Rob began his conducting career at the age of 17. His first experience was gained in the Salvation Army conducting choirs and brass bands. Initially self-taught he undertook some conducting studies during his time as a student at the Royal College of Music. In his early twenties he started to conduct wind bands as well, and then, at the age of 27 he became a Director of Music in the Royal Air Force.
After three years with the Band of the RAF Regiment in North Yorkshire he was posted to the Western Band of the RAF and later became Director of Music of the famous Central Band of the RAF. Subsequently, his promotion to Wing Commander and appointment as Principal Director of Music, Royal Air Force, in January 1998, made him the twelfth in a line of distinguished musicians who have held this prestigious post and, on appointment, the youngest since Sir George Dyson in 1919. He was awarded the OBE for services to Royal Air Force Music in 2002.
During his time with the RAF he enjoyed notable success. He won the Sir Felix Cassell Cup as the musical director of the best RAF band an unsurpassed number of times. He made many recordings, radio broadcasts and frequent television appearances and directed concerts at most, if not all, the major concert venues in the United Kingdom. During his 8 years with the Central Band he gave a large number of premieres of new music, especially at the gala concerts of the annual conference of the British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles. In 2002 he directed the RAF Squadronaires Big Band at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club.
Away from the Royal Air Force he has built his reputation by conducting orchestras, wind ensembles, choirs and operatic societies. He has also conducted many brass bands and was, for a while, heavily involved in the contesting scene. He is acknowledged as a master of the Wind Band, but has always sought to keep his experience as broad as possible. His conducting away from the RAF includes:
Guest Conductor – Hatfield Philharmonic Orchestra
Guest Conductor – Ealing Symphony Orchestra
Principal Guest Conductor - Trinity Orchestra, Harrow
Guest Conductor – Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra Brass
Major works performed include: Brahms Symphonies 2 & 3, Prokofiev Symphonies 5 & 7, Shostakovitch Symphonies 8 & 10, Walton Symphony No 1, Dvorak Symphony No 8, Mozart Symphony No 40, Ravel Tombeau de Couperin, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No 3 (with Moura Lympany), Rodrigo Guitar Concerto (with Fabio Zanon), Gregson Piano Concerto (with John McCabe), Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, Benjamin Britten Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Stravinsky – Firebird Suite, Dukas Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Band of the Coldstream Guards
Band of the Grenadier Guards
Band of the Irish Guards
Band of the Scots Guards
Band of the Welsh Guards
Ithaca College Wind Ensemble, New York
London College of Music Wind Ensemble
High Wycombe Music Centre Concert Band
Buckinghamshire County Wind Band
Durham County Wind Band
Northamptonshire County Youth Concert Band
Cambridgeshire County Wind Band
Avon Schools Symphonic Wind Ensemble (tour of USA)
West of England Schools Wind Ensemble (tour of Spain)
Chiltern Community Band
Buckinghamshire Symphonic Wind Ensemble (BBC Radio 3 Broadcast, 2 August 1991)
Cornwall County Wind Orchestra
Kew Wind Orchestra
Buckinghamshire County String Courses
Birmingham Festival Chorus
Durham Youth Choir
Richmond (North Yorkshire) Operatic Society
Sun Life Band (BBC Radio 3 Bandstand, BBC Radio 2 Listen to the Band – West of England Champions 1986 & 1987, 3rd place in National Championships 1987)
Parc and Dare Band
Yorkshire Imperial Band
North Skelton Band (BBC 2 Best of Brass 1983 and 1984, North of England Champions 1983 & 1984)
CWS Glasgow Band
Virtuosi GUS Band
Royal Air Force Squadronaires
Terry Hellyer Big Band
Vic Reynolds Big Band
Rob has always enjoyed teaching conducting and when the opportunity to become Conducting Professor at the Royal Military School of Music arose, it was hard to resist. As a civilian professor he endeavours to give his students a broad experience of conducting styles and techniques. He believes it is essential that band directors experience music outside their normal fields if they are to become complete conductors.
Although he will now be teaching others, Rob is still keen to continue to develop his own conducting career. His conducting experience goes back almost 40 years but he insists there is still much to learn!