Remarkable Colcestrians - Dylan B. Christopher

Did you know Colchester has its very own Overture? We really do! We talk to the remarkable Colcestrian who composed the unique and original composition for symphony orchestra - the sharp-suited musician, composer & teacher that is Dylan B. Christopher.

We would love for you to tell us about yourself, Dylan.

I am a freelance pianist, self-employed music tutor, and classical composer living in Colchester.

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How did you end up living in Colchester?

I came to Colchester in 2007 to study at Colchester Institute. Originally from Rainham, Greater London, I came to study here under the advice of my sixth-form teacher Sue Rowley.

Colchester Institute had a good reputation for music; several teachers at my school either studied there or knew someone who did. At the time I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life, but I was sure of one thing, it would involve music.

Since I arrived almost a decade ago, I have established myself as a musician and tutor, setting up my business with my wife Samantha; I cannot think of anywhere I would rather be.

How did you become a musician and composer?

I discovered music early, although not through the convention that most in my profession did. My family are avid non-musicians, with exception to my brother who also received lessons when he was younger.

He started lessons first; I would sit through his lessons, quietly, listening, and watching. Back then, the music was simple, but I liked the sound of it, and so I would listen carefully to what he played, working it out by ear later at home.

This happened a few times until on one occasion, my mother heard me rehearsing, mistaking my playing for my brother’s, which now retrospectively speaks volumes for his playing, and why he ultimately stopped receiving lessons! She enquired for me to start lessons.

I was four years old; I received piano lessons for most of my early life, with GCSE and A-level music coming later. The rest is history.

Flash forward to today and it does feel like a blink of an eye. Arriving in Colchester and attending three years of study at Colchester Institute is what truly shaped my career. My first year saw me perform in a number of recitals for the ‘Centre for Music and Performing Arts’ (CMPA).

The second year saw a win of the Cannon Jack Award for Solo Piano, and an awarded 2
nd Place in the Roy Teed Cup for Composition. There were also chances to write music for visiting soloists. As a performance major, we were expected to perform weekly to our peers in workshops.

My third-year dissertation performance project really showed me what it was like. We had to organise a concert, which I did – for charity – enlisting supporting acts from my peers. I wrote music for them to perform, also performing some myself. The hall was packed, and we raised a decent amount.

I think I always knew that I wanted to be a musician, but it was in that moment during my dissertation recital that it was confirmed. Many people I studied with no longer pursue a professional career in music, which is not uncommon. However, today, I teach over 50 learners each week from my home in Colchester. I give at least two public recitals a year, and I write music daily some of which I publish on my website.

You know that feeling that you get when it is Christmas morning, and you cannot wait to see what gifts you have? That is my life; every day, I wake up and ask, what music can I make today?

What inspired you to write the Colchester Overture?

It’s simple really; I love Colchester. I have so many fond memories of the town that I had to commemorate it in a piece of music. It is my first real symphonic work; there were sketches and exercises, but this was the first project that I was really happy with.

Music works like a time capsule; in years to come, when I listen to it, it will invoke all the feelings, thoughts and emotions that I felt the first time I heard it. I hope that others can share my joy, and will feel happy when they hear it also.

What audience do you hope to reach?

I don’t want to exclude anyone, there is enough of that around right now. My music is for anyone and everyone who is willing to listen to it. I do not discriminate.

What is your career highlight to date?

The highlight of my career, so far, was a project that I ran, and am currently still running with Colchester New Music, a cooperative of composers working in East Anglia. We sent out a call for new accessible music to be written and performed in a collaborative concert. We call it the Piano Project.

The first call in 2014, received 29 pieces of music written for me, and my students, from across the UK and Europe, with a concert performing and recording 23 pieces of new music. The following year we received 35 pieces of music written for me, some professional colleagues, and my students, 21 of which were performed and recorded. All of these recordings are available online.

This year we narrowed the call to include only the UK. We recently closed submissions, receiving 32 pieces from the UK alone. This time, I have enlisted help from my colleagues at European Piano Teacher’s Association, Essex Chapter to help with performances.

What would you ideally like to achieve?

One day, I would love to open a dedicated music school with other like-minded musicians, but, that’s a long way off. Looking a little closer to where I am now, I would like to give more recitals and write more music for performance. I have been approaching a number of musicians, both locally, and a little further afield to perform my music.

The first performance of the colchester Overture is my current aim; a number of local orchestras have been approached. 

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How do you feel about Colchester?

It is a wonderful town with a rich history; there are lots of old buildings that give the town character. The St Botolph’s ruins, the Town Hall itself, the Old Siege House, the Roman Walls, the Barracks and annexe buildings; when I walk around, it’s difficult not to feel like you are part of history in the making.

My favourite spot would have to be the gardens at Castle Park. Almost ten years ago, my wife and I shared our first date in the gardens. A poor student at the time, we went for a picnic in the park. Looking down on to the picturesque scene of the bandstand and lake, with her, will forever be a favoured memory. Good times.

What is the best thing about living here?

In my profession, every day I meet a diverse group of people. Colchester has a wide variety of residents. In one lesson, I might be teaching an overseas student, the next I might be teaching a councillor; then after that a local primary school teacher. A town is made up of the people that live there; so definitely the people.

If you were mayor for the day what would you do?

A bit biased, but as a musician, I would make music lessons free, but mandatory, putting a piano on every street; I’m joking. In all seriousness, I would make music more accessible to people. I have fond memories of my primary school music lessons, it was the favourite for most of my peers. I think it is a great shame that funding to the arts is being cut so drastically.

Art enriches our experience as human beings, without it, there is little to separate living, and surviving. Don’t forget, the artists that we see on an international scale, all started somewhere; usually in an ‘arts’ lesson in school, be it, music, drama, creative-craft art or otherwise.

What are you working on at the moment?

Currently, I am working on a piece of music for the British Clarinet Ensemble, under the direction of Charles Hine, another previous faculty member of Colchester Institute and Colcestrian. The music will likely be performed at some point in 2018 or the new future.

I also have a series of solo piano recital lined up performing Beethoven’s Op. 7 in E-flat Major, and Chopin’s Scherzo in B-flat minor Op. 31.

Some first performances of new music written for clarinet and piano will be given by myself (piano) and Samantha (clarinet).

2018 is another busy year full of music making, not to mention my teaching; but when you love your job, you never feel like you’re working at all.

Listen to the Colchester Overture here and take a look at Dylan's website here which has details of his teaching, composing and performing. We think you'll agree, he definitely deserves the title of Remarkable Colcestrian!

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