”
“Yeah, we both loved the experience and would love to do something like this again, but I don’t know when the circumstances would line up again.”
Tom and Craig had some words of advice for students looking to forge their own careers in music.
“Keep putting yourself out there – take every opportunity and hold on to those connections you make during university. You meet all these people and you never know when you’re going to need someone with their skills or when they might need you. That community that you build of loads of people with a real passion for music is so important.”
“But also, find out what music means to you – why are you doing what you’re doing? You have to be in it for a good reason. It has to mean something. I’m very proud to be at the helm of such a fantastic and inspiring orchestra in the CSO.
It’s about the ethos – everyone involved with the orchestra, players and management, donate their time and skill to the goal of raising as much money as possible for deserving causes. The model that we have attracts a particular kind of person who is willing to work in that way; slightly bonkers, but driven and committed to having fun making honest music and supporting others”
They both agree on one thing: “We’re so lucky to be able to make a living doing what we love.”
If you would like to be involved in the Charity Symphony Orchestra, visit their website.