Ed Jones is Head of the Brass Department at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Find out more about Ed's roles and responsibilities as Head of Brass at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and what he considers to be his career highlights.
What is your ethos for the department?
My hope is that RBC brass players enjoy acquiring the range of skills that they need to become professional musicians in a fun, friendly and supportive environment.
What do you look for in musicians auditioning to join your department?
There is only one prerequisite really: a love of music-making! Beyond that, students who are enthusiastic and highly motivated to improve tend to thrive here.
Do you perform outside of teaching?
Prior to my current role, I enjoyed a very successful career as a professional trombonist. For several years I was Section Leader Trombone of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and I have also performed with most of the country’s finest orchestras and ensembles, both in the UK and abroad. Regrettably, I was forced to step back from professional playing a few years ago for health reasons.
What are your main responsibilities as Head of Department?
It’s my job to ensure that our brass players enjoy a high-quality student experience. I look after the day-to-day running of the department and try to maintain high levels of motivation and happiness amongst the students. I organise our weekly performance and repertoire classes and lead a number of these sessions myself. I also arrange the many visits that we receive from external artists over the course of the year, as we seek to ensure that the students are continually inspired. I conduct brass ensembles in concerts, and still enjoy teaching the trombone on a one-to-one basis. I also spend a great deal of time in meetings with students, as the continued wellbeing of every member of the department is a primary concern of mine.
What have been your career highlights so far?
As an orchestral musician, I have been fortunate enough to give concerts with many of the greatest musicians of our time. These would include Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Bernard Haitink and Sir Simon Rattle. During my time with the CBSO, I particularly enjoyed performing the great works of Richard Strauss and Mahler under the baton of Andris Nelsons.
How did you come to your current role, what have you done before Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC)?
I studied at King’s College London and the Royal Academy of Music, then freelanced as a trombonist in London for a couple of years. I joined the CBSO in 2008, and became a Visiting Tutor of trombone at RBC in 2009. Over the proceeding years, my contribution to the brass department here has gradually increased, culminating in my appointment as Head of Brass in December 2023.
How would you describe your team in the department?
Our group of Visiting Tutors represent a cross-section of the UK’s renowned professional brass scene. RBC students enjoy lessons with full-time orchestral players, successful freelancers, soloists and brass band stars. They also have the opportunity to work with some of the country’s finest early music practitioners. We are incredibly lucky that all of our tutors are friendly, down-to-earth individuals who are deeply invested in their students’ individual journeys.
What is your favourite thing about working at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire?
The people! I absolutely love the environment in which I work. The brass department has quickly become like a second family to me, and I love watching the students grow and develop.
What do you think sets RBC apart from other conservatoires?
Firstly, the breadth of performance opportunities that our students enjoy. In any given term, a brass player might give concerts with the symphony orchestra, the brass band, the big band, the folk ensemble, the early music ensemble, and even the trombone choir! That’s before we even mention chamber playing and groups such as the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. At RBC, we try to accommodate each student’s particular interests and enthusiasms to the best of our ability. We have also been blessed with absolutely incredible facilities in our new building. Finally, I would say that the RBC vibe certainly distinguishes us from other institutions. I am regularly told that our brass department is the friendliest one around, which is something I’m very proud of!
What do you think are the greatest challenges facing new music students?
For many, the biggest challenge is focusing upon their own journey as a musician. It is very easy for music students to be distracted by what they hear others doing, both at college and on social media. They must understand that progress on a musical instrument tends not to be linear- there will be ups and downs! As long as a student tries their best to work on the areas that their teacher has identified for improvement, they will be absolutely fine.
What can prospective students look forward to the most when they join your department/Royal Birmingham Conservatoire?
Spending their days playing music, surrounded by like-minded individuals who share their passion for brass playing!