Interview with Rob Burton - Saxophone soloist


Tell us a bit about your background. When did you first pick up a saxophone?

 Well, I started with the recorder in primary school when I was 5 years old -purely because my friends were starting recorder lessons, too! I took to it really quickly and soon had to change teachers. At the time, my parents were obsessed with the saxophone. They would always show me their favourite recordings of pop/jazz saxophone solos, and soon I fell in love with the instrument, too. I literally could not wait to start playing it, so I started when the opportunity arose at my primary school when I was 9 years old.

Some of our audience members will recognise you from last year’s BBC Young Musician competition, in which you won the Woodwind Category and secured a place in the Grand Final of the competition. How did that experience shape you as a musician?

The whole experience of the competition was so far out of my comfort zone, so it certainly pushed me to do things I didn't ever think I would! It has made me more of a confident musician, improved my performance skills and it has definitely shaped me as a person as well. Also, it has given me amazing performance opportunties, which I wouldn't have probably come across otherwise.

 What goes through your mind just before you step onto the stage? Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I just try and relax as much as possible -usually spending time with my family or friends, rather than panic practicing! Sometimes directly before I go on stage, I'll put my headphones on and play along to some of my favourite pop music. This reminds me how fun and expressive music is -so I don't get caught up in the stress of a classic performance! 

We’re playing two very different works for saxophone and orchestra on 11th October, Milhaud’s Scaramouche and Debussy’s Rhapsody. Do you have a favourite?

 Tough question! I dont have a favourite. I have loved both works for many years now. I love Debussy as a composer, so its great to be able to play such stunning music as a saxophonist, although Milhaud's 'Scaramouche' is very fun to play as well!

We hear that you’re an artist as well as a musician. How do you find time for both?

The nice thing about music and art is that they're both my hobbies. If I have a concert coming up, music will become my 'work' and art will be what I do to unwind. If I have a drawing commission, it will be the other way around, where I'll unwind with music. It is a nice balance! 

 Why should people come to see this concert?

Because its an excellent programme! If you've not heard much classical saxophone before, I'd defintely urge you to come and experience the instrument in a concerto setting! And even if you listen to lots of saxophone, you don't often get to enjoy it with such a great orchestra in an amazing venue.

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Interview by Caroline Ferry