Who or what inspired you to take up the guitar and make it your career?
Well, mostly luck! A music teacher heard me attempting classical guitar at school, and put me in touch with Sasha Levtov, a Russian émigré who organises a small music school, a recital series, and a guitar club, in my hometown, Bognor Regis. And that was it – I was hooked!
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
When I took up lessons, I became a regular at the West Sussex Guitar Club. There were regular club nights, a mix of food, impromptu ensemble playing, and an informal stage to air the latest work. These evenings, and my lessons, entered the bloodstream – I saw music as a social art, a way to bring people together and participate in something positive. More recently I lived for a year (on a sofa) with two composers and a modern artist – that exposure to current ideas stretched the imagination quite wildly…
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Arriving at the Royal College of Music came as a huge jolt to the system… in London I was painfully conscious of being a very little fish indeed. Changing tutor was hard, and being in the city, acclimatising to a new life, affected me profoundly. I had an extremely painful first year at the RCM.
I suppose the biggest technical challenge has simply been reconciling lute and guitar technique. I’m proud that most lutenists like the sound I make, even using fingernails!
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
The next one!
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I think that the most rewarding thing about music is that it invites you to enter the mindset of a composer – his world, imaginary and historical. Different composers have articulated so many things in wonderful ways. That said, I have a soft spot for John Dowland
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It’s usually the case that I have a project on the go – a big performance or a concerto, or a specific project focusing on a composer. Simply, I have a very long to-play list!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
In a sentimental mood, the Recital Hall in Bognor Regis. It’s a venue that has seen some world-renowned performers – for me, it’s the first stage I was acquainted with. I do still perform there very frequently.
I played some time ago at Bolivar Hall – the venue attached to the Embassy of Venezuela – in a series organised by Alberto Portugheis. Because of its size, sober tone, and impeccable acoustic, the atmosphere is just perfect for the guitar.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
Bach’s Suite BWV 997 (the “second lute suite”) is a great honour to play – a huge journey. I’ve loved performing Rodrigo’s Aranjuez, too, it’s very exhilarating.
My all-time favourite works are Schnittke’s Requiem, Beethoven’s 6th, the Schubert’s ‘Arpeggione’ Sonata, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon!
Who are your favourite musicians?
Some performers are magic: Fritz Wunderlich; Meredith d’Ambrosio, a Jazz singer with a dark, smoky voice; Pavel Steidl, wild-eyed Czech guitar genius with firework humour; and pianist Dinu Lipatti.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Bernard Haitink and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe performed Beethoven’s 6th this year at the Barbican… I danced in the street on the way home.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
I can’t really say with something so individual… For me, a thirst for knowledge, making imaginative connections, and empathy. Music should be alive and exciting. And always necessary are a sense of humour – and patience!
What are you working on at the moment?
The next big project is putting together a concert and talk on Schubert on the guitar: Lieder, poetry and the Arpeggione Sonata!
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Happiness isn’t a state or an acquisition, it’s a process – it arises like steam from the way in which we live our lives. It isn’t something to be chased and nailed down: it comes from the way we act, the smiles we give, the work we do. So in this way, happiness is to live, to make the most of the challenge.
What do you enjoy doing most?
RCM guitarists have just established Fika, which is the Swedish verb to have a coffee, with some sort of sweet, with friends, and one or two idle hours. I think Schubert would approve!
Classical guitarist Sam Dixon Brown has earned a reputation for “flair, personality and confidence” with his performances in the UK and abroad.
Winner of the 2011 Chichester Festival Award, the 2012 West Sussex Youth Music Award, and the 2013 Worthing Concerto Competition, Sam studied at the Regis School of Music with Sasha Levtov, and at the Junior Royal College of Music, under full bursary. He is presently a pupil of Charles Ramirez (guitar) and Jakob Lindberg (lute) at the Royal College of Music in London, where he combines his studies with a burgeoning musical career.