Our committee members are introduced below. For contact details please see the Contact page.
CHAIRMAN – James Turnbull
“I started learning the oboe, aged 7, when one day I heard it on the radio and fell in love with the sound of the instrument. I joined BDRS while at primary school and enjoyed the many annual conventions and copies of DRN I had access to over the years. At school I also learnt to play the piano and violin but oboe was always the instrument that felt like home. I remember hearing the second movement of the Poulenc Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano having just started at secondary school and wanting to play that more than anything in the world.
“Since leaving university and then music college, I love the variety in life that one gets as a musician. Being able to play and teach the oboe is something I enjoy a great deal. My primary passion as a musician is to make it easier for people to pick up instruments like the oboe and bassoon (often referred to as endangered species). I also think it is really important for us to continue building new repertoire. We are extremely lucky to live in an age where the composers alive today offer so many incredibly distinct voices and take the instruments we play in such beautiful and interesting directions.
SECRETARY – Paul Hubbard
“I came late to the double-reed family, having only taken up the bassoon in my late 40s. As a child I learnt the violin and piano, but never felt secure with either of these, and eventually discovered a passion for the recorder and for music of the baroque period.
“I studied music at Cambridge where I seized the opportunity to perform with some talented fellow students. Needing a steady income I then joined the civil service, and it was only when my children started to grow up that my thoughts turned to a different sound and a wider repertoire. It had to be another wind instrument; I had always liked the sound of the bassoon, and the notion of playing a less common instrument — which also offered a chance to experience orchestral texture from the inside — was appealing. Learning a new and rather difficult instrument, with limited time in mid-life to practise, has been a challenge and I owe a considerable debt to two patient and supportive teachers! I now play mostly chamber music in various combinations, especially French music of the last century.
“Along the way I have benefitted from attending Society events and enjoyed reading Double Reed News. As incoming Secretary I am keen to help to maintain and develop the Society as a strong and relevant body with something to offer to all double-reed players. ”
TREASURER – Stephen Fuller
“Writing this I realise that the bassoon has been an important part of my life for over 50 years. I began with lessons at secondary school and went on to study at music college and while music did not become my career (I had what musicians’ sometimes I think wrongly refer to as “a proper job”), it has provided me with some of the most memorable and pleasurable experiences and friendships of my life. I was fortunate from early days with the bassoon to have opportunities to play in orchestras and chamber groups, to perform in innumerable concerts in wonderful, sometimes famous, and occasionally bizarre venues. I’ve also been privileged on a number of occasions to perform concertos and concertante works. Throughout I’ve been fortunate to have fascinating and inspiring teachers and colleagues.
“I joined BDRS at its inception and when I stopped working joined the committee. As Treasurer I hope to help the society develop and thrive so it can continue to help, encourage, link, and acclaim oboists and bassoonists in the UK and with the wider double reed community.”
MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY – Donal Flynn
“I came to the oboe having tried, at various stages, the piano, violin, tuba, tenor horn, French horn, and finally guitar. My dream about the oboe, as a teenager, was inspired by a Trinity College oboe student coming to play wonderfully in our local orchestra who always wore a suit, which struck me as odd even then!
“I have been with the oboe for about thirty years now and play in a North London orchestra, as well as chamber groups with friends, and am a member of the Oxford and Cambridge Music Club, taking the ATCL Trinity Diploma a few years ago. I have recently started to ‘translate’ pieces for wind groups, sometimes including piano, and quite enjoy the resulting struggle with Sibelius!
“I was secretary and chair of a wind orchestra for many years and feel confident that this experience can serve me well with the BDRS. I am very interested in understanding members’ wishes for the future of our Society and in looking at ways to expand our membership. Commissioning articles to appear in DRN, particularly for the amateur oboist, is also one of my aims.”
EDITOR, DOUBLE REED NEWS – Clive Fairbairn
“When editing the BDRS magazine I often conjure the wry smile on the face of my English teacher, expending much red ink on my latest essay – he was only too aware that most of my time was dedicated to one or other of the many aspects of music-making that absorbed me then, as they do now. He would doubtless have entertained little idea that I might one day be wielding a red pen of my own.
“The Royal Academy of Music was curiously short of bassoon players the year they let me in, ensuring this late-starter had to catch up extremely fast. But already I had been bitten by the conducting bug. I now see another wry face, that of my piano professor, Alan Richardson; nevertheless his wife, Janet Craxton, proved a great help as co-conspirator when, some years later, I formed the New Mozart Orchestra, and she became its Principal Oboe.
“Although most of my career has been driven by orchestral conducting — including the LSO and LPO — promoting music education has always featured deeply, whether as lecturer, examiner, teacher, or youth orchestra conductor.
“I have held the editorship of DRN continuously since 1996 and produced over 80 editions.”
ADVERTISING MANAGER – Alison Wathey
“I began learning the bassoon aged twelve, being taught at school in Plymouth by visiting Royal Marine bassoonists. I soon joined Plymouth Youth Orchestra, through which I became a pupil of Kerry Camden at Exeter University Music Department, up until I left school. I then read for a BA in Mathematics and Music, followed by an MSc in Operational Research at the University of Birmingham. While an undergraduate I also studied at the Birmingham School of Music with David Robinson and Andrew Barnell.
“Since 1984 I have lived in the Portsmouth area where, for several years, I worked as a software and systems engineer on naval computer systems, initially for Ferranti Computer Systems Limited and finally for BAE Systems. From 1993 to 1999 I resumed my bassoon studies by becoming a part-time student at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama with Ian Cuthill, alongside my full-time job.
“Since leaving the defence industry I have gained an LRSM in bassoon performance and am currently a self-employed bassoon- and contra-player and private teacher. I play regularly with the Havant Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, the City of Southampton Orchestra, and with professional chamber orchestra Southern Pro Musica. I also freelance for other orchestras and societies across the south.”
WEBMASTER & SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER – Louisa Denby
“I’ve been a member of the BDRS for over twenty years. I read Music and Theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge, where I also did a Masters in Choral Studies. I’m now Director of Studies in Music and Acting Director of College & Chapel Music at Downing College, which I juggle with my role as Director of Chapel Music & Organist at St Edmund’s College. Other roles within the University involve lecturing and teaching undergraduates, and running the Intercollegiate Choral Awards Scheme, which comprises a number of widening participation initiatives.
“Despite the large amount of time I currently spend playing the organ, the bassoon remains my first instrument, and I continue to play professionally, mainly in the sphere of chamber music. I have a major role as CEO & Artistic Director of the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain, which is a huge privilege and responsibility, and am also undertaking research into The Portia Wind Ensemble and musical culture in post-war Britain.”
COMMITTEE MEMBER – Esther Williams
“Born and raised in London, my musical journey began at a young age, picking up the violin at four years old. I taught myself music theory, piano, guitar, recorder, alto saxophone and, by the time I was 16, was adept on eight instruments, including cor anglais, recorder (descant, treble, and tenor), singing, and the instrument that would define my journey: the oboe.
“I studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, receiving tutelage from esteemed oboists such as John Anderson, Catriona Southall, Sarah-Jayne Porsmoguer, Murray (Sandy) Johnson, and Gordon Hunt. I have also participated in masterclasses with François Leleux, Sarah Francis, Ludovic Armin Cora, Albrecht Mayer, and am currently studying with world-renowned oboist and BDRS Oboe President Nicholas Daniel.
“I have performed professionally as a freelance musician across the UK and Europe, encompassing musicals, operas, marching bands, solo and orchestral works. Currently, I am a member of Chineke! Orchestra, and also serve as a woodwind mentor to Chineke! Junior orchestra. Alongside this, I balance my musical career with a role in Finance at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM). I also teach in various schools, as well as offering private tuition, and a private reed-making service.
“Having trained as a yoga instructor specialising in the face muscles, my teaching incorporates exercises and techniques which prevent pain and injury.
“Striving for racial equality within the classical music industry, I have spoken on numerous platforms to spark unity, which recently included the International Double Reed Society Symposium 2020. I also sit as a committee member for Freelance Musicians for Musicians Union, and RAM’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, and Access & Participation committees, with the ultimate aim of ensuring inclusivity for musicians from all ethnic backgrounds.
“In my spare time, I enjoy going to the gym, reading, yoga, hiking, swimming, boxing, and painting.”
COMMITTEE MEMBER – Liam Fleet
“I grew up in Gloucestershire and discovered the bassoon aged nine as a result of a trial session of woodwind instruments. I also loved the sound of the oboe and began to play it three years after the bassoon, learning the two instruments in parallel throughout secondary school: the bassoon and contrabassoon first with Quentin Haslam and later Jo Mayne, and oboe and cor anglais with Graeme Adams. During this time I found a particular love for music of the Renaissance and Baroque and decided I wanted to specialise in playing this music on period instruments. To take my love of this music and the double reed family to the next level, I enrolled at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2020 with bassoon as my principal study and oboe as second study, in both cases taking lessons in historical and modern instruments.
“I freelance on a variety of early double reed instruments as well as being active in the modern orchestral world, particularly as a contrabassoonist, and play both modern and historical instruments in several chamber groups. In addition to an active performance life, I thoroughly enjoy visiting schools and adult groups to introduce them to world of double reed instruments irrespective of any prior musical knowledge. I’m a firm believer that both double reed playing and music as a whole should be accessible to everyone regardless of their background, encouraging those with a passion for music to develop it to whatever level they aspire to.
“I currently live in Herefordshire, where I am beginning to offer in-person and online private teaching, as well as making reeds for modern and historical instruments. Alongside this, I like to arrange and compose a variety of music for numerous combinations of double reed instruments, some of which have been played at Gloucestershire Double Reed Days.”
COMMITTEE MEMBER – Sarah Ledbury
“From as far back as I can remember, I have known that I wanted to teach.
“The organ was my first instrument at the age of eight, but in my first term of secondary school, I returned home with a violin loaned from the local music service. From that point onwards, music was an important part of my life. Within the space of 18 months, I took ABRSM Grades 4 and 7, earning a distinction in both and securing a scholarship to be taught by Peter Bridle of the Birmingham Junior Conservatoire.
“I attended the Welsh College of Music and Drama in the 1990s, studying for a degree in Music and Education, during which time I was taught violin by Barry Haskey. Following my degree I taught music in secondary schools in Manchester, and in the late 1990s I got my first job as Head of Music at St Patrick’s RC High in Manchester.
“I became Head of Music at Chapel-en-le-Frith High school in the beautiful Peak District in 2009, where I remain to this day. I gave up my Head of Department role during the pandemic but still teach there part-time. With extra time on my hands my thoughts turned to things I have always wished I could do. One of these I had harboured since my college days…to learn to play the oboe!
“I found myself a terrible oboe from eBay and proceeded to teach myself, but soon realised I needed a much better instrument and a teacher. Under the guidance of oboist/teacher David Cowdy I progressed as far as passing my ABRSM Grade 6 during autumn 2022 and now also have a Cor Anglais to add to the mix.
“I really wish I had taken up the oboe much earlier, but double-reed instruments simply weren’t available to me when I was learning as a youngster (on loan or otherwise), and as a music educator with experience across several different local authorities in the past 30 years, the picture sadly hasn’t changed significantly.
“I hope that my work with the BDRS committee can help address some of the barriers to learning a double-reed instrument and that more students who really are capable of doing so can find joy from playing one.”