As a soloist and conductor, RDCE continues to perform classical music fused with a contemporary approach for which he has become renowned. His no-nonsense style of discussing music with his audience means that beginners to classical music are shocked and surprised at how exciting this genre can be. Below is a summary of his rise to happy madness!
Robert D.C. Emery was born on the 22 March 1983 in Walsall, West Midlands. His life was remarkably normal, until he started playing the piano at the age of seven on the family piano which had been passed down the generations. After listening to his favourite tunes on the Sunday night 'Top of the Pops', he would run to the piano and attempt to play them – amazingly, even without tuition he started playing these tunes quite well, so his parents asked a local teacher to work her magic.
After one year of piano tuition, RDCE was given his first exam piece to practise. At this point it became apparent that he couldn’t read music, so his parents moved him to a more experienced teacher to ‘start again’. His focus up to that point was music until at the age of nine, he auditioned and was awarded a part on stage in the national tour of ‘Annie Get Your Gun’. This little folly of ‘treading the boards’ was a huge success, and once the run was over, he had a dilemma – his parents said it had to be either acting or music; music it was to be and within 12 months, RDCE was one of twelve pupils from across the country to join the newly created Birmingham Conservatoire Junior School of Music.
Despite turning away from acting, his interest in theatre never died. In 1993 he visited London for the first time to see his first ever musical; Joseph at the Palladium. In the programme, RDCE circled the name 'Michael Reed: Musical Supervisor' and wrote next to it "one day I will do this job'". He had no idea that 17 years later, he would become very good friends with Mike Reed and even spent half a year with him working in Switzerland.
Whilst at the Conservatoire, RDCE studied piano with international pianists Stephen Coombs and Heather Slade-Lipkin. At the age of thirteen, he made his highly acclaimed London Debut at the Purcell Rooms, performed at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall under Sir Simon Rattle and was the soloist in Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' with the Birmingham Conservatoire Orchestra. He won the Regional Finals of the BBC Young Musician of the Year in two successive years and recorded his debut album ‘Enlightening’ at the age of 16 (yes, it's a terrible name - but in his defence, he was young!)
Inspired by the west-end production of Joseph he saw seven years earlier, RDCE donned a loin cloth and took the lead role in a local production. Although massively enjoyable, it was quite obvious that he should stick to music!
It did however confirm for him that he absolutely loved musical theatre and although the next five years would be spent training in the classical world, that love would never disappear.
As music was now the all consuming mission, RDCE auditioned for the Royal College of Music, London. Four months later, it was announced he was to be one of the three UK pianists along with just six international students who gained a place, studying under celebrity music professor Ruth Nye MBE. Ruth was taught by Claudio Arrau, therefore making RDCE a teaching descendant of Liszt, Beethoven and Mozart.
After doing some sums, he calculated the cost of the four year course to be around £60,000. Some quick fundraising was needed, so he persuaded the local concert hall to open its doors for free to host a three-night RDCE special! He begged and borrowed everything from the piano to the lighting rig. The production raised enough money to fund the first year at the RCM. As he enjoyed the production process so much, at the tender age of 17 he set-up his first limited company producing not only his own concerts, but also award ceremonies and medium-scale theatre; thus Emery Productions Ltd was born.
At the age of eighteen, RDCE moved down from the West Midlands to London. In his first year at college, Emery Productions Ltd produced a 35-date concert tour and a £100,000 production of the ‘Classical Extravaganza’, with RDCE becoming the youngest ever conductor of the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra. This, incidentally, was the first time he had ever conducted and simply thought, ‘I started playing the piano without training, so it can’t be that difficult; I’ll give it a go!’ By some miracle everything went well (with the exception of him accidentally flinging his baton into the head of the orchestral leader), and RDCE found that he had a natural ability for conducting as well as the piano.
To have a bit of fun, he then hauled a grand piano to the highest point in the West Midlands for a live BBC television broadcast. He was due to play a four minute slot of popular classical music, however two hours before the broadcast the heavens opened. The piano was quickly wrapped in cling-film and RDCE was converted from a dapper performer into a drenched musician, and ended up playing ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, as the keys were too slippy to perform the classical set!
One day he may convert the footage from video-tape to digital media!
During his second year at college, RDCE decided that although conducting the Birmingham Philharmonic was fun, it was also potentially a fluke that he waved his arms correctly! He added conducting to his programme studying under Neil Thomson. Because Emery Productions Ltd had an office and staff in Birmingham and RDCE now lived in London, he grabbed every chance to make the 240 mile round trip (sometimes five times a week) in between his lectures. He did this for his first two years at the RCM, but his parents finally persuaded him to concentrate on his education. During his last two years he cut down on everything and closed the office. On July 8th 2005, he graduated from the Royal College of Music with honours.
To launch his life outside of the RCM, RDCE went on a 35 date tour, recorded his second album 'Robert Emery: Live in Concert', and performed in several large scale events such as the ‘International Arts Festival’ (NEC Arena Birmingham), and in front of members of the Royal Family and international politicians at the ‘Red Cross Royal Gala Ball’ (Mansion House, London). Aside from his performing, he decided to re-structure the business and The Arts Group Ltd was born.
RDCE has always tried to juxtapose his business management with his musical career, and out of the five core ideas he had for the business, only one could be put into fruition. With guidance from his personal board of advisors, he set about creating his first company within The Arts Group Limited, a national tuition service called the Arts Academy. The first term was launched, and the Arts Academy was hailed as a success. Years later, the service has grown to be the largest tuition service in the UK, and is now under the close supervision of its shareholders.
During these years, RDCE became the Musical Associate for the New London Children’s Choir, performing around the UK with them, including the opening of St Pancras International Station in front of the Queen. Continuing his love of musical theatre, he first wrote the arrangements, then became Musical Director for a new musical called ‘Betwixt!'. Following five star reviews across the board, transferred to the West End to play for a special at The Ambassadors Theatre. It was during this time that he also became Musical Associate for the West End production of ‘Zorro The Musical’ at the world-famous Garrick Theatre. Next RDCE founded Arts Solutions, a lighting and sound hire company within The Arts Group Limited portfolio. To top off a busy couple of years, he went on tour presenting and conducting the Five TV production of ‘My First Carol Concert’; an innovative series of concerts with the British Philharmonic Orchestra, in which children’s TV characters would interact with him and other members of the orchestra. This series of concerts solidified for RDCE the importance of children experiencing classical music.
More performances in front of the royal family, this time at the ‘Variety Club Gala’ playing his own arrangement of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. To utilise the idea of producing his own events, RDCE added Arts Festivals to The Arts Group Limited; a live event company designing high-quality, value-for-money concerts. After setting this up, he was then asked to become the Musical Associate of a film version of the Broadway show ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. It was in this year that RDCE was nominated to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, thus giving him more letters after his name (RSA).
RDCE spent ten months in Switzerland where he met his future business partner, Moritz Schneider. Firstly, he was Musical Associate for a brand new Swiss musical called ‘Dällebach Kari’ on a lake in Thun. This special event was held on one of the largest outdoor stages in the world; it certainly has the most stunning views.
Now imagine a famous pop/rock band; then imagine a famous classical orchestra. Fuse the two together and what do you get? RDCE stuck in the middle! He arranged around 80 minutes of music with his Arts Festivals business partner Moritz Schneider, which included rewriting the Lovebugs songs to fit with pieces like Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’, and Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue’ for a special three night concert of 'Lovebugs & Basel Symphony Orchestra Live at the Stadtcasino'. The event was also recorded for TV and DVD.
After these sell-out dates, he returned to the UK and received a phone-call from Russell ‘The Voice’ Watson asking him to go to his house to record a BBC TV slot. The following week they flew to Miami for the global conference of Sony Music, and finally returning to conduct a segment for ‘The Royal Variety Show’. RDCE was now confirmed as Mr Watson’s official Musical Director.
The year started off with RDCE conducting a concert in Singapore at The Esplanade. He returned to the UK to conduct the Russell Watson ‘Return of the Voice’ tour with Arts Symphonic, the orchestra he founded which is now one of Britain’s most passionate and trendy orchestras; and Arts Voices, one of the UK’s most versatile choirs. The tour also included recording a live concert for DVD/TV at the Royal Albert Hall, for which RDCE was also Executive Producer. Although he didn’t know it yet, across the crowded orchestra was sitting a horn player who would turn out to have a significant effect on his life!
During 2011 he caught a flight on average every three days, returning again to be Musical Associate for the next production on the lake in Switzerland whilst simultaneously conducing the transfer of ‘Dällebach Kari’ to Zurich. He then conducted a tour of Japan including a 15,000 seat arena whilst juggling arranging and producing a series of concerts in Lucern with the soul artist Seven, the 21st Century Orchestra and producing partner Moritz Schneider. He conducted the National Symphony Orchestra for the finale of the Welsh ‘Eisteddfod’ for live television, and finally, at Christmas, was asked to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra for the Huawei sponsored annual Christmas concert at the Royal Festival Hall.
The beginning of 2012 was crazy for RDCE. He travelled to Switzerland to play and conduct a special one-off concert called ‘Rhapsody in Brass’. Later in the week, he was helicoptered to the o2 arena in London to conduct the Military Wives in a live TV performance of the ‘National Television Awards’.
Just one week later, he flew out to Australia with Russell Watson to perform in Perth, Melbourne and at the world-famous Sydney Opera House. Whilst back in the UK, RDCE met with Petula Clark to start working on updating a musical she composed titled ‘Zola’.
Three months later, he was conducting in Air Studios with Arts Symphonic for Mr Watson’s new album ‘Anthems’. Once this was released, they went out on a national tour to promote the album, and the at the end of the year, RDCE flew back to Switzerland to conduct a new production of ‘Dällebach Kari.’
Once this project was in the bag, he was flown out to Switzerland again for a new show which Moritz Schneider and Michael Reed had composed; ‘Der Besuch Der Alten Dame’. He spent the summer working with an insanely talented cast and creative team, and spent so much time in Thun that it felt like his second home.
The year started in New York on honeymoon, then Amsterdam for work - casting auditions for a new show. A month later, off to Kuala Lumpur, Uzbekistan, then back out on the road again with ‘The Voice’ culminating in a fantastic outdoor concert at Greenwich Naval College with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with guest stars Rhydian Roberts and Kerry Ellis.
Later in the year, he was asked to produce an EP of six tracks for a young British soprano, Carly Paoli. He wrote the orchestrations and arrangements, conducted the recording sessions with Arts Symphonic at Angel Studios and Abbey Road Studios, then flew out to LA twice to get them mixed by the best man in the business. All in the space of seven weeks! Sadly as the album isn't out yet, we can't show you the vocal recordings - however, we can show you behind the scenes in producing the album...
This year has seen RDCE now splitting time between London and his new home in Cambridge. He was also invited back by the Basel Symphony Orchestra to conduct a new concert, and then flew to Shanghai to take part in the ‘GREAT Festival of Creativity’ in the presence of HRH Prince William.
Next, he added to The Arts Group Limited by founding an artist agency, run by artists, for the artist. Arts Associates represents a small but über-talented group of musicians, ranging from composers through to famous tenors and sopranos from across the globe. He also enjoyed (for the first time in six years) a holiday - spending two glorious weeks in the Maldives with Mrs E.
He has appeared over twenty times on the Sky Arts TV channel conducing the ‘Return of the Voice’ at the Royal Albert Hall (the infamous concert where Mr and Mrs E met!), has been to Radio 2 to play on Elton John's piano, and has recorded an album with French singer/songwriter Angie Ott, and an EP with British soprano Joanna Forest; both recorded with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
At the end of 2015 he toured with ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ star Jonathan Antoine and co-compose an ‘Anti-Blatter’ song protesting about the corruption within Fifa, which will be released early 2016. Oh, and he and Mrs E had a baby boy!
"I have many people to thank over the years for their support, but three people in particular have helped shaped my career to become what it is today; Mike Reed, for being a true friend and mentor who has given me the opportunities to meet the people and be involved in the most amazing projects; Moritz Schneider, who is not only my best friend but also the most naturally gifted musician one could hope to work with; and Russell Watson, who over many years of working together, has introduced me to not only some of the best orchestras in the world, but also some of the best artists - including Russell himself.
I'll never forget.."