Drummer for the UK & International Tour of 'Mamma Mia'
Robbie is currently drummer for the UK & International Tour of the West End Smash Hit Musical, "Mamma Mia!" and has also held the percussion chair since 2014. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Music in 2009, Robbie has enjoyed a varied career working with orchestras and shows all over the world including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Star Wars in Concert, Mamma Mia! and Avenue Q.
Why did you take up percussion/drum kit and how old were you?
I was 5 years old when I had my first Percussion lesson. I was apparently constantly banging on things from an early age and my parents are both musicians so I was inspired!
Who was your first teacher and where did you start?
My first teacher was Derek Hart and we had lessons at the Carrick Centre in my local village, Houston (West of Glasgow in Scotland)
What instruments/resources did you have?
I had a snare drum and a small glockenspiel, both old and battered but brilliant for me! I got my first xylophone at age 8 and I've still got it!
Do you have any advice for young percussionists/drummers during this stage of education?
Aside from regular, quality practice, I guess I would advise loads of listening to as much different music as possible. Take every opportunity to try new instruments too, not just Percussion!
With your knowledge and experience now, what performance opportunities would you suggest young percussionists/drummers engage with?
Get involved with as many groups as you can from Orchestras to pop bands - all musical experiences are valuable!
At what point did you decide this was the profession for you?
I joined the National Children's Orchestra of Scotland from around age 9, the annual course and concert were the highlight of my year, I remember thinking "wouldn't it be cool to do this as a job!"
After school, where did you continue your studies and who did you learn with?
I went to the Royal Academy of Music where I studied with Stephen Quigley, David Searcy, Simon Carrington, Ben Hoffnung, Colin Currie, Eric Sammut, Dave Hassel and Paul Clarvis. We were also lucky to have an extensive list of world renowned artists and musicians offering master classes in a very wide variety of percussion from Bodran to Jazz Vibes.
Why did you decide this pathway?
At the time, the Royal Academy of Music seemed the most attractive option due to the teachers available and the opportunities that London has to offer.
What was your first ever professional engagement, what was it like and how did you get it?
My first professional engagement was drumming for a Ceilidh band around the Glasgow area. One of the guys knew my mum through work and they'd heard that I played drums. We had a quick rehearsal at my house one evening and then went on to play loads of gigs and weddings around Glasgow. I was about 14/15 at the time and it was a great learning opportunity for me and a wonderful taster of what it is like to earn money from your passion!
What happened next?
During my time at the Royal Academy of Music, my teacher Stephen Quigley very generously gave me a few opportunities to play with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. One of which was Star Wars in Concert at the O2 in London and also an American tour. Whilst doing other freelancing and teaching, I was slowly building enough work to make a living.
You are the drummer for the UK & International Tour of Mamma Mia, what's this like?
I absolutely love this job. I was the percussionist on the Mamma Mia Tour since 2014 and in 2019 I had the opportunity to change over to the drum kit chair. It's a fantastic gig with some amazing musicians in the band and quality tunes to play every day. I've seen some amazing places all over the world thanks to this job and it is also where I met my wife!
Are there any challenges?
Definitely. Concentration is difficult after a long period of playing the same show over and over. Keeping the music sounding fresh and vibrant is a difficult task. The musicians on Mamma Mia are incredible so I strive to give the best performance for them as much as the audience.
What other theatre work have you done? Which is your favourite show?
I've depped on a few shows and held the drum kit chair on a tour of Avenue Q. My favourite show that I've played is probably Mamma Mia. Even after countless shows I always leave with a smile on my face having enjoyed it.
What would your advice be to a young percussionist/drummer wanting to get into theatre?
Meet as many players and MDs as you can. Try and arrange to sit in the pit with players and watch them at work - I found this experience invaluable! Take every performance opportunity that comes your way and don't forget to smile and be yourself!
Do you have any other strings to your bow?
I'm a very average golfer and a half decent runner!
What is your career highlight so far?
Playing the drum solo in Star Wars in Concert and meeting George Lucas, very cool guy!
What is the best thing about being a musician?
Sharing a passion like music is a very special, indescribable feeling. Having the opportunity to work with incredible, talented musicians is absolutely amazing.
What would your 'Top Three Tips' be for a young drummer thinking about a career in music?
1. Practice! Good practice is very important, it is quite easy to practice badly. Good practice should be slow, with a metronome and one should be very strict with one's self!
2. Listen. Listen to music, listen to other musicians, listen when people are talking about music and the business. Your ears are the most valuable instrument you'll ever own.
3. Seize opportunity. Get involved in as many performing opportunities as you can, you never know where things could lead!
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