Back to News
Tutors on Tour... with Reuben Fowler (Part II)

Tutors on Tour... with Reuben Fowler (Part II)

03 January 2018

What is it really like to tour the world playing music with international artists? Follow brass tutor, Reuben Fowler as he writes about his experiences on tour with Culture Club...

I’m presently in Perth Airport, Australia; preparing to board a flight to Singapore where we’ll be doing the final show of the tour. Boy am I looking forward to coming home! Not because the run hasn’t been good; it’s just been long.

Last time I wrote, I was in New York City. Since then, the following show in Brazil was cancelled resulting in a couple of days off in Hoboken (notorious for being the birthplace of Frank Sinatra: a short 20 minute train-ride from Manhattan.) Times like these are sometimes welcome on such long stretches away from home: certainly, the time sure goes faster when you’re playing every night but, in my albeit short career, I’ve been fairly lucky to spend a little time in New York and the familiarity is not unwelcome.

I keep up the practice; digging out old and inventing new exercises to play. I push myself by listening to some new CDs and trying to emulate them. While having a routine is fairly important to me, I also need to add variety in order to stay sane.

A cancelled flight later resulting in a night in Newark airport and I find myself in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Haven’t slept in nearly 48 hours; sometimes you just have to laugh through these exhausting situations or take pleasure in playing ‘Bejewelled’ on the iPads throughout the airport. I’ve never been one for games particularly, however it passes the time even if I do now have brightly coloured gems burned into my retinas from the hours spent staring at the screen.

We spend the US Thanksgiving weekend in Buenos Aires eating fine steak and relaxing before the concert the following night. Some members of the band spend their per diems [daily money allowance] on discount leather jackets and such. Speaking frankly, I’d rather drive to the local rubbish dump and sort all the regular bottles from the recyclables than be seen dead in half of them. I’m no aficionado, however if you ever get chance to eat steak in Argentina it is truly unlike anywhere else in the world.

The show goes fairly well, however the sad truth that trumpet playing is 90% mental is again affirmed when despite putting the time in practising every day, the fatigue sets in and I’m not at my best. It’s uncontrollable, however sometimes it’s difficult to quieten your mind and stay focussed in that state.

Much the same can be said about the following gig in Chile, other than I ate below-average sushi and slept a little better resulting in a little more confidence in my playing.

So this is where the ‘event that must be mentioned’ takes place that accounts for my radio silence in the last couple of weeks. We’re taking a long haul flight (14.5 hours) from Santiago, Chile to Melbourne, Australia. I vaguely dread such long periods of time on board an aircraft as I find sleeping difficult and the whole experience fairly disorientating.

Around two hours into the flight and the first meal is wheeled out. As an aside, an unpleasant bug has been passing around the band and I’m awaiting my very own dose of the tour lurgy. Lo and behold, as I finish my fried cardboard and steamed vegetables courtesy of Latam Airlines I feel my throat start to get sore and I brace myself for the usual symptoms, however this is unlike any cold I’ve ever had as my eyes stop focussing and the nausea sets in. At first I suspect the culprit is the blueish hued tint applied to the windows designed to simulate some kind of nighttime scenario so passengers can sleep; however the symptoms only persist and worsen until I find myself in the on-board toilet with my head in the sink.

Around ten hours later and I’m dizzily meandering off the plane and straight into my hotel room for potentially the worst night of my life.

Disorientation: check.

Dizziness: check.

Sickness: check.

Depression: double check.

Management start getting a little tetchy as we have a show to do the following night, so a doctor is sent immediately.


I’m given a shot of anti-nausea drugs and a prescription for pills to stop the sickness but the dizziness prevails. I have to say, my only prior experience of vertigo has been in a comedic setting on TV shows. Let me tell you that first-hand there’s nothing funny about it and it was undoubtedly one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life.

To cut a long story short, I have to pull out of the next four gigs and spend the duration in a hotel room alone in Melbourne while the Australian leg of the tour continues without me. Local players are booked in order to cover my part; meanwhile I lay in a bed unable to walk, read, play trumpet or even watch television for five days.


Although even now I have not fully recovered, I return to work a couple of days sooner than I should as otherwise it seems most logical for the management to cut their losses and send me back to England. Although nothing is more appealing than home when you are unwell in a foreign country, for some reason something doesn’t sit quite right so I spend a couple of days training myself to play despite the pressure of blowing a trumpet only exacerbating the dizziness and continue the tour from the comfort of a stool.

On a personal note, the only good thing to emerge from this experience was a bag of treats my girlfriend arranged for the hotel to deliver to my room in the midst of the vertigo, which I am still working my way through. If you meet someone who does this for you when you feel your worst, never let them go!

This brings me to the present day and nearly 20 gigs later where I’m nearing the completion of the run and looking forward to coming home and joining in the festive spirit. As devoted as I try and be, I’m looking forward to a couple of days not having to worry about the trumpet. I will undoubtedly play every day over the Christmas period but not needing to be in any particular shape for a bunch of concerts seems appealing.

There’s an old saying: “you can take a day off, but you can’t put one back on!” So I leave my students with this: if playing an instrument is 90% mental then why practise every day? Of course, you should: but not out of necessity. To paraphrase; you should pick it up and enjoy playing it because you want to - not because you need to or because your mum or dad has told you you’d better. Sometimes the best practice can be listening to a CD you like, watching videos on YouTube, playing a christmas carol or a new piece for your family or imagining yourself sounding like a professional; just the same as it can be locking yourself in your room and spending some time working on your technique by playing exercises and repertoire.

Don’t fritter your holiday away by any means, or take for granted the amount of time, effort and thought it takes to achieve your goals. However, never lose sight of why you first started playing in the first place and what caught your attention about the trumpet or trombone out of all those other instruments you could have played. Because: the second you stop thinking of practising as ‘work’ and start playing because you just like how it feels to express yourself on the horn: you will never stop improving. Have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Thanks Reuben. We can't wait to have you back this term and hear more about the ups and downs of tour life!

Latest News