Biographies - Wind and Brass

Gareth McLearnon - Wind & Brass

Gareth McLearnon is a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and a former student of the legendary Billy Dunwoody MBE and the Ulster Orchestra's principal flute Colin Fleming. He moved to London in 1999 to attend the Guildhall School of Music & Drama where he studied with Ian Clarke, Samuel Coles, Sarah Newbold and Averil Williams. On completion of his undergraduate studies, he studied with Michael Cox and Samuel Coles for a year of postgraduate study. Following this he won a place as one of two principal flutes in Southbank Sinfonia for their 2005 season.

Gareth is an active arranger of music, and his collection Round Ireland with a Flute and debut album Sounds of Home were launched in the USA in August 2008 where he performed at the National Flute Association convention in Kansas City, Missouri.

A recipient of many awards, Gareth has given recitals, concerto performances and masterclasses all over the UK, and in the USA, Asia and Continental Europe.

A versatile musician, playing many ethnic whistles and pipes, Gareth frequently performs in London West-End shows, and regularly works with the children's flute playing charity Flutewise, teaching on their residential courses, and conducting their flute choir.

Gareth is Flute Specialist and Artist in Residence for Pearl Music Europe, and is a Pearl Flutes International Artist, playing on a custom made 14K Gold Pearl Flute with a 14K Gold headjoint by Dana Sheridan. He plays traditional handmade blackwood whistles by William Simmons.

Lorna John - Wind & Brass

Lorna John was born in Edinburgh and studied at the Birmingham Conservatoire, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the Royal College of Music where she won the Senior Woodwind Prize.

She now enjoys a busy freelance career performing with many orchestras including the Philharmonia Orchestra, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and Northern Sinfonia.

In 2005 Lorna was Co-Principal of Southbank Sinfonia, with whom she performed the Mozart Oboe Concerto. During this year she was also selected for the London Philharmonic Orchestra's Future Firsts Scheme.

Awards and scholarships awarded to her have included the Countess of Munster Musical Trust and the Martin Musical Scholarship.

Claire Hawkes - Wind & Brass

Claire Hawkes won a Foundation Scholarship to the Royal College of Music to study clarinet and piano in 1997. As a soloist, she won the RCM and Fanny Hughes Clarinet Prizes and the prestigious Thurston Competition. Claire was awarded an ATCL Diploma in Solo Piano in 2001. With awards from the Parnell and Anthony Saltmarsh Trusts, Claire was made a Junior Fellow at the RCM from 2004-2006 and was visiting Wind Chamber Coach at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama from 2006 - 2008. Claire is currently Director of Music at Leweston School, Sherborne.

Claire represented the UK at CHOGM's People's Forum in Uganda, in November, 2007 (The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting). She spent a further six months working as a volunteer at Kampala Music School, giving fund-raising concerts, setting up a wind department and teaching clarinet. In January 2008 Claire gave a recital tour in Ghana, performing in Accra and Cape Coast in venues such as the British Council and National Theatre. She also performed Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with The National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana and made two television appearances. In 2009 she became a Trustee of Friends of KMS and currently works to fund-raise and co-ordinates volunteer visits.

Other concerto performances include works by Mozart and Pleyel in the UK and France and with Duo Armande, the Bruch Concerto. Following the release of their CD 'Musical Mosaics', recent chamber music highlights with Duo Armande include the EMI More Music Summer Festival, National Gallery and recitals in Worcester, Herefordshire and Berkshire. Later this year they give a concert tour in Corfu.

As an orchestral musician Claire has recently played and sang in the St Endellion Festivals and performed for the new BBC documentary, 'Parry and his Music' directed by John Bridcut for broadcast in 2011. Other orchestral work includes Minehead Festival, Southern Sinfonia, LPO, Nash Ensemble, Bath Philharmonic, Dionysus Opera Orchestra, Hampstead Garden Opera, Sweelinck Ensemble and North London Chorus.

Claire specialises in historical clarinets and in 2007 was awarded a Mastere de Pratique de l'orchestre Classique et Romantique Formation Supˇrieure from the Abbaye aux Dames centre for historical studies and Poitiers University. Since she has played with the Jeune Orchestre Atlantique, based in Saintes, and has worked with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment as part of the Anne and Peter Law scheme, as well as the Orchestre des Champs Elysˇes, Fiori Musicali, COREAM and has recently toured to Barcelona and Verona with the Clarino Ensemble (historical clarinets and basset horns) as well as performing in London venues. The Clarino Ensemble have recently given a mini tour of Devon and look forward to performing in Hertford and Sherborne later in the year.

Edward Leaker - Wind & Brass

Edward Leaker grew up in the West Country, studying the saxophone under prominent tutors and performing in a variety of musical settings. From an early age, he showed a great interest in studying jazz and classical styles on the instrument. Edward was awarded the status of Licentiate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama for classical performance and later he successfully gained a first class honours degree studying with Duncan Lamont.

In 2004, Edward graduated from the Royal Academy of Music, London with a Masters Degree in Music Performance under the instruction of Richard Addison and Martin Speake. Since then, Edward has enjoyed a busy and varied freelance career performing in many of Britain's leading venues. He has also performed with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Bristol Ensemble and has appeared on BBC television's 'Born and Bred'.

Now based in the South West of England again, Edward performs regularly at prestigious venues around Britain and Europe. Edward also teaches the saxophone at Wells Cathedral Specialist Music School.

James Topp - Wind & Brass

James Topp was born in the Orkney Islands and educated in North-east Scotland. His musical training took place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where he studied horn with Hugh Seenan and Jeff Bryant, and conducting with Alan Hazeldine. Since leaving the GSMD he has developed a highly varied freelance career including work with several major UK orchestras, West End shows, corporate team-building projects and even an ABBA tribute band! He is Principal Horn of the English Symphony Orchestra and Longborough Festival Opera, and appears regularly as a guest player with the world-renowned Fine Arts Brass Ensemble. Since 2008 he has been Visiting Teacher of Horn at University College School, London. He is also part of a team devising and directing weekend orchestral courses for young beginner and intermediate-level players run by the English Symphony Orchestra.

Gareth Hamlin - Wind & Brass

Gareth Hamlin graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in 2003, after studying percussion and timpani with Chris Stock and Steve Barnard. Gareth is an extra with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Welsh National Opera. He is also heavily involved in musical theatre and has played on the touring productions of South Pacific and Beauty and the Beast. He is a member of Fusion Percussion Ensemble and Stick 2 percussion duo, which perform concerts and educational workshops around Wales. As well as performing, Gareth is a part-time percussion tutor, teaching in Christ College Brecon, St. John's on the Hill Chepstow and Y.G Ystylafera.

Gareth McLearnon

Lorna John

Claire Hawkes

Edward Leaker

James Topp

Gareth Hamlin