Q&A with APO Bass Trombone, Timothy Sutton

Where are you from?
I am a first-generation New Zealander from Wellington, after my parents emigrated from England due to an NZ job scheme in the 1960s.

How long have you been a musician in the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra?
I started playing bass trombone in the APO straight out of finishing my performance degree at Victoria University and before the job was even a full-time position in 1990. 

What is your musical background? Have you always wanted to be a musician?
My dad plays the saxophone and through him, I have always had an opportunity to learn music.

I started with the recorder, which I detested! So, I was taken to a concert at the Raroa Music Centre, which is a Saturday morning music school that is still going strong today. I was told to have a listen and pick an instrument that attracted me; one that I could learn at the centre for the following year. I had my heart set on the trumpet until I saw another kid (Brian Kelly) playing trombone in the back of the group. I was hooked!

Can you play any other instrument, besides the bass trombone?
Well…I remember asking my dad if I could learn the trumpet after a few years of learning trombone. He asked me: “Why? Do you think you have mastered the trombone”? I took this comment as advice to focus on my original instrument and 44 years later – I’ve still not mastered it! 

What is your funniest story from performing as an orchestra musician?
I remember playing a pops-type of Christmas concert under Carl Doy at the Aotea Centre. There were two paper canons placed on either side of the orchestra at the back. These canons were meant to shoot paper into the air that would then sprinkle down like snowfall over the players.

What ended up happening instead, was two heavy balls of tightly packed paper fired into the fourth horn and tuba players who were sitting on the ends of the rows! 

What are you most looking forward to in the APO’s 2021 season?
The bass trombone usually only has small snippets to play from the great masters but occasionally there is a gem of a part with a lot to do. This year that part is in Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, with The New Zealand Herald Premier Series: The Greats on Thursday 22 July. 

What are your interests outside of music?
I enjoy working around my house and property. I often have some kind of project on the go. I also keep an active interest in whatever my kids are excited about. Football, dance, fishing, surfing, parkour…

What makes you happiest?
Sitting down to listen to a jazz trombonist from my ever-growing vinyl collection.

What might surprise people to know about you?
I volunteered as a fireman for six years.

Quickfire! What is your favourite-at-the-moment...?

Book: I’m currently reading Just As I Am, which is an autobiography by Cicely Tyson

MovieThe Shining

TV Show: My COVID lockdown TV regimen included working through the Seinfeld series.

Food: My greatest taste sensation is cream cheese, avocado and tomato on toast.

I don’t really eat dairy anymore, but I use a remarkable pea protein cream cheese – you wouldn’t know the difference from the real thing. You also need home-grown beefsteak tomatoes and a fresh sourdough loaf from Daily Bread in Point Chevalier. Flaky sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil…hang on, this is meant to be quick fire!

Song: The most powerful, haunting track that has really stuck with me is ‘What Have You Done’ by William Shatner. Listen with headphones to get the full impact!

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