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An Interview with The Principal Director of Music of the Royal Marines

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

Lt Col Jon Ridley BMus(Hons) MMus(Perf) LRSM AMusTC, the Principal Director of Music of the Royal Marines Band Service has just finished planning and conducting the 2019 Mountbatten Festival of Music and has taken the time to answer the following questions about his role as PDM of the Royal Marines Band Service and the recent Mountbatten Festival of Music.

Lt Col Jon Ridley, born in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, joined The Royal Marines Band Service in 1989 as a Bassoonist. After training in The Royal Marines School of Music in Deal he soon became the Principal Bassonist of the Band of HM Royal Marines Portsmouth. In October 2006 Jon became the Director of Music of The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Britannia Royal Naval College. Since then he spent time at the HQ Band Service before being The Director of Music of the Scotland and Collingwood Bands. Since then in 2017, Jon gained promotion to Principal Director of Music and is extremely proud he was selected!

1. What has been your favourite job so far in the role of Principal Director of Music for The Royal Marines Band Service?

This is easily delivering the Mountbatten Festival. It is an incredible event that is the jewel in the crown for the RM Band Service.

2. What was your favourite piece at this years Mountbatten Festival of Music?

This is too difficult to answer as there were so many highlights for me. I thought the piano solo Der Klavermeister, and the Jazz Trumpet feature were exceptional though.

3. Do you get nervous before walking out to conduct the Massed Bands at high profile events?

I do sometimes as nerves are completely natural, but I have to say that I didn’t at all for this MFM. I was completely relaxed for the whole experience, from first rehearsal to final performance.

4. As your role as Principal Director of Music, what does a ‘normal’ day consist of for you?

Every day is truly different for me. I deal with many leadership, personnel and organisational issues that require a lot of office time. I also attend many meetings regarding all aspects of my role as Head of the RM Band Service.

5. With more severe budget cuts on Youth Music Services and provisions to young musicians, do you think this will affect the future of military music?

I think that music education is in the mind of all professional music services. I believe that the quality of music education is very good and we are still pleased by the quality of musicianship in the people that audition for a career in the RM Band Service. We would love to see more people applying as we offer a fantastic package in performance and education training at the Royal Marines School of Music, including a BMus (Hons) degree (which is free!) and a MMus degree following that.

6. When royalty, or special dignitaries are in attendance, does it make the evening a little more

special for you and the musicians?

Whilst we perform to our absolute best at all events,it most definitely adds an extra special element when we perform for members of the Royal Family and other dignitaries.

7. Which Massed Bands event have you enjoyed working most on, The Mountbatten Festival of Music or Beating Retreat on Horse Guards Parade?

Both are very special events and very different in their nature. I have always enjoyed performing on parade in a marching band and Beating Retreat on Horse Guards Parade is the pinnacle of this and a privilege to lead. The MFM though gives an instant interaction with the audience though, and this energy is something that I particularly enjoy.

8. How did you decide to join The Royal Marines Band Service?

I come from Leicestershire and went to a school careers evening when I was 15. I loved music and sport and when discussing this with the Army careers people they said that I should join an Army Band. I instantly thought ‘This sounds like the life for me!’ I went to the Royal Navy stand and asked if they had a band too. They told me about the Royal Marines and Service. By the time I had returned home, I knew I wanted to join a military band and asked my father (who was ex-Army) which one to go for. He said that the Royal Marines were the best at everything they do and I should aim for the best. I auditioned and, as they say, the rest is history! I had never heard of the Royal Marines Band at that stage and my message to all budding musicians is come and see us, join our Facebook page, come to a concert or beating retreat and see what you could have as a career, because I don’t regret for one day my decision to join this fantastic military music organisation.

9. What was the best event that you conducted at when you were a Director of Music of one of The Royal Marines Bands?

That is difficult as there were so many commitments. I do especially enjoy travelling abroad with the Band though and representing the UK in the international arena. Performing in Archangelsk, Russia for the commemorations of the Arctic Conveys and Veterans in 2016 was very special and particularly poignant.

10. Have you thought what you might like to be played at next year’s Mountbatten Festival Music?

I have many, many ideas for the next few years but I’m not giving anything away just yet!

11. How does it feel to conduct the Massed Bands at such a prestigious venue and event?

Phenomenal! It is the absolute highlight of my professional career to conduct the Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines in front of the Mountbatten Festival of Music audience in the magnificent Royal Albert Hall.

12. How would you describe this year's Mountbatten Festival of Music in 3 words?

Exhilarating; Emotional; Energetic

The Lighting Design during The Final Countdown at this year's MFM

13. Do you ever imagine the lighting and other elements when you are planning the music and the show?

When designing the programme I try to hear the music and visualise the performance in the Royal Albert Hall before feeling comfortable that it will work. We then develop these ideas further with production elements.

To watch the full 2019 Mountbatten Festival of Music please visit the link below to watch it on YouTube:

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