A man born and bred in Stonehaven has been awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Richard Michael, who now lives in Kircaldly, Fife, will receive the award for his services to music education.
The Jazz pianist was the first boy at Mackie Academy to make a career out of music when he left in 1968 to go to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
Richard spent many evenings playing in his dad John Michael’s country dance band alongside his late brother, Will Michael. They played all over the Mearns in places such as Johnshaven, Inverbervie and Stonehaven which Richard says helped his career enormously.
The Scottish musician is featured on BBC Radio Scotland’s show “The Jazz House” every two weeks and two years ago he received an All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Award for Jazz Education which he was awarded in the House of Commons. Last year Richard received the Bank of Scotland award for the history of jazz piano at the Edinburgh Festival.
It was whilst he was growing up in Stonehaven that Richard first got a taste of jazz and was intrigued to learn more. Whilst speaking about his award, Richard said “I owe a lot of it to an inspiring music teacher I had at Mackie Academy. He was called David McGinnigle and he started at the school when I was in fourth year. He heard me play rock and roll on the piano and introduced me to music by Dudley Moore. From that moment onwards I was bitten.
“Also a former Stonehaven butcher, the late Jim Grant, had a lot to do with my interest in jazz. He was a merchant sea man during the war and when he travelled over to America he picked up jazz records which formed the basis of my career. I would go to Jim’s house on a Friday night and he would play all of these records. I’ve never forgotton the debt that I owe that man. The jazz show on Radio Scotland attracts around 78,000 listeners every week and last week I played a track Jim introduced me to 45 years ago.”
He also talks about when he and his brother played in his fathers band, “the experience I got as a youngster playing alongside my dad in his country dance band has really helped. We played in different places around the Mearns and the way my brother and I learnt to conduct ourselves on stage has been down to that, and now I’ve been all around the world teaching and playing.”
Although Richard left the area to pursue his dream career, he still visits frequently to perform and visit his mother Betty, who is a resident in Arduthie Hospital. Richard recently performed at St James’ Episcopal Church and in Inverurie at a Jazz Services’ Will Michael Diploma Award concert. Richard said he was privileged to be part of the concert named in memory of his brother who died in 2008 and was also “a brilliant Jazz pianist”.
This year he will play at the Edinburgh festival fringe which co-incides with the release of his album “The Great American Songbook:Live at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe”. The visiting professor of Jazz at St Andrew University will be awarded his BEM in a local ceremony from the Lord Lieutenant of Fife.