I was born in the heart of the Black Country, West Midlands, in the early 1990s. Thanks to the music education provision that was still supported by Staffordshire County Council at that time, I was able to receive a wonderful education in music, with lessons on flute and later, voice. I also received piano lessons from a family friend over the course of eleven years. Combined with a musical household (my grandfather was organist for his Methodist church for over fifty years), my childhood was spent immersed in music.
My musical interests at that time focused on orchestral playing and, increasingly, in rock and prog (bands like Led Zep, Pink Floyd, etc). An epiphany was provided when I borrowed sheet music for Led Zeppelin from my local library and battered my parents’ piano (an upright bought from a pub) with songs like ‘Rain Song’ and ‘Kashmir’. At that time, Art music (‘Classical’) was not high on my list of priorities. I duly failed my Grade 8 piano the first time round.
I would not be where I am now without subsidised music education provided through schools and council schemes, and since I have moved into Higher Education in music, most of these schemes have been drastically reduced or cut. Someone in the same position now that I was in then would not receive anywhere near the same amount of support. This has become the foundation of my approach to music education, research, and activism.
At 17, I heard Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring for the first time, and realised that Art music could have the same energy as Hard Rock. From then, my musical interests moved between the two, often more towards the ‘Art’ side of things.
With my degree at Keele University, piano lessons with the wonderful Tatyana Iskandarova guided me towards Russian and twentieth-century music. From playing these works, my interests slowly steered away from performance towards musicological research, especially in analysis and history. I completed a Masters in piano performance at Keele, before moving to Manchester for my PhD, under supervision of Professor David Fanning. Again, none of my higher education degrees would have been possible without the generous grants and funding channels that I was lucky enough to receive (and which current political actions threaten).
Since then, I have been immersed in my research interests, including Soviet composers like Mieczysław Weinberg and Dmitri Shostakovich, but also Soviet history more generally, and the music of Poland. Broader themes in my work include a passion for critical theory, but also music analysis and theory. My historical remit covers the 19th-century broadly, but with a special focus of music and politics of the long twentieth-century, and contemporary composition. Based on my biography, I also have a special interest in the provision of music education, and the political decisions that inform and limit it. I’m passionate about Trade Union politics, and I’m a committee member for the Royal Holloway branch of the Universities and College Union (UCU). Outside of music and academic pursuits, I enjoy reading, travelling, and gardening.