The Conductor

Jonathan Bailey

johnathanbaileyJon is our principal conductor, and has been since the very early days of the band. Jon was born at Hyde in Cheshire, and his first instrument was the cornet, which he took up at the age of nine. Whilst still at school, Jon played in the Darley Dale Silver Band and, after moving south, the Staines Silver Band. He also played in the National Youth Brass Band. At the age of 13 he won a slow melody competition and as a result was invited to appear on the BBC children’s TV show “Crackerjack”. He performed live and playing from memory (because he didn’t want to wear his glasses on TV), in a duet with the guitarist Bert Weedon.

Jon studied trumpet and piano at the Royal College of Music, where his trumpet teacher was Bob Walton. By this time Jon was finding jazz more to his taste than classical music, and so he played in a variety of jazz ensembles whilst a student, including the Morley College Jazz Orchestra, conducted by the legendary Gordon Rose. At the time this ensemble was at the forefront of modern big bands, typically playing original arrangements rather than recreating the sound of earlier swing bands.

Jon’s first job after leaving college was in the orchestra of a touring production of “My Fair Lady”. He spent the next few years as an itinerant musician, playing in many theatre productions, as well as on a cruise liner and spending several months in Germany with a band entertaining American servicemen. He then trained as a teacher at Reading Bulmershe College and taught for the next six years, as the head of music department at a state school in Hillingdon. Whilst at college he sang in a choir that won its class at the International Eisteddfod!

After returning to the Home Counties, Jon began to get the occasional job in the West End, and the work became so regular that eventually he decided to give up teaching and become a full-time professional again. He then spent many years playing in the pit in West End theatres, including six years in the orchestra of the Victoria Palace Theatre. Once again he played for many of the top names in entertainment, including Max Bygraves, Cilla Black and Jimmy Tarbuck. Jon also spent two years playing for the stars of the “Carry On…” series of films in their show, “Carry On London” and at the Prince of Wales theatre for Tommy Steele productions. At the London Palladium he played for international stars like Ginger Rogers, Sammy Davis Junior and many other “Greats”.

After the birth of his first child, Jon and his family moved to Sussex, taking the opportunity to work at the Congress theatre in Eastbourne on a fairly regular basis. Nevertheless he continued to commute back to London for his work in the theatre, until the opportunity arose to join the newly formed Herb Miller Orchestra, with whom he played for the next fifteen years, the majority of the time combining his playing duties with the role of managing the company. Jon played in many tours to all parts of the world, including Scandinavia and Western Europe with occasional visits to the Middle East. During this time he produced a series of Big Band shows with guest artists joining the Orchestra under the title “In the Mood”.

In the last few years Jon has combined some teaching in primary schools and privately with his other enduring passion, specialising in skiing trips to France. This sprang from the experience of organising the coach travel he developed as a means of transporting the Herb Miller Orchestra.

Jon is also the director of a big band, called Swingshift, which features many of the members of the East Sussex Concert Band, and which is building up a reputation for itself playing dances,  events and concerts around the local area.