Meet the Musicians | Jenny Akroyd, saxophone

Nevis Ensemble Marketing and PR Assistant, Isaac Boothman chats with Nevis saxophonist Jenny Akroyd.

How did you end up in Nevis Ensemble?

So in 2018, I saw Nevis on Facebook or somewhere, and it was when they were first doing their call out for musicians. I’d been wanting to join Street Orchestra, but every time they did auditions or tours I couldn’t do them. So then when I saw this, I thought: ‘well I’ve never been to Scotland’!

I like auditions, there aren’t many places that take saxophones in orchestras, and I really love orchestral playing, (which is something that you often miss out on when you’re a classical sax player), so I applied. Then I remember getting an e-mail from Jamie saying: ‘are you alright to come to Scotland for an audition?’. So I went on a day trip from Birmingham on the train, leaving at 6 in the morning, had a nice little morning wander around Glasgow, auditioned, had another little wander, and went home. And then I was in.

Do you have a particular favourite Nevis memory?

There are actually so many! I was trying really, really, REALLY hard to think of a single one. I’ve got two:

One was when we went to St Kilda, because that whole day was just so magical. First of all, just arriving – it was such a beautiful day, it was so distant from everywhere. To be in a place so tranquil, and that felt so untouched – no one’s lived there for years apart from a handful of scientists– it was so lovely. When we played two of ‘The Lost Songs’ on the island, it was so moving and spiritual, even though there was no spiritual intention. I don’t really know how to explain it, which is probably the best way to explain it, right?

The other one encompasses all my favourite concerts, and so it’s basically anytime we played the Scots Medley with a good audience. The Scots medley works really well in hospitals, care homes, groups of good people who really get into it. Sometimes the audience start humming Loch Lomond, and I get the chills, because it’s a really lovely arrangement – the music’s really busy, then it becomes really tranquil, and you can hear people humming. It cuts through, and you’re just… woah!  And then when Auld Lang Syne starts, it’s really lovely, because it’s about missing people, isn’t it? Whenever I’m up in Scotland I’m away from all of my family, with Nevis like a family away from family. I’ve cried playing it more often than not. It’s just very powerful, basically.

How has your involvement in music changed your life or career?

What music has allowed me to do is meet lots of cool and interesting people; the people that I’ve connected with the most have been through music. And it’s interesting because you don’t really have to say words to build a connection with them? Most of the people I talk to now are musicians, and that’s because they’ve become my best pals! It’s given me a different outlook on people from all walks of life as well; meeting people who’ve had different experiences, and learning lots from the people I’ve met. I think that is what Music has allowed me to do – meet interesting people who’ve taught me lots about the world.

What would your ideal vision for music and the arts be?

I would love it if everyone could have equal access. At the moment in a lot of places, having access to music and the arts is a privilege, and I don’t think it should be. It should be a right. Everyone should have a really excellent music and arts education, which is where most things for me start, and it should be on the same level as English or Maths, because you can learn so much through music that you can’t learn through Maths, like empathy, and it even improves other skills as well. That would break downs barriers, right? I would love everyone to have equal access.

What are you looking forward to doing with Nevis in the future?

Well first of all, just playing with them! It’s been so long – almost a year now! I don’t know what the rest of the plans are now – we were meant to do the Europe tour in summer – but it’s not even just doing the grand tour, but just playing with Nevis, playing with people. I haven’t played with anyone since march, apart from finishing my masters with an accompanist to an audience of one….. Just playing with people, who I always have fun with, just being there and making some noise!

Describe a typical day for you.

I now have a full-time job, so I now get up around about 6am, leave at 7, and then work from 8 till 4ish. I work at a prep school as a music assistant, which is very varied work. I take classes, which is fun, I take rehearsals, and I often just have to chase kids around the school and tell them where they should be. I do lots of laminating, and I really like laminating! There’s lots of admin and organisation, but lots of music as well. Then I come home, and some nights I do extra teaching. Then its either baking or practice. At the moment it’s mostly baking, as I don’t have anything to practice for. Essentially: working, baking, eating, and then sometimes playing the saxophone.

What are your top three bucket list items?

  1. Travel. The thing I really love about travelling is the movement – obviously seeing people, doing things – but I love the act of travelling as much as seeing things. I would love, love, LOVE to go to Singapore without flying, on roads, trains buses, and boats. I have planned it, its just finding the time and the money, both my time and the right time for the world. And the other thing as a part of Travel would be to do a big road trip around the ‘Stans. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, because I love architecture, and they’ve got really interesting architecture! I don’t really know that much about architecture, but I love looking at buildings! I really love the Silk Road as well, because I’ve been to China and Mongolia, and these places would allow me to finish it all off.
  2. I’d love to write a book, I don’t know what about, or who for, but I’d just really like to write a book. I really like creating things, so it’d be really nice to see the finished product. It could be story book for kids, it could be an academic book – who knows!
  3. Go for a coffee with Philip Glass. I think his music is so incredible; I can listen to it for hours and hours, and I have so many questions I would love to ask him. He’s quite old though, so we’ll see!

What is your favourite dessert and why?

I had to think so hard about this, because I do a lot of baking… and I bake stuff a lot of the time because I like baking more than I like eating what I’ve baked. So I had to think about what I would enjoy baking, and then what I would also really enjoy eating. I went down the nostalgic route. I think my favourite pudding that I could eat forever, for the rest of my life, would a be a jam sponge. I am the biggest fan of a jam sponge. From ever since I was a young child – we had it at school, just a sponge with jam on it. It’s a traybake too, so nice and easy – and recently it’s come back into my life now I work at a school.

What is your favourite word and why?

I actually really like the word llama. I don’t know much about the etymology or the history of the word, I just like the fact it’s got a double ‘L’.

What are your plans for the festive season?

I don’t have many plans, but now I’m working full time, I find myself not practising the saxophone as much as I used to. Working at a school means I get a holiday – about 3 weeks off? So I’m going to play the saxophone, set some goals, and learn some new pieces. I’ve also borrowed an oboe, and I reckon I can get to grade 4 by Easter. I can play all the notes, but I just tire easily, and sound like a duck so need to play it more. I have no long term goals with it, there was just an oboe available and I thought it would be a laugh. Other than that I’ll spend time with my family. My sister is coming back from university, and it’s probably the longest I haven’t seen her, because you know, normally you’re allowed to move around the country! So I’ll see family, eat lots and pass the time baking and making music.

If you could swim in any liquid what would it be and why?

So: I took this question to be ‘if you could swim in a liquid without looking like a weirdo, what would it be?’, and the kind of liquid I like, and the kind of liquid I like to eat, is honey. I would, if I could, try and swim in honey because it’s quite thick. But not clear honey, because I don’t know, I want to get some gains out of this, right? It’s not just for the sake of swimming. Because with clear honey – there’s less of a challenge! I thought it’d be funnier, with set honey, just kind of gliding, which is just better than swimming in runny honey. Also, I just really appreciate bees.