Interview: Jean-Paul Wright from Trevor James Flutes/UK
Hi there Jean-Paul! For starters, please tell us a little about yourself...
Hello. My name is Jean-Paul Wright. For my day job, I’m the Managing Director of the international musical instrument company Worldwind Music (owner of the TJ / Trevor James and also Flute Makers Guild of London brands). I am the global creative director for the TJ instrument brand, am host of the popular ‘Talking Flutes’ podcast channel and the creator of thehappyflutist.com website for stressed and anxious musicians. I am also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Worldwind Music Charitable Foundation.
Outside of the day job, I am a qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and a long time advocate of meditation. Over the years I have worked with sportsmen, musicians and actors on strategies to overcome pending performances or events, and have given many classes on ‘Calming the Inner Voice’, ‘Unhooking from thoughts’ and the use of ‘marginal gains’ for musicians using the mind as the root. In recent years I have eased up a little, and now spend my time attempting to get stripes on the garden lawn, meditating, blowing bubbles and messing around with my beloved camera.
Where are you from, where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town just outside of Cambridge (U.K) and now live in an old English town called Royal Tunbridge Wells which is 28 miles south of London.
How did you start playing the flute? How did your passion for music started?
I started the flute when I was 9 years old and quickly found a passion for ‘The sideways blowing tube’. After the completion of my academic studies, I moved to London where I studied the instrument with George Crozier and Jim Dower. In the years since, I claim (like many musicians), to have performed on radio and television in many of the major concert halls throughout the world. I have tutored and given flute, performance and ‘Mind’ masterclasses at flute and music events in the UK and also overseas.
How many years have you been working for Trevor James Flutes? How did you start it?
I joined Trevor James flutes in 1993 to establish and head-up a marketing team of flute players and musicians. In the years since, I have been responsible for developing the Miyazawa and Sankyo flute brands in the UK and Ireland and have been the global head of marketing and creative development for TJ flutes and saxophones in 1997. In 1998 I became co-owner of the company and in 2017, managing director for the business.
What current projects have you been working on on a personal level and for Trevor James Flutes?
When Covid-19 hit the world in March 2020, we were ready to go live with the launch of a number of new flute related improvements and products. But had to put these on hold until late 2020. This delayed our launch of our range of Grenadilla and Rosewood piccolos, the upgrading of our 925 silver ‘Voce’ head ‘Step-up’ flute to a higher silver content 958 silver ‘Voce’ head and the extension of our copper alto flute to having a ‘RAW’ version. We have in the meantime been consolidating these projects, doing more online product testing and review and have utilised the past 12 months getting ready with these new instruments. We also have a very successful saxophone side of our business which again has new products and upgrades waiting for the world to open up again.
On a personal level, I continue to love photography. As a long time meditator, I have incorporated this angle along with an exploration of true mindfulness for musicians in classes I have given in 2020 and those planned for 2021 online via zoom to Universities, flute groups and flute societies.
Among all TJ Flutes, which one is your favorite flute and why?
It has to be the alto flute. When I joined the company in the 1990’s, alto flutes were like an endangered species. I instigated research and development with our technical team, giving the brief to design and manufacture a free blowing but affordable alto. Since the turn of the millennium, my personal goal has been to get the alto to as many flute players as possible. The advent of social media gave us the tools and medium to really show what value the addition of an alto can make to a flute players repertoire.
What has been your most touching or amazing moment you've experienced as a musician?
I’ve been privileged to have many amazing moments as a musician. Being based in London, over the years I have performed as part of a salon orchestra for many royal and state events at Buckingham Palace. I’ve also played at Royal weddings, Royal funerals and many state events of visiting Presidents. However two most touching and memorable moments I have had was firstly when performing the Ibert Concerto in a beautiful cathedral in Jaca , North of Spain in 1992. At the end of the concert, the parent of a blind child came up to me and said that her daughter was really moved and had cried at the end of the middle movement. She did counter this by saying her daughter didn’t like the first and third movements though :-)
The second moment which I’ve carried with me throughout my business life was on a concert tour in Hungary in the late 1990’s when I was playing with the wonderful flutist and flute professor Itzes Gergely. We did many concerts and classes during the tour however I was really struck with some of the younger Hungarian players. Not only by their impressive technical prowess, but also by their emotional maturity in performance. On checking what instruments they were playing I was stunned to see that many were playing on very old flutes which the modern western flute player would not wish to use. It was this experience which magnified that the ability and power of musical communication comes from the individual. The flute is just a tool, like a saw is to a carpenter. These young players used the poor tools that were in front of them and yet made beautiful music. My aim has always therefore (with TJ flutes) been to design and build good quality, affordable flutes for all.
What other musicians have been inspirational to you in your work?
Let’s start with Ralph Vaughan Williams with whom I used to indulge in visual dreams when hearing his beautiful music when I was growing up. Secondly I can’t forget the reason I play the flute is down to the wonderful flute playing legend that is Sir James Galway. My mum is an old fashioned, “tough as boots” English lady who if she’d cut off one finger would have said, “don’t worry I have others”. And yet Sir James Galway could bring tears to her eyes when she heard him on the radio. My grandfather took me to a London concert of his in the 1970’s and I was hooked straight away with his virtuosity, THAT sound and also his stage presence. I wanted to play the flute from that day onwards!
I have been inspired by many flute players including William Bennett (WIBB), Emmanuel Pahud, Denis Bouriakov, Paul Edmund Davies, Rober Dick (amongst others) who opened up my eyes to new ideas and sounds. Jazz greats Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker, Duke Elington. Singers such as Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, Joan Sutherland through to the beautiful and soulful voices of Amy Winehouse, Babra Streisand, Eva Cassidy, Frank Sinatra. I really love the compositions and power of music by David Guetta, Sia and rap and Grime artists such as Stormzy etc. I am constantly being inspired by old and new musicians and have a very eclectic playlist.
Has anything funny happened to you in a performance?
I have far too many stories to put down here, from falling backwards when leaning off my chair, hitting the second flute in the face with my flute (and making her lip bleed) when an orchestra I was playing in was squeezed into a small space. Getting into trouble at a Royal banquet for laughing (and wearing red socks!). I am a giggler and once I start laughing then I can’t stop myself. The problem I have is that the funny stories would take up the whole of this interview as there are so many. So I’m probably best to park this question with your intrigue!
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
An acceptance that there is room for everybody. A musician's instrument is such a personal choice. We should always make our decision based around how an instrument makes us feel and if it opens up opportunities for your playing.
You spend more time with your instrument than you do with our partner so you have to choose the one that you completely gel with. With people, teachers and industry pushing brands and preferences, we often see players not being totally happy with their instruments because they have been pushed into buying a certain brand or model by external pressure..
“Well” (I hear you say), this is all well and good however don’t you run a musical instrument company? As most of us at TJ flutes are musicians then we get it! We just encourage players to test everything in their price range and choose the one that they fall in love with. If they don’t get the ‘tingles’ with a flute then don’t buy it. If it’s a TJ then great. If it’s not a TJ then great! There is room in this world for all brands.
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
The internet has made a huge difference to the music business by bringing every genre of music immediately to anybody who has access. One single video has the potential to make a person an internet sensation and change their lives!
Pre-internet, the only way you could hear music was on the radio, recordings or via live music. The internet brings everything to you now. At this very moment. There are many things wrong with the web, but without the internet during the past 12 months of Covid-19 restrictions, there would be a complete silence of live communication, music teaching and online collaborations. Lockdown and the internet really have changed the face of music and communication for ever!
Finally, what advice would you share with anyone starting in the music industry as a performer or business person?
My advice for what it is worth, is to take a step back and observe. Look at what is working and what is ‘creaking’ in your playing or in your business approach! You may wish to invest more time and resources in social media accounts which is great, but what will make your account stand out? Check out all the possible areas of the music business. Does something in particular tick all the boxes and make you excited? Make sure that you have the resources, understanding and are really enthusiastic about a position before you apply for posts. Don’t be worried if you are lacking in experience as many areas of the music business can see ‘rough diamonds’ and will employ based around what they see as potential. If you don’t get a job, then reframe your thinking to being one step closer to getting your job or position. You will not have failed!
Finally, and this is some personal advice. As a long time meditator, I recommend everybody try to always be in the moment. Fretting about what has gone on in the past can’t be changed. Worrying about the future is wasting time and mental energy as the future usually has a very different outcome to the worry or dream. By remaining in the present moment you will have a total understanding of what is required of you now. If there is something coming up to plan or practice for, then you should only focus on what you need to do now. There is nothing other than this very moment. Well having said that, that very moment is now history :-)!
Remember when your mind starts chattering, “You are NOT your thoughts. Your thoughts are impermanent and NOT facts!”
Smile, make peace with your weaknesses (I have many) and just go for it!
About the Artist
Jean-Paul Wright started the flute when he was 9 years old where he quickly found a passion for as he called it ‘The sideways blowing tube’. After the completion of his academic studies, he moved to London where he studied the instrument with wonderful flute players and teachers George Crozier and Jim Dower. In the years since, he claims, like many musicians, to have performed on radio and television in many of the major concert halls throughout the world. He has tutored and given masterclasses at flute events and conventions in the UK and also overseas.
It was a moment of performance anxiety on a live BBC radio broadcast in 1984 which began what has turned out to be a long journey of understanding (which he is still on). He qualified as a Clinic Hypnotherapist 25 years ago and studied NLP with its co-creator Richard Bandler. He is a passionate advocate of ‘mindfulness’ for musicians and ‘Taming that pesky inner voice’.
Since 1995, he has worked with well-known sportsmen, actors and musicians utilizing strategies to overcome a pending performance or event and has given many classes on ‘Calming the Inner Voice’, ‘Unhooking from thoughts’ and the use of ‘marginal gains’ for musicians using the mind as the root. On hitting 50, he decided to ease up a little and now spends his time attempting to get stripes on the lawn (it’s a very English thing), meditating, blowing bubbles, smiling and messing around with his beloved camera.
For his day job, Jean-Paul is Managing Director and co-owner of the international musical instrument company Worldwind Music and is the global creative director for the TJ instrument brand. He is host of the popular ‘Talking Flutes’ podcast channel and is the creator of thehappyflutist.com website for stressed and anxious musicians. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Worldwind Music Charitable Foundation.
His interests are meditation, walking, reading, observing, definitely not taking himself too seriously and spending as much of his free time with his wife Jayne.
www.trevorjamesflutes.com (click here)
Instagram @tjflutes (click here)
Facebook @trevorjamesflutes (click here)
Trevor James flutes are part of the Worldwind Music Ltd Company.