Dale Truscott (Queensland Symphony Orchestra) spoke with Australian jazz virtuoso Adrian Mears in advance of his performances at the Sydney International Brass Festival in July 2013. Adrian has been based in Europe since 1992 after studying jazz at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
Dale: How did the opportunities you received through your formative music education in Newcastle in regional NSW contribute to your development into the musician you are today?
Adrian: Apart from singing in church or primary school choirs it was the local Toronto and District Brass band where a brass instrument first met my lips. I remember vividly a glorious feeling of being engulfed by that huge, often orchestral sound of concert pieces, with lush dynamics, changing meters and the odd march or two. Later I encountered a motivated high school music teacher who got my attention, encouraging me to participate in school bands, conduct musicals and compose as well as making every instrument available to me during the lunch break. After mild success at terrifying brass band competitions I discovered the relaxed environment of the Pan Pacific Jazz Camps in Lane Cove. Focused on a healthy jazz tradition, it was there I met friends and formed a jazz quintet. We met regularly and began performing around Newcastle when I was 16 years old. After high school was over the whole band moved to Sydney and I was accepted into the jazz studies program at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. From the first day on my musical career became professional as I worked most nights of the week playing a vast variety of musical styles with Sydney bands and theatres whilst attending classes during the day at the Con.
Today my multi-facetted profession leads me into situations to compose for large ensembles which remind me of those once glorious feelings of the brass band. My writing style is influenced by the great American songbook and romantic classical music, with lush dynamics and changing meters. Just like the instruments I played back in the lunchtime break, today I often accompany students on drums or piano during my teaching routine. Also the ability to master a wide range of styles is a blessing I profit from everyday.
Dale: Your list of performing and recording credits is many-faceted and shows an incredible level of musical flexibility and creativity. Did you already have a highly creative mind as a young musician growing up in Newcastle or has your creativity come more with age and experience?
Adrian: I suppose I’ve always been inventive and keen to be spontaneous in the hope that I pull it off. That magic is always greater if you live on the edge. “No risk no fun” has been my motto from the beginning and with experience you tend to just decrease the failure rate.
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