An unsual career path encompassing a broad range of activities has led Nick Walkley to becoming a freelance professional musician with an eclectic portfolio as trumpet player, ensemble leader, conductor, composer/arranger, educator and music journalist. Now based in Stavanger, Norway, he works primarily as a cornettist, instructor and band conductor. Initially trained as an architect before serving as a musician in the British Army, he now operates a busy freelance schedule across Northern Europe and beyond.
Nick was educated at the Royal Academy of Music, London, graduating with distinction from the Masters Degree course in 2014. This was obtained whilst proudly serving in the Band of the Irish Guards, before promotion to the Welsh Guards as Principal cornet in the same year. He is also a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, and a past beneficiary of both the Countess of Munster Trust and James Watson fund.
Nick is also the leader of the brass ensemble project ‘æðelfrìth’, a collective focusing on repertoire from across Northern Europe, specifically with connections to Anglo, Celtic and Nordic cultures. Following their brass ensemble award in 2013 from the Worshipful Company of Musicians, the group has continued to flourish, now established as innovative performers of original music and new arrangements. As well as Nick’s arrangements and compositions, the group has premiered work by Michael Berkeley, Simon Dobson, Philip White and Ian Shepherd. It has performed at Ryedale Festival, St Martin in the Fields, St John’s Smith Square, as well as having broadcasted on BBC Radio 3.
Music only became Nick’s professional career choice at the age of 25. Prior to this, his musical upbringing had been as an amateur cornet player within the British brass band movement. As a member of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain between 2000-2005, he had been well educated as a teenager under the guidance of Elgar Howarth. At the age of 19 he was appointed Principal Cornet of the Williams Fairey band, and later became the bands Soprano Cornet player. During this period he also held principal positions at both Leyland and Yorkshire Building Society bands. Since moving to London, Nick has continued his association with brass bands as a regular guest of both Cory and Grimethorpe bands. With Cory he was guest principal cornet for their 2009 World Music Championships victory in Kerkrade, Netherlands. With Grimethorpe he enjoyed a successful concert tour of Australia in 2015, performing to fully sold-out audiences from Brisbane to Perth.
A career in the army opened up terrific opportunities as a professional musician. During training at Kneller Hall he was awarded both the Cassell and Cousin’s prizes for the best overall instrumentalist and musician to graduate that year. Regular duties with the Irish Guards included taking part in Changing of the Guard ceremonies, as well as Trooping the Colour, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. He was part of many State Visits by world dignitaries, including a notable historic first from the President of the Republic of Ireland in 2013. Months before that, Nick was tasked to accompany the British and Irish Prime Ministers on a trip to Ypres, Belgium to perform the Last Post in a special historic service at the Menin gate. A move to the Welsh Guards was followed by promotion to Lance Corporal, and to the position of Principal Cornet. Amongst the many highlights of this time included prestigious fanfare performances with Nick on 1st trumpet in such venues such as Westminster, St Paul’s and Liverpool Anglican Cathedrals. For the 2015 Household Division Beating Retreat he was chosen to perform ‘The Last Post’ on a bugle recovered from the battlefield of Waterloo 200 years earlier. In the build up to the event, the interest in this artefact generated a media storm which led to Nick performing in front of news cameras from across the globe. Later that year Nick reached the pinnacle of Army musicianship by serving as Principal Trumpet of the Household Division band and orchestra, appearing on the televised Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, and the Scarlet and Gold concerts at Cadogan Hall, Chelsea.
Nick also performs regularly as a trumpet soloist, with bands, piano, organ, and orchestra. Notable highlights include a tour of India with the South West Festival Chorus in Handel’s ‘Messiah’, where it was performed in full for the very first time in Goa with the Symphony Orchestra of India. He has also featured as a soloist in Dublin Cathedral alongside soprano Claudia Boyle as part of the inaugural Dublin Brass Week. In 2015 he was invited to perform a premiere of a new trumpet and organ work entitled ‘Northern Images’, written and accompanied by Martin Stacey and performed as part of the ‘Annual Festival of New Organ music’ in Westminster Central Hall. He has also featured regularly as a soloist alongside bands, and in 2014 was awarded ‘Best solo performance of the year’ by the Welsh Guards band.
As a keen traveller, Nick’s career has afforded him opportunities to perform in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, India, Jordan, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg and Norway. Landscapes and historical cultures have often fuelled inspiration for Nick’s growing portfolio of compositions and arrangements. Often he enjoys exploring these by foot, mountain bike or sailing boat. In 2014 he completed a solo coast to coast mountain bike ride along the Trans Pennine Trail, raising money for the James Watson fund from which he received support from whilst studying. A gruelling 260 mile ride was completed in 5 days, supported with visits to the Fairey Band, Black Dyke Band, Grimethorpe Colliery Band and instrument-manufacturers Smith Watkins along the route.