Jeremy Polmear was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. After a science degree at Cambridge University he spent some time with IBM UK before turning to music as a career. He formed a Duo with the pianist Diana Ambache in 1977 for a British Council tour of India, and they have since performed in thirty three countries on five continents. London appearances have included the Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room, and they have made four recordings. They also run sessions for businesses, using the Arts as a management training tool.
As a freelance oboist, Jeremy has performed with a number of London's chamber and ballet orchestras, including the City of London Sinfonia, the London Mozart Players, Lontano, English National Ballet and The Ambache. He has also made several BBC broadcasts of chamber music.
He is the designer of four web sites - www.PolmearAmbache.co.uk,
www.ambache.co.uk, www.WomenofNote.co.uk and www.OboeClassics.com.
What or who was your biggest influence as a musician?
That would be the oboist Janet Craxton, who was Principal with the BBC Symphony Orchestra while I was a teenager, so I listened to her on the radio. I noticed that her solos were always perfectly phrased, always thoughtful, but beautiful too.
How do you curate what kind of music or which oboists to feature on your CDs? Please briefly walk us through the process.
It's a practical thing really. Sometimes people come to me with proposals, and if they can inspire me then I put them on. Sometimes I propose myself! There's no Master Plan, I just follow my nose. Somehow the albums come out to be a good mixture, but that's more by chance than by planning.
What are some challenges and perks of running your own record label?
Money is a challenge. The problem with CDs is that all your expenses - recording, copyright payments, printing, pressing - all come at the very beginning. So you pay a lot of money to press, say, 1,000 copies, and then you have to try and get it back. And you have to store them too. Some of my titles have made a profit, but most of them haven't. I don't do this to be rich! I do it for love (see the next question) and also because it's something I can contribute to the oboe world.
How do you balance being an oboist and managing the Oboe Classics label?
This is no problem. I have always liked the process of making a recording; I like working through the day with a Producer to play, to listen back, to put together a performance, with a permanent result. Not like a concert where it all disappears! Quite soon I began to feel that I could make better choices than the labels I was playing for. I also know about IT, so when someone suggested I start a label I could see I was well qualified. I have always played the oboe as a freelancer, so I work some days and not others. That's when I can run Oboe Classics. As I get older I am playing less, so I can spend more time on the label, there is always more one can do.
What do you think of the current state of oboe music?
That's a big question! As far as music - i.e. compositions - is concerned, the last half of the 20th Century was ruled by very avant-garde composers which I was not so happy about; but now things are more relaxed, and tunes are back in fashion! As far as young players are concerned, there are always worries that people will not have the money to have lessons and buy instruments - but overall it seems to be healthy. However, I'm not so happy about the 'globalisation' of oboe playing. When I was growing up, individual players (e.g. Janet Craxton, who I mentioned above) had their own personal style. Or particular countries had a definite 'school' of playing - France, for instance. But now, with international conductors, YouTube etc, there is a much more general style that everyone is supposed to adopt. I understand how this has happened but I think it's a pity, and I think it takes some creativity away from oboe players.
How has your customer and audience changed over the years?
Like everywhere else, the Internet has changed everything. I still make more money from physical CDs, but most of them are available for downloading and streaming too, and I put a lot of effort into that. This year I have started putting up albums that are download/stream only, with a place on my website for details and track notes (at www.oboeclassics.com/digital). For example, I am currently putting up three albums of historic French oboists, which is fascinating, but I could never afford to make them into CDs. Spotify allows people to hear all these things for free if they are willing to put up with Adverts, and I make some money. Not a lot, but some.
Any tips or advice for people who would like to explore ways to encourage or promote oboe music and oboe playing?
If you play with your heart you will inspire others, that's what Janet Craxton did for me. But she also commissioned composers to write music for her (I put out a CD of some of it). Nicholas Daniel does all this too. Tomorrow I am going to a performance of the winner of a 'Goossens Prize' for a piece of oboe music. There are lots of different ways one can promote what one loves - such as with a blog from Hong Kong!