Education · Interview

Johnny Thirkell : Horn Camp 2019

Johnny Thirkell is one of the great unsung heroes of the music industry. With a truly prolific recording output, his trumpet features on thousands of hits over the past thirty odd years. To find out more about Johnny, please follow this link to read this great interview (even if I do say so myself!) that I did with him last year.

I caught up with Johnny recently to find out about his creatively-named ‘Horn Camp’, a residential course in the beautiful surroundings of the Sierra Nevada mountains…

Tell me about Horn Camp.

Horn Camp is about a group of Trumpet and Sax players getting together for a week to play, learn, talk and hang together in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

I’m very fortunate to have a house in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains, about 20 minutes out of Granada and it’s where I go whenever I need to get away from all the distractions of life  and focus on something that needs to be done – whether it’s practice, writing, business or just thinking, I find the relaxed and peaceful environment helps me to really get down to work and I always achieve much more there than I could ever do at home. So it seemed to me that it would be the perfect place to take a bunch of students if we wanted to focus on the fundamentals of playing as well as look at the peripheral things which can really make all the difference. Things which aren’t easily taught within the confines of the regular teaching schedule.

I’ve always found the traditional 1 hour a week teaching model to be quite limiting insofar as there is only so much you can convey in an hour and often, by the time the student has gone home and gets around to practicing, he/she may well have forgotten some of the teachings and you, the teacher, are not there to answer any questions. Also, in a one hour lesson it’s very difficult to fit in some of the peripheral disciplines which can be hugely beneficial to wind players – things like breathing exercises, posture, stress management and mental well-being. So, by running the camp we allow students to put a week aside to focus on all of these things while we, the teachers are available all day long to answer any questions and provide help and guidance. Plus, it will be fun too!!

What can students expect?

Aside from a great environment where we all work together, we will look at a more rounded approach to playing your instrument. Not just technique on the instrument but also the things you can do without the instrument to improve your playing and musicianship. There’ll be modules on Pilates for Wind players, Cognitive learning techniques, Breathing exercises, stress management and lots more. Plus, after dinner there will be the opportunity to talk about a broader range of things – like how publishing works, copyright protection or brass arranging – or simply to answer any questions the students might have.

We aim to create a relaxed environment where we all help and encourage each other, irrespective of individual ability, and no-one needs to worry about traffic or the daily chores of life. We’ll break up the day relaxing by the pool or walking the famous hanging bridges of the Los Cahorras, which are close by. We might even have the odd drink!

Why Trumpet & Sax?

Being wind instruments, there is so much crossover in technique between the two  – particularly in the fundamentals such as breath control – and I think there is much that we can learn from each other. The Sax tutor is my old friend Snake Davis. He and I have been best buddies for 40 years and in that time we’ve worked together on more sessions and tours than I care to remember. However, as well as being an amazing sax player he is one of the best communicators and educators that I know and he will be leading a lot of the ‘off-instrument’ subjects like Pilates, Yoga breathing etc. Things which are highly relevant to both instruments, irrespective of ability level. Ideally we will have 3-4 trumpeters and 3-4 sax players so there’s also plenty of scope for knocking up some ensembles too.

What standard do you need to be?

Because there is a lot of focus on fundamentals such as breath control, expression and musicality as well as the ‘off-instrument’ disciplines, the camp will be relevant to players of a wide range of abilities. In fact I see it as a plus to have a range of abilities as it usually winds up with everyone helping each other. We always ask students to leave their competitiveness at the gate and enter into an atmosphere of mutual trust and support. That way we will all take away the maximum from the week and no-one need feel awkward or out of their depth. Having said that, you will need to be able to play – but I would say that so long as you play to a reasonable level, you will fit in and benefit greatly from the course.

What’s included?

The camp runs from the 4thto the 10thMay 2019 and the fee includes all tuition plus resources – worksheets and music – breakfast, lunch and evening meal every day and all beer, wine and soft drinks for the duration. We will collect students from Malaga Airport and drop them back at the end of the week. There are double and twin rooms available and non-playing partners are welcome.

Finally, where can folks find the details?

Full details including booking etc. can be found at

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