Meet the Trustee: Stephen Johns
1st November 2021Features NMC Recordings
During the first week of November, charities across the country take the time to celebrate the vital work carried out by their Trustees.Trustees' Week gives charitable organisations like NMC a chance to publicly say a huge ‘thank you’ to the diverse group of individuals who volunteer their time and expertise to us as our Board. Collectively, NMC’s Trustees oversee everything that happens at the charity and ensure we deliver on our purpose and mission throughout all our activities.
For a charity like NMC with only a small office team, our board of ten Trustees are an incredibly important part of how we work. They are drawn from a wide range of professions and have decades of experience between them, which means they can provide expert advice and guidance on a range of topics – from fundraising strategy to education resources, marketing techniques to financial planning and legal matters.
All of this work behind the scenes is integral to the ongoing success of NMC. With the support of our Trustees, NMC is able to remain in a strong position to champion the work of British and Irish composers by recording, distributing and promoting their music. We’ll share insights into what being a Trustee of NMC involves from existing Board members over the coming week. Plus, keep an eye out for the exciting opportunity to join our Board, as we seek to recruit two new Trustees.
I’ve been lucky to have grown up with music – I was a chorister at my local Cathedral in Llandaff, then played the organ and ran a church choir while still at school. I first became fascinated by the technique of making recordings when I was at University, where our Chapel Choir recorded a number of albums. I began my career working at Abbey Road Studios, and have been involved in making records ever since. My first discovery of NMC was when I was asked to produce the recordings of Robert Saxton (A Yardstick to the Stars) and Philip Cashian (Dark Inventions). Having worked full-time for a major record company, who had necessarily to work to commercial imperatives, it was really interesting to become a Trustee of a record company that existed as a charity. The mission to record, and make permanently available, important music that would not otherwise be represented seemed to me to be a vital part of our cultural life. I was always moved by Simon Rattle’s sentiments that if we don’t keep writing new music we have no right to play music only from the past.
"The mission to record, and make permanently available, important music that would not otherwise be represented seemed to me to be a vital part of our cultural life."
Being a Trustee is both challenging and highly rewarding. I am constantly having to encounter music that I might otherwise not be exposed to. The variety of what we hear – and sadly we can’t release everything we might like to – is surprising. I find the music not always easy to approach or understand – I think it’s important for us all to admit this! But I find the more I listen, the easier I find it to evaluate the skill and musicality of a composer’s work, even if the idiom is not immediately attractive.
In addition to my continuing freelance work as a record producer, I am Artistic Director at the Royal College of Music. Here we have a vibrant composing faculty, across all idioms, and students keen to play new music. It’s really refreshing to see them engage so enthusiastically with all forms of music, and the NMC catalogue is a part of the rich resources available, encouraging them to enquire and experiment.
"Great music demands frequent listening, and recordings enable time for reflection and repeated consideration – not always possible in a concert hall."
Being a Trustee forces me to realise all our responsibilities for supporting the creation of new music. I hope we are providing a platform and a voice for composers whose work otherwise might not be heard, or heard only once. Great music demands frequent listening, and recordings enable time for reflection and repeated consideration – not always possible in a concert hall. It is great to share being a Trustee with others from a range of backgrounds and enthusiasms – I think together we try and bring our own specialities to support the wonderful enterprise that is NMC.
Outside the RCM and NMC, I enjoy outside activities, including golf (poorly!), cycling and walking.
We are thrilled to announce that NMC are seeking to recruit two new Trustees. Be a vital part of what NMC does by joining our Board. Find out more here.
NMC's Discover platform is created in partnership with ISM Trust.