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Departmental Teaching Staff

Director of Music - Timothy P Venvell MA ARCO


Richard Bolton grew up in Birmingham and Belfast, singing in the cathedral choir of St. Anne’s, Belfast and attending King Edward’s School, where he developed a dual interest in classical music (playing the ‘cello) and popular styles (on the guitar).

Following his music degree at Christ Church, Oxford University, he spent 17 years working as a freelance musician and peripatetic teacher before studying for a PGCE at the Institute of Education, London in 2002. He has been teaching at RGS since 2006.

Previous teaching included outreach work with Community Music, London, teaching improvisation to Post Graduate students at the Guildhall, and as a peripatetic guitar teacher at St. Paul’s Girls’ School and Brunel University, among many other educational establishments.

Performances included theatrical work for the National Theatre and the RSC and touring with the Besht Tellers and Opera Circus; most of the UK’s major jazz festivals, the Proms and Ronnie Scott’s. Published recordings have included June Tabor’s CDs A Quiet Eye and Rosa Mundi, three cds with maverick bluesman Billy Jenkins, two collections of traditional and original duos with folk fiddler Pete Cooper, and a disc of original jazz quintet compositions, City Life. Commercial recordings include work for Rolf Harris and the soundtrack to Robert Altman’s film Gosford Park.

Most notably, he has every so often over the last twelve years accompanied the world-famous opera singer Sir Willard White in his shows exploring the life and work of Paul Robeson.

Further study has included a Post Graduate Certificate in Jazz and Rock from the Guildhall School of Music, an M.Mus. from Sheffield University awarded for research into jazz improvisation and, most recently, a further PG Cert from Hertfordshire University in Music Technology.

Instrumental Teaching Staff


Bassoon - Fiona Byrne

Fiona Byrne began her musical training at Trinity College London and completed her post graduate studies at the Guildhall School of music and drama. She has been teaching woodwind instruments, particularly double reeds for 18 years.

In addition to teaching Fiona performs regularly as a freelance musician with a number of orchestras.


Flute, Clarinet - Elizabeth Spencer

Oboe - Heather Jordan

Heather studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Janet Craxton.  She joined the BBC Training Orchestra on leaving college and then spent several seasons with English National Opera, playing oboe and cor anglais.

After having her family, she continued to play on a free lance basis and developed a broader teaching career.  Currently she teaches oboe at several schools including the High Wycombe Music Centre and Eton College, as well as the RGS, and she is a regular deputy teacher at the Junior Royal College of Music.

She enjoys accompanying whenever possible, and for several years has chosen the oboe syllabus for the Associated board exams – though so far the hope that either activity might give her pupils an unfair advantage is unproven!

Saxophone, Clarinet - Alison Downie

Alison Downie studied at the Royal Northern College of Music with Sidney Fell gaining her GRNCM and PPRNCM and was awarded her Post Graduate Certificate of Education after studying at Breton Hall College in Wakefield .

Since 1986, Alison has been a full-time woodwind instructor for Bucks County Council, teaching clarinet, flute saxophone and piano.  In this capacity, she has also directed chamber ensembles in the Purcell Room on the South Bank as part of the National Festival of Music for Youth being presented with ‘Outstanding Performance’ awards for both Clarinet Choir and Clarinet Quartet and ‘Highly Commended’ for Wind Quintet.

In 1983, Alison joined the West London Sinfonia as principal clarinet and was then invited to become principal clarinet of the Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Butcher, performing with them the Mozart, Finzi and Copland clarinet concertos. and most recently the Weber Clarinet Concerto.  Alison has also worked with Geoffrey Brand for R. Smith Band Publications recording as principal clarinet, with the BBC Concert Orchestra for a specially commissioned piece and does regular ad hoc work in and around the London area.

Saxophone - Jay Craig

Jay CraigEdinburgh-born baritone saxist Jay Craig’s infatuation with the instrument began at the tender age of fourteen when he was taken to hear Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and met the man who was to have such a profound influence on his playing - Harry Carney.

Later, following a four year stint in the National Youth jazz Orchestra combined with several years under the stern baton of veteran bandleader Tommy Sampson at the Glasgow Rangers Club, Jay won a scholarship to Boston’s famous Berklee College of Music. After two years he left to join the Buddy Rich Orchestra, touring America and Europe solidly for the next three years.

Upon moving to London in 1987, Jay freelanced in the West End as a theatre musician, did a couple of cruises on the QE2 and a season in Monte Carlo with the Johnny Howard Band before joining the BBC Big Band in 1992.

A founder member of the Echoes of Ellington, Back To Basie and Solid Senders orchestras he is currently the baritone sax man in the Syd Lawrence and John Wilson orchestras as well as the BBC Big Band while continuing to deputise regularly in various theatre pits. His favourite musicians include Harry Carney, Artie Shaw, Sy Oliver, Johnny Hodges, Jerry Gray, Kenny Baker, Luis Arcaraz, Bruce Johnstone, Duke Ellington and Woody Herman.

Over the years Jay has worked with many of his favourite artists including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Cleo Laine, Robert Farnon, Shirley Bassey, Natalie Cole, Billy May, Bob Florence, Lennie Niehaus, Elmer Bernstein, Les Brown, Ray Anthony, Lalo Schiffrin, Sir John Dankworth, Rosemary Clooney, Vic Damone, Gerald Wilson, Mel Torme, Sir Simon Rattle, Jessye Norman, Sammy Davis Jr. and a host of other artists as well as The London Symphony Orchestra, The BBC Concert and Scottish Symphony Orchestras, The CBSO, The London Philharmonic Orchestra and The London Sinfonietta.

Jay is particularly proud of the John Wilson Orchestra soundtrack for the recent movie about Bobby Darin, “Beyond The Sea”…. a very happy experience.

Saxophone - Robert Fowler

Robert FowlerRobert’s jazz career first started, whilst studying in Bristol. He played with a variety of local bands, and often appeared at the famous ‘Old Duke’ where he regularly sat in with visiting stars such as Danny Moss and Roy Williams.

On graduating he was approached to play with The Pasadena Roof Orchestra, on the recommendation of NYJO boss Bill Ashton. Thus followed nearly a decade of international and national touring, travelling much of Europe, the USA and the UK, which Robert found invaluable - nurturing his early talent and developing his rich sound.

Since leaving the PRO, Robert has worked with many bands from the British jazz scene, appearing with The Great British Jazz Band, The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, and The BBC Big Band and is a regular with Alan Barnes’ octet as well as The Back to Basie Orchestra.

In 1999 Robert was asked to play on a session for Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry,for the album ‘As Time goes by’. This led to a further two years of touring with Bryan and working across other areas of the musical spectrum. More recently, Robert has been playing in London and Paris with Canadian singer, Rufus Wainwright, as well as appearing with the RTE Orchestra in Dublin and the CBSO in Birmingham.

Robert has also played on many Film and TV sessions. You can hear his solo clarinet on the soundtrack of Guy Ritchie’s film ‘Snatch’ as well as ITV’s comedy drama, ‘The Good Samaritan’. He will also be heard playing clarinet on the forthcoming movie, ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’.

In 2004, Robert released his own CD ‘Tight Lines’ which features his broad mellow sound, reminiscent of the great tenor saxophonists of the 40’s and 50’s, as well as his swinging clarinet playing. The album was featured recently on Jazz FM’s ‘Mainstem’ programme  hosted by Campbell Burnap, as well as Humphrey Lyttelton’s Best of Jazz on Radio 2, and has received excellent reviews from the jazz press.

About two years ago, Robert joined the ranks of the Humphrey Lyttelton Band. Since Humph’s death in April 2008, the band is currently honouring many concert dates, performing his music as a tribute to the great man.

Robert has lived in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire with his wife and young family for nine years and will be playing across the country in the near future, both with ‘Humph’s’ Band and his own quartet. 


Martin Hellewell

Martin Hellewell started his brass playing as a young member of the Salvation Army on Flugel Horn and later moved on to Tenor Horn.

In 1975 he enlisted into the Royal Air Force and after completing training with the RAF School of Music successfully auditioned for a position with the RAF Central Band as a French Horn player.  His career took him to many parts of the world including Hong Kong, Japan, USA, Canada, Cyprus, Jordan, Gibraltar and many other European countries.  Apart from a three-year tour with the RAF Germany Band and a four-year posting to the RAF Music Services Headquarters as Engagement Coordinator, he served his entire career with the prestigious RAF Central Band. In 1994 he was appointed as the bands Drum Major and in 1997 gained the LRSM in Bandmastership.

On retirement from the Royal Air Force in September 2003 he decided to utilise his teaching skills in a completely different sphere of work and now enjoys being his own boss as a Driving Instructor.

As well as teaching brass, Martin has been the conductor of the Senior Wind Band at the High Wycombe Music Centre since January 2004.

Andrew Rogers

Andy RogersAndy Rogers studied tuba and composition at the University of Huddersfield with Stuart Roebuck and Barrie Webb. He is a Senior Peripatetic Teacher with the Buckinghamshire Music Service and has been working at RGS since 1996. Since 2005, Andy has embraced new initiatives in whole class instrumental teaching including the establishment of the Year 7 brass project. This work led him to become an Open University / Trinity College Trainer in 2007.His work for the Music Service involves conducting the prestigious Concert Band who he led to a Gold Medal at the National Concert Band Festival in 2005.

As a composer, Andy’s works are performanced frequently by a wide range of groups including London Sympony Orchestra, Central Band of the Royal Air Force, Yorkshire Arts Firebird Ensemble, Bucks Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Wycombe Sinfonia to name just a few.   He is the author of the book 'Switch on to Jazz' - available in all good bookshops!!

Since becoming a father in 2006, free time has been at a premium, but when he is excused parental duties he enjoys Geocaching, watching Wycombe Wanderers, walking and crosswords.

Paul Speed

Paul SpeedPaul Speed has taught at The RGS since 2005. He studied music at Goldsmiths’ College, London for a Bachelor of Music degree before continuing his trumpet studies with Paul Cosh and Paul Archibald.

As a freelance trumpet player Paul has performed abroad with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and toured Europe and Asia with the German based orchestra Philharmonie die Nationen.

At home Paul has played with various orchestras including Orchestra of St John’s, Smith Square London Concert Orchestra and The Britten Sinfonia. He has also toured with the Carl Rosa Opera Company and the national tour of Joseph.

As a soloist Paul has recently performed Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.2 and Vivaldi’s double trumpet concerto. Paul also teaches at Wellington College and The Abbey School, Reading and when not working enjoys running, but unlike his name, not particularly rapidly!

Nick Care

Nick Care (BA Hons, LHSM, Cert Ed) works for the Aylesbury Music Centre and as part of his remit directs the multi award winning Aylesbury Music Centre Big Band and other ensembles.

Under his direction these bands have won 30 major National Awards, including the BBC Radio 2 Big Band Competition youth section, numerous times and have played with jazz and  classical luminaries such as Kenny Wheeler, Django Bates, Paul Clavis, Peter King, Julian Joseph, Owen Slade, Crispian Steele-Perkins and James Watson.  Five of his bands have played at the Finals of the National Festival of Music for Youth where four of whom have been award winners, some on numerous occasions.  Nick’s bands have featured in Tatler Magazine, the TES, the Independent and the Telegraph

The AMC Big Band have played at the North Sea Jazz Festival four times and in 2009 were the only school aged band in the world to be invited to play there.  Other artists that year included Wynton Marsalis and Adele. They’ve additionally played on BBC TV and Radio, at the Royal Albert Hall, the London Palladium, the Millennium Dome and Buckingham Palace.    

Nick’s work as an adjudicator has included adjudicating for the National Finals of the Boosey & Hawkes Concert Band Festival.  He has tutored for the North East Scotland Music School and regularly works with Paul Eshelby tutoring on a Big Band course as well as conducting on an annual Summer Orchestral Course in the Channel Islands.

In a previous life as a member of the Farnaby Brass Ensemble and before ‘other things’ took ‘centre stage’, Nick played at most of London’s premier concert venues including the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room, BBC Broadcasting House and St John’s Smith Square.  Recorded work includes concerts for BBC Radio 3, Radio 4, Channel 4 TV plus a DVD with Sir David Willcocks & Aled Jones.


Cello, Double Bass - Sarah Willis

Violin, Viola - Sylvia Rose

Classical Guitar - Gareth Holwill

Gareth Holwill was born in St. Albans. He attended Uppingham School where he was a Music Scholar and member of the Chapel Choir. Later, he read Music at the University of Bristol where he also took an MA in Composition. At Bristol he studied composition with Geoff Poole, John Pickard and Neal Farwell. Subsequently, Gareth undertook post-graduate studies in guitar at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama with John Mills, Eleftheria Kotzia and Chris Stell. Gareth has partaken in master classes with some of the world's leading guitarists, including David Russell, Denis Azabagic, Xuefei Yang and Craig Ogden. In 2008 he gave the world premiere of the Sonata for Guitar by Tim Benjamin at Christ Church, Oxford. During the summer of 2010 Gareth was invited to perform for the great French guitarist-composer, Roland Dyens, at the West Dean International Guitar Festival. Gareth divides his time between performing, composing and teaching for the High Wycombe Music Centre.


Electric Guitar - Gary Sculpher, Gerry Power

Bass Guitar - Steve Sculpher


Ian Lemon

Ross Elder

Ross Elder has many years experience as a Professional Drummer having worked with musicians of all levels and styles.

A veteran of recording, touring and gigging, Ross is also an established Drum Teacher, working for Buckinghamshire Music Services, and has been passing on his experience for a number of years to both male and female players of all ages and levels at numerous schools around Bucks where he teaches mainly on a one-to-one basis simply for pleasure and/or to grade and GCSE levels.

As well as teaching from various publications, ‘RockSchool’ books/cds are featured very highly, which allows the student to sight-read and improvise with many different styles such as Pop, Rock, Latin, Jazz, Reggae, Punk, Drum’n’Bass etc.

A modern approach is used where development of individual style and creativity from each student is greatly encouraged.

A very high pass rate has been achieved since using ROCKSCHOOL exams.

For all information about Rockschool qualifications and UCAS points please visit their website:

Lessons are on a ‘one-to-one’ and the duration of the lesson varies slightly depending on the individual school.

Piano, Theory - Stephen Armstrong

Stephen ArmstrongStephen Armstrong was born in London and educated at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe. It was at this time that he began studying the organ with Richard Hickox and later with Alastair Ross.  Whilst still at school, he became assistant organist at High Wycombe Parish church.

Stephen studied at the Royal College of Music before winning the organ scholarship to Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he read music.  Under his direction, the Chapel Choir made two recordings of church music – “Music for Christmas” and Music for Evensong”.

In 1977, he founded the St. Margaret’s Singers who, in 1979, were renamed the Fairhaven Singers.  He was appointed conductor of the High Wycombe Choral Society and the Felice Orchestra in 1984.  In the same year, he became chorus master of the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra Chorus.  Later, in 1989, he became President of the Fairhaven Singers.  As well as numerous appearances in Cambridge, he has conducted at the Royal Festival Hall, the Queens Elizabeth Hall, St John’s Smith Square and in Edinburgh and Oxford.

He now performs regularly in the USA. Alongside his conducting career, he has built up a large piano and organ teaching practice, focused particularly on the RGS.

Singing - Cathy Langdale

Cathy has been teaching at RGS since 2005 and has had the pleasure of working with many sixth-form singers preparing for Grade 8 . The most recent of those started with her in Year 7.

Cathy has always loved singing. She joined her church choir at 7 years old and enjoyed some very inspiring music teaching whilst at Oxford High School. She then became  one of two female choral scholars in Oxford University,at the Queen’s College. After this she joined the choir of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge whilst she studied for a PGCE in Maths. After a couple of years teaching in London and singing with the Holst Singers, where she met her husband, she went to study for the Post-Graduate Diploma in Singing at Trinity College of Music.

On leaving Trinity she did a great deal of solo singing in oratorios and concerts across the country and on tours to France , Belgium and the Czech Republic. As a chorister she sang often as an extra with the BBC Singers.

 She and her college pianist formed a regular duo which still carries on.

 She set up the singing departments Godolphin and Latymer School and at Dulwich College, sending two early students to the Royal Academy of Music. Cathy then spent four years with her family in Rome, teaching at an international school. Her pupils’ Italian pronunciation was perfect! There she had the chance to sing with an Italian lutenist, giving recitals of English and Italian music.

She also teaches at the two Dr Challoner’s Grammar Schools . She runs a close harmony group for girls and always enters lots of pupils for the Marlow festival, both in solo and duet classes .

She lives in Chalfont St Giles where she directs the Church Choir , a most time-consuming but rewarding job. Her favourite pastime is going to the opera, when funds permit. She also enjoys a weekly Italian class and likes to get out to the continent at least twice a year. At home she loves gardening, tennis, cycling and walking and cooking for her teenage family

The music recitals and concerts are truly first classParent Comment