I was born in 1963 the youngest of five and grew up in Northern Ireland through what are known as "The Toubles". I was lucky enough to get free clarinet lessons through the local Music Service and worked my way through their bands and orchestras, playing clarinet. I also had a old Selmer Pennsylvania tenor saxophone and I played both in local bands and school shows but I never really took that side of my music making seriously, I was much more interested in playing (rather poor it has to be said) electric guitar in a band with my mates. I am not proud of the fact that I was a poor scholar and I just managed to get the qualifictions to go to Polytechnic to start an engineering degree course; naturally it was a disaster and I left after two years.
I spent a summer thinking and decided that I would try to go to music college on clarinet, crazy though that sounded at the time and I started having lessons with Paul Schumann, 2nd Clarinet with the Ulster Orchestra. He must have been pretty incredulous at the first lesson when I told him my plan. But he did a great job and got me playing my audition pieces as well as could be expected in the seven months I had before the late auditions. I could only apply to Trinty College of Music, Royal Scottish and Birmingham School of Music. Birmingham made me an offer and I was happy to accept it so I worked on a building site for the next four month to buy a new pair of Selmer 10G clarinets and off I went..and basically never looked back.
Birimingham School of Music became Birmingham Conservatoire while I was there and I studied with Ruth McDowell (bass clarinet with the City of Birmimgham Symphony Orchestra at the time) for the first three years. I was still occasionally playing saxophone and Jan Steele the saxophone tutor at the time suggested I should have some lessons. I found that I had much more flair for the saxophone and swapped in my final year to first study saxophone. Jan got me to go busking with the saxophone quartet he had started with Nigel Wood - Saxtet and I finally joined the group full time when I left college.
Over the the next eighteen years I had some of my most memorable playing experiences and Saxtet became one the UK’s leading saxophone groups performing all over UK, Europe, USA, Singapore, India and New Zealand with TV and Radio appearances.
I have also had a pretty decent freelance career and have performed with London Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia, Delta Saxophone Quartet, Flotilla (with Kyle Horch, Naomi Sullivan and Alistair Parnell) and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as well as jazz orchestras - the Pasadena Roof Orchestra, Ed Leaker’s Swing Machine, Chris Dean’s Syd Lawrence Orchestra and various Mike Westbrook projects.
For many years I have been a regular member of Michael Law's Piccadilly Dance Orchestra and I also regularly perform as a duo with accordionist (and wife) Karen Street.
Teaching is really important to me and I have been a tutor at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire for over 20 years and I am consultant tutor at Wells Cathedral School one the UK’s four specialist music schools for 11-18 year olds. I have given masterclasses, workshops and examined at Royal College of Music, Welsh College of Music & Drama, Leeds College of Music, Chetham’s School of Music, Aldeburgh Young Musicians and various British Saxophone Congresses. Every summer I tutor on the European Youth Summer Music course.
For the last five years I have been a Yamaha Artist.
I have been married to Karen since 1993 and we have two children, both musicians - Jamie (trombone) and Zoë (horn).