Huw Wiggin, saxophonist

Who or what inspired you to take up the saxophone, and pursue a career in music?

When I was younger I was given free music lessons at primary school and started with the recorder and cello. I was inspired by many musicians at school, some who came in to give concerts and workshops and others in concerts outside of school. The headmaster at my local school, Alfie Hay inspired me when I was younger as he got us to sing in school assemblies every morning and I played regularly in school orchestra. When I was at secondary school I then took part in an exchange with Leichlingen in Germany and met other inspiring musicians. I then auditioned for the National Childrens Wind Orchestra having previously taken part in the Musicale Holidays run by Gill and David Johnston. I have always watched BBC Young Musician and this inspired me to audition at Chethams School of Music in Manchester as many musicians were always from Chet’s.

I always played the cello but loved the sound of the saxophone having heard saxophone players like John Harle and Rob Buckland when I was younger. I loved the sense of fun with the saxophone and the way that it can be suited to different styles of music.

Sport was my other big passion and rowing in particular. I grew up with my father who was an Olympic oarsman but I only pursued this until I was 17. I love sport but I really like the variation and creativity of music!

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My teachers have always been my biggest influences: Andy Wilson at Chethams School of Music at 16, then Rob Buckland when I moved to the Royal Northern College of Music, Daniel Gauthier when I moved to Cologne and Kyle Horch at the Royal College of Music.

I also remember when I was at school being inspired by Jennifer Pike winning the BBC competition when she was only 12 years old. The way that she mastered the instrument and played with such maturity and poise I found amazing when I was 14! I was very lucky that my parents supported my decision to pursue music as a career and I asked them to then audition for specialist music schools. I was surrounded by like-minded musicians and constantly inspired on a daily basis. I think it’s so important to be surrounded by musicians in an environment that you are constantly inspired to learn and improve and I had this at Chethams which I will always remember.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

One of my greatest challenges is to not compromise myself as a musician artistically as it’s easy to fall in to a trap of always playing the music that people want to hear. I think that’s easy to do at the early part of your career but I reached a point where I said to myself, ‘why did you become a musician?’ and it was to not just play music which people are used to hearing but also to make people think a little. If it’s a new sound or interpretation, as the saxophone played in a classical way is then the artistic process is quite different to something that you are used to hearing and arouses an emotion or feeling which you weren’t sure was there.

Another challenge is really taking care of yourself and learning to not take on too much work. It’s easy to feel pulled by people in lots of different directions for whatever reason and saying ‘No’ is an important attribute in anyone I think.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

The performance which always stands out to me is when I performed at the Royal Over-seas League Gold Medal Final in 2014. This was such an important evening for me and is one of those moments in life that I will always remember! I had applied to the competition about 5 times in total and my accompanist James Sherlock encouraged me to give it one more go! He was so happy too when I won and he also won the accompanist prize.

As ‘Reflections’ is my debut recording I feel that I will automatically be so proud of it. It has taken me some time to come up with the repertoire but I wanted to release an album when I was ready. I am so proud of the album and having the opportunity to work with John Lenehan was amazing. I grew up listening to his recordings with John Harle and he was so inspiring to me. His knowledge and experience is inspirational and playing with him on the album was so special.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Wigmore Hall is always a joy and privilege to perform in because of the artists that have performed their past and present. I always love performing in St John’s Smith Square as the quartet I perform in, the Ferio Saxophoe Quartet had a residency there a couple of years ago. The large space and high ceiling is well suited to saxophones and works well for different styles of music. Throughout my career I have become less fussy about acoustic though! That said though I do love performing in churches the most as the sound of saxophones in a church is quite special!

Who are your favourite musicians?

I feel that my favourite musicians are always people who strive for perfection and quality and produce something unique and individual. My old teacher Kyle Horch at the Royal College of Music is one of my favourite musicians as he performs in a number of different musical ensembles and different settings. He said many things which have always stayed with me but one of the most important was that music should be interpreted like an actor would approach a new role, embodying every aspect of the character. I feel that every time I approach music I think about finding new sounds and colours and show my story telling through music.

Outside of classical music I have always loved Amy Winehouse as I love her music and still listen to her regularly. I always found her a true artist and she created something that was so current and unique. Her music is so iconic.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I have vivid memories of performing when I was a child at charity concerts and school concerts which I think were the most important for me. This helped me perform regularly and helped me with performance nerves in particular.

Some years ago I took part in a TV Show called ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and I will never forget the sounds of the buzzers when the judges decided that they didn’t want me to go through! It was quite a fun experience though playing to Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan, who was on it at the time.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Being able to share your music with an audience and for it to be appreciated. I feel that if you can do everything you want creatively and produce the music that you would like then in my eyes you are successful. Being paid is also a bonus and important but the creative values should never be forgotten

What is your most treasured possession?

Well… Probably my Alto saxophone called ‘Archie’. I also do like my car ‘Barbara’… I spend a lot of time driving in my car.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

I think it’s important to not ‘sugar-coat’ anything but having said that you always need to be enthusiastic with young musicians. Being a musician is not easy and going from having music as a hobby to being a musician full time is also something you need to get used to as it’s not easy. I always say to pupils, and others when I am asked, to do music if you feel that you can’t live without it, as dramatic as it sounds! I feel if you are like this then everything else will fall into place. Music to me was always something that I thought about and I could not imagine doing anything else.

Huw Wiggin will release his debut solo album on Orchid Classics in June, entitled Reflections.

Discover more about Huw on his website:

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