There are not many 22-year-olds that made it onto my list of fabulous trumpet players that I wanted to try to interview. Matilda Lloyd’s biography however, is glitteringly impressive and it does not seem possible to have achieved so much in music at such a young age!
Matilda came to prominence in the UK in 2014 by winning both the Brass Final of BBC Young Musician of the Year, as well as the BBC Radio 2 Young Brass Award. A BBC Proms solo debut followed in 2016, and in October last year, Matilda won the inaugural Eric Aubier International Trumpet Competition in France, beating off competition from 53 other top players along the way.
Graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge last year, she is now studying for a Masters at the Royal Academy of Music in London. I am grateful that Matilda could find the time in amongst her studies and trumpet engagements to share some thoughts with us:
What made you choose the trumpet as an instrument? Were there any particular early musical influences?
My Dad played the trumpet while he was at school. As a very curious 8 year old, I was rummaging around in our cupboards one afternoon and stumbled across his very old trumpet. Naturally, I wanted to have a go! As I could make a decent sound on the instrument, which isn’t easy to do, I decided that I wanted to start having lessons and that’s where the story began. My Mum is a piano teacher and accompanist, and she started teaching me the basics on the piano a few years earlier, so my ability to read music and rhythms really helped when I first started to play the trumpet.
What are some of your performing highlights to date?
I think my absolute performing highlight has to be playing as a soloist at the BBC Proms in July 2016. Walking onstage at the Royal Albert Hall to an audience of 6,000 and many thousands more watching when the Prom was broadcast on television, was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It was absolutely exhilarating, and an experience like no other. Performing with the BBC Philharmonic, led by Alpesh Chauhan, was just incredible as I really felt the support of the orchestra and that they were following me – it felt more like chamber music than a concerto. And I was lucky enough to be able to do it twice! Aside from the Proms, another performing highlight was playing First Trumpet in Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony with Bernard Haitink conducting in his home, the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. To work with such an incredible conductor in a place that means so much to him with an audience that were so mesmerised by the performance was absolutely unforgettable.
What are your long term goals after leaving the Royal Academy of Music?
My ambition is to be an international trumpet soloist. I would love to be able to expand the trumpet repertoire, both through the commissioning of new works and also the revival of forgotten works. Too often, works are performed at their premiere and then rarely played again – and I am trying to re-introduce lost works into the repertoire by recording them and playing them in my recital programmes. I would also like to do more educational and outreach work as a soloist to try and encourage more young people (especially girls!) to take up a brass instrument.
What instruments and mouthpieces do you play on?
I’ve had my Bach Stradivarius LR43 Bb Trumpet for about 10 years now! I originally wanted the more standard 37, but at the time of my purchase the UK warehouse had just burnt down and the shop didn’t have any in stock to sell! Luckily, I decided in the shop that I preferred the 43 anyway and haven’t ever wavered from that decision. I have recently purchased the new Yamaha C trumpet that I absolutely adore – it feels very easy to play. I also have a Yamaha Eb/D trumpet, and a Schilke piccolo. I play on a Warburton mouthpiece – 10* backbore with a 3M top.
You have had success in a number of high profile competitions now, while still very young. How do you manage preparing so many programmes for a gruelling competition week while also continuing with your studies and other engagements?
This is a difficult question as different methods work for different people! What’s best for me is to learn pieces well in advance. If I know I have a quiet period say five months before a competition, I will learn a few of the pieces in the repertoire during that time. This enables me to leave them alone during busier patches when I have more urgent things to prioritise. I also find that this ends up improving how I play those pieces as I always find them easier at the second time of practising them! I also always try to perform the pieces for a competition beforehand, whether in a recital or a masterclass, just so that the competition is never the first time performing the repertoire.
Do you have any particular advice on keeping your chops in good physical shape during these preparations?
I recommend not doing much more than 3½ to 4 hours of practice a day. And ideally this would be split up into smaller chunks spread throughout the day for the best stamina. It is very tempting in the run up to a concert or competition to panic and do last-minute over practice, where you suddenly increase the amount of practice or the length of practice sessions. This is very bad for the lip so try to avoid this as much as possible! I would recommend tapering down the amount of practice over the few days before the performance to rest the lips and give them a chance to recover and be on top form for the day.
Congratulations on winning the inaugural Eric Aubier Trumpet Competition last October! Can you share with us any insights into what it was like going through that process in particular?
Thank you very much! The competition was a great experience for me, particularly as I was able to share a flat with a fellow student from the Royal Academy of Music. This was an absolutely fantastic idea and I think my experience of the competition would have been completely different if I had stayed alone. It was great to have company throughout the week as it was a complete rollercoaster. With the quick-fire rounds often on consecutive days, emotions ranged from being nervous before performing, the adrenaline and high after performing, the worry about whether the performance was good enough or not, the anticipation of the results, the elation at finding out I had got through a round, the stress of having to then rehearse with the pianist for the next round on that same day, and then the nerves for that performance in the next round the next day! Having someone to share all of this with made it a whole lot easier, so an enormous thank you to Aaron Akugbo for his company and support. The competition in Rouen was an incredibly enjoyable week for me. All the other competitors were very friendly, and many of them stayed the whole week to support us in the semi-final and final, which was really lovely.
Do you have any general advice for any young players?
I just want to say something that I think will resonate with every brass player in the world! Every single musician in the world has periods or moments of self-doubt, wondering whether they are good enough or not for something, or comparing themselves to other players. So often, people are afraid to enter a competition or put themselves forward for a concert or opportunity because they are afraid that they won’t play as well as they know they can or fear that someone else will play better. All I have to say about this is that you are not alone! The only outcome of not applying for something is that it won’t happen. If you don’t apply for a competition, you can never win it. So the one thing I would encourage all brass players is to put themselves forward for opportunities and embrace them!
Please visit www.matildalloyd.com for further information and for upcoming concerts