ALUMNI SPECIAL: PETE WALTON

From #LCoMFE to capital's most wanted

Pete studied jazz and classical guitar at Leeds College of Music, and since leaving has been involved in all aspects of London musical life; from opera and ballet at the Royal Opera House, to jazz at Ronnie Scotts, hit West End shows and TV and film sessions. Pete has worked with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and toured with artists as diverse as Hayley Westenra, Michael Ball and Igudesman & Joo.
 
As a composer, Pete has written production music for KPM (EMI), as well as music for television, dance, corporate and educational use. Pete’s music has been used on media outlets around the world as well as BBC 1 and Channel 4 in the UK. Pete’s folk band Acoustic Earth reflects the intimate, ethereal and eclectic nature of his writing; wistful and subtle but with the rhythms of pop, rock, world and jazz never far away from the melodic surface.
 
Pete is currently playing in Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre and has also held the guitar chair in numerous West End musicals including Lord of the Rings (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), Evita (Adelphi Theatre), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (London Palladium), and Joseph (London Palladium).
 
 
What was your earliest musical experience?
 
I played the drums at about six or seven, had a few piano lessons about the same time but didn’t seriously engage with music until I got my first guitar aged twelve.
 
 
Who encouraged you to study music?
 
My dad could play drums and taught me what he knew, and there was always music around the family. My grandfather played piano by ear. He played in a stride style on the black notes! I remember having a jam session with him when I thought I was fairly good – the fact that he was playing everything in F sharp/G flat made me realise I still had a lot to learn!
 
 
What made you aspire to a career in music?
 
I think I’ve always had an attraction to music, almost any kind of music. Whilst at LCoM I was working professionally in Blackpool, commuting over the M62 on a regular basis. The transition from amateur/semi-pro bands to a career working professionally just seemed to happen naturally,so when I left Leeds I already had work lined up. I guess I was lucky in that there was more work available at that time. LCoM had some wonderful musicians, both teachers and students: Bryan Layton, my piano teacher, a superb musician; Dickie Hawdon the Jazz Course leader who I used to do a regular jazz gigs with; John Thirkell (trumpet) and Pete Beachill (trombone) were contemporaries of mine. Some of the rehearsals in the college practice rooms I can still remember now: Tony Faulkner’s Thad Jones/Mel Lewis inspired Big Band and Bryan Layton’s eclectic and wonderful small band, playing everything from Joni Mitchell and Charles Mingus’ Dry Cleaner From Des Moines to Spike Jones’ Cocktails For Two!
 
 
Who’s your greatest inspiration?
 
Music itself. I love being involved in music either as a listener or as a performer, discovering new artists or catching up with older things that may have passed me by when they first came out. I think that’s one of the things that I loved about LCoM, being surrounded by music, with opportunities to hear, see and study the very best that’s out there.
 
 
Was there anything in particular that made you choose Leeds College of Music?
 
It felt like the right place for me with its broad spectrum of music-making from classical to jazz. I did the one-year Foundation Course before the Jazz degree and this gave me the opportunity of studying classical guitar with Graham Wade whilst participating with the bands and musicians on the degree. I’m so glad I had the classical guitar training with Graham, it’s proved to be a really useful to have that grounding.
 
One of the things that I would recommend to students is to grab the opportunities that present themselves to engage with concerts and workshops at the college. Even if it’s not aimed at your instrument or preferred genre of music you’re always going to learn something, and you never know when that knowledge might come in useful. I think more than ever these days you need to be flexible to sustain a career in music.
 
 
What attracted you to the course?
 
The standard of what the LCoM degree was offering seemed to me to be very high quality and suited my needs – studying the electric guitar but also learning arranging and ensemble playing.
 
 
What was your favourite thing about living / studying / being a musician in Leeds?
 
I loved being in Leeds. Socially it is a vibey place to be a student and as a musician there are lots of opportunities to see top quality music.
 
 
Who would be your dream collaboration?
 
Working with Quincy Jones would be a dream come true. I often refer back to his book ‘Q On Producing’ for inspiration, so a collaboration with Quincy would be a wonderful experience. John Adams and Joni Mitchell are other sources of inspiration in their respective fields so working with them would be exciting too.
 
But I do think the dream starts from within yourself, whoever you’re working with. Expect the best and be the best you can be. Be open to possibilities and be enthusiastic.
 
 
Where would you most like to have your music played?
 
I wrote a triple concerto called Slow Motion Sleeper for my band Acoustic Earth when we were just a three-piece instrumental group, I would like to perform that again with the Liverpool Symphony Orchestra please!
 
 
What has your journey been like since leaving LCoM?
 
It’s been good. I’m very thankful that I’ve worked with some wonderful musicians and been involved with some great projects. I’ve been working in London for most of the time since leaving LCoM and have been fortunate enough to work in some iconic venues like Ronnie Scott’s and The Royal Opera House, with some top bands like the BBC Symphony Orchestra and The London Philharmonic, and in successful West End shows like my current gig at Matilda The Musical.
 
 
How has your study at LCoM aided your career so far?
 
I think studying at LCoM gave me the confidence to go out and work professionally. The standard expected by the lecturers and the standards they set themselves as teachers meant that I came out with a good all round grounding in what is required as a professional musician.
 
 
What has been your greatest achievement?
 
To still be working professionally! It’s not the easiest career choice but I’m sure it must be one of the most rewarding.
 
 
Where would you like to be in five years? 
 
I’d like to be on tour with my band Acoustic Earth. Playing live with superb musicians is something I can’t imagine ever tiring of. Also, I’d love to be writing more, either songs for Acoustic Earth or more classical pieces – I just love being involved in the creative process.
 
 
If you had one piece of advice for a prospective student, what would it be?
 
Listen to as much music in as many different styles as possible. And listen hard when you’re playing. Although we train to be soloists, most of the time the key to success is fitting in musically and socially. The people who recommend you for a gig are often the people you’re sitting next to, so be nice to us!
 

Links

Music Website
http://acousticearth.bandcamp.com

Personal Website
http://www.petewalton.com
 

Slow Motion Sleeper - A Concerto for Acoustic Earth (Edited Highlights) from Acoustic Earth on Vimeo.

 

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"I do think the dream starts from within yourself, whoever you’re working with. Expect the best and be the best you can be. Be open to possibilities and be enthusiastic."

Pete Walton

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