Thursday, 2 February 2012


At the tender age of 16, Andy Baker was playing bass guitar on the 'Pub Rock' circuit in London during 1970s. 

He is now Community Musician with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and spends much of his time encouraging all sorts of musicians to expand their repertoires by including some classical influences.

Having lived in Dorset for more than 30 years, Andy finds his job takes him to all sorts of unusual and interesting places, and not just theatres and concert halls.

Here he talks about his role and how even the simplest musical instruments can help people discover the joys of community music making and performance.

HOW did you end up being a member of BSO?
Some years ago I was part of the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra. I played double bass and also the electric bass and we’d do things like the Gloria Hunniford show, and the Eurovision Song Contest. I then auditioned for the Bournemouth Sinfonietta and was really lucky and got the job, so I came to live in Dorset.  It was such a great job because it meant I could play all the sorts of smaller Chamber music. We concentrated on music by composers such as Mozart, plus a lot of contemporary music like Michael Nyman, also jazz composers like Mike Westbrook and some of the more obscure baroque composers.

WHY did you choose to play the double bass?
I started by playing bass guitar in ‘Pub Rock’ bands in London when I was about 16. We’d go to places like The Greyhound in Fulham Palace Road, where we would play alongside bands like ‘The Who’ and ‘Free’ who obviously became famous later on. The choice for me was between sport, bass guitar or the double bass and it was when I got a place to study music at the Royal Academy that I decided to focus on the double bass, which of course pushed me firmly towards classical music. I grew into classical music. 

IF SOMEBODY wants to start playing a musical instrument what should they chose?
Well, I think the ukulele is an excellent starting point. I’ve recently started learning to play it myself. It’s very small and transportable, it’s affordable for most people and it’s very good for the concepts of rhythm and musical co-ordination. It gives you a good sense of pitch and harmony and it easily leads on to other instruments. It’s got four strings like a violin or bass, add a couple of strings and you’ve got a guitar, plus it’s a very sociable instrument, there are lots of ukulele social groups springing up all over the country. I go to one at The Bull Hotel in Bridport every Monday evening. It’s interesting and fun to meet other players, and all though I’m a professional musician I am always learning.

WHAT kind of ukulele have you got?
Well, I’ve got a really basic figure-8 uke at the moment, it’s pink. 

WHAT'S on the calendar for BSO in the next few months?
There’s lots coming up with our current Principal Conductor Kiril Kirrabits. He is over at the moment to record lots of new music written by his father - Ukrainian influenced music. As well as that, the summer season is coming up where BSO literally go and play in the middle of a field at a popular series of open air concerts. 

YOU are also the community musician for BSO, what does that involve?
For that, my job is to help people understand music they perhaps wouldn’t normally have access to, for example a local community choir might come along and play with a group from the orchestra. Classical musicians love doing that kind of thing. Also, I go into schools and do composition work and then perhaps introduce a string quartet to play with the students on their compositions. We’re about to do a piece with a school in Newquay based on ‘Holst’s - Planets Suite’, and we’ll perform it at Goonilly Downs Radio Telescope Station and hopefully it’ll be beamed to all sorts of places.  

WHICH three famous musicians would you most like to have a jam session with?
There are two or three musical geniuses that I would love to play with. One would be Benjamin Britten, who I once played to - he was a real musical genius. Then there’d be Stevie Wonder, who I think is amazing to do what he does with the restrictions that he has, and thirdly the jazz musician Miles Davis.

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