Interview with Simon Clark

Guest Blogger, Amy Duncan

simonclarkSimon Clark is a British based composer, organist and pianist. He trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London and now divides his time between composing and playing the organ at many churches of several denominations in London. As well as writing sacred solos and inspirational piano music, Simon is a composer of orchestral music and has written a number of large scale works including symphonies and concertos. Here’s Simon in a Watchfire Music email interview:

I’ve read your bio on your website, and it seems you were quite the musical prodigy. At what age did your interest in music begin?

I can recall being interested in music from a very young age even though I had no formal training at that stage. I remember, even at the age of five, watching a sunset and singing incredible melodies to myself, all from my own imagination. Even then I had the realisation that one could be such a thing as a composer, and that one could orchestrate these melodies for an entire symphony orchestra.

What were some of your very first experiences with music? Did you start right in with lessons, or experiment on your own?

What happened next, at the age of nine, is that I began to take dance lessons. The wonderful ballet music of Tchaikovsky was particularly inspiring to me at that stage, and spurred me on to take up the clarinet and the piano at the age of eleven.

Tell me when and how you became interested in composing.

Within a year I was composing as well as playing—and a year on from that I had written copious short works for orchestra as well as some instrumental sonatas. However, I was still completely self-taught as a composer. Formal training did not come until later when I studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

I understand that prior to the age of sixteen, you had already composed four symphonies, two flute sonatas and a string quartet, and a number of choral works. This is amazing! How did you learn how to do this? me 2(3)

I listened to music pretty much all the time during my teenage years. Here in the UK we have a wonderful classical music radio station, BBC Radio 3. This formed the bedrock of my musical education. I also read a number of helpful books. One was in the “How to” series—How to Compose Music. This was followed by Gordon Jacob’s book on orchestration and then Walter Piston’s book on counterpoint.

How did you become recognized and start having your music published?

I was lucky enough to be taken on as an in-house composer at Kevin Mayhew Publishers at the very early age of fifteen and I have published my music with them ever since. In recent years I have been taken on by Jackman Music, based in Utah. But of course, the internet has changed everything and it is such a wonderful opportunity to self-publish and bring one’s work directly to an audience without the need for printing and distribution. However, this is hopeless without promotion. That’s what is so good about Watchfire Music. It’s such an opportunity to self publish and the same time be promoted by people who really know what they’re doing!

What do you think are the most important qualities for a music teacher to have?

Firstly, the ability to see each student as an individual, with his or her own path of musical discovery. Secondly, a sound knowledge of one’s subject, including music theory to a high level. Thirdly, but no less importantly—patience!

Tell me about your approach to teaching music theory.

Learning music theory is an important part of learning an instrument here in the UK because you have to pass a Grade 5 Music Theory exam in order to progress to grades 6 – 8 on your chosen instrument. My approach is to include music theory even in the lessons of beginners and to continue to incorporate this in the lessons thereafter.

How about your own teachers? In what ways have they influenced you?

I have been lucky enough in my life to have received the help and advice of some wonderful teachers. Each one of them had their own special gifts to offer. Some taught me the value of hard work and diligence in practice; others had words of encouragement and inspiration. What is good is that so much of what I have received I am now able to pass on in my own teaching.

Tell me about the composers and musicians who have inspired/influenced you.

I love the Scandinavian masters—Sibelius and Grieg. Their music is so atmospheric and you can really escape to an entirely different musical landscape as you listen.

What styles of music interest you?

I love classical music in its broadest sense but I also love pop music, particularly that of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

What is your definition of inspirational music?

Quite frankly, I don’t think I ever listen to music that isn’t inspiring to me in some way. But I suppose that when we use the term here at Watchfire Music we mean music which has a spiritual message which inspires, or simply instrumental music which causes us to reflect and ponder.

Tell me a little about your daily life and work schedule.

My work is split between teaching the piano (which I love doing), playing the organ professionally, and composing.

How about your free time? What do you like to do?

I love spending time with my loyal dog—a welsh terrier called Leo. I also have to be honest and admit that I enjoy watching television. I think that people are very often afraid to admit that they do so in case they look like a philistine! I also enjoy foreign travel, particularly on cruise liners!

If you weren’t a musician/composer, is there any other field you would have chosen as a career?

I’m not sure that I really chose to be a musician—I think it chose me! I have to say that I really can’t imagine doing anything else!

Check out Simon Clark’s composer and artists pages on Watchfire Music here:

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One Response to “Interview with Simon Clark”

  1. Ady Solis Says:

    I have Simon Clark’s CD it is one of my favourite’s

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