A native of the Wirral, Jo was captivated by the clarinet when she heard it played by her music teacher in primary school -Alan Thompson. ‘He looked a bit like Compo from Last of the Summer Wine! Each morning, instead of ticking names off the register, we would have to sing our names - simply terrifying!!!’ She started having lessons with Mr Thompson when she turned ten and he was sure she was big enough - she says ‘ it turns out I didn’t get any bigger!’
Jo then had lessons with John Fuest – Oliver Janes’ grandfather and ex CBSO first clarinet – who was first clarinet at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at the time. John encouraged Jo to go to Chethams for her sixth form studies before continuing to study at the Royal Northern College of Music with John Reynolds.
After college Jo embarked on a busy freelance career which enabled her to work with many of the UK's finest orchestras. Jo joined the CBSO in 2006 and during her time here has also served on the orchestra’s Artistic Think Tank, the Board of Trustees and is currently Player Chair of the orchestra.
Connecting with audiences has never been more important. The pandemic has changed everything; the way we work together, the content of our programmes & how we share it & most of all what it is to be a musician and the connective power of music.
Jo’s dream is to see our concert halls really reflect the incredible diversity of our cities & is really motivated to explore meaningful ways to achieving this. ‘One of the best things about an orchestra is how musicians of all ages and from all backgrounds mix & connect with each other- our audiences should reflect that too!’
Jo also teaches at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire & in her spare time enjoys socialising with friends, running, reading, skiing, learning Spanish and travelling.
A quick Q&A with Jo...
What (or who) first inspired you to start learning an instrument?
I was really lucky to go to a primary school that was full of music. There were three teachers who played instruments. It was compulsory for every year 3 student to learn the recorder. In fact I remember wanting to give up because I couldn't play the theme tune to Match of the Day!!! Shortly after this, having passed a very basic test of musicianship- I was able to tell whether a note is high or low, long or short, I was given the opportunity to learn the violin for free in school.
How do you most enjoy spending your days off?
I am really bad at relaxing! I always think I want to chill out and watch tv all day but the truth is I never really manage it! I love learning. I love being curious so I always get distracted by another possibility. I really enjoying running (well jogging..) and am really lucky to live near the amazing Sutton Park. Sometimes I go running and chatting with Elspeth (french horn) and we get distracted by a nice coffee in the park- that’s one of my favourite things to do! I also love eating and have become much more curious by food during recent years. My favourite place in Birmingham is the fish market. Greg at Pearce’s Shellfish is the best! I am very lucky that my partner Mark is an incredible cook so I’m quite often spoiled with really inventive meals that would take me three days to prepare but take him minutes. I love drinking wine and socialising with friends, I love skiing, I love travelling and most of all I love adventures which leave me a story to tell!
What’s the best thing about being a member of the CBSO?
Connecting with audiences has never been more important. The pandemic has changed everything; the way we work together, the content of our programmes, the projects we undertake, how we share & how we connect through music. I am really excited to see so many more young people at our concerts. It really changes the atmosphere and one day I hope we see our concert halls truly reflect the incredible diversity of our city. One of the best things about an orchestra is how musicians of all ages and from all backgrounds mix & connect with each other- it is an obvious place for our audiences to reflect that too!