By Genevieve Meegan
It’s hard to pinpoint Adrian Uren’s area of expertise.
This multi-dimensional Englishman has excelled at so many things that the conversation flows from his time playing with the London Philharmonic Orchestra to his biology degree from Oxford University, from competitive squash to his SA herpetology group, and then there is his other passion—his pet Spencer’s Monitor Lizard, Komodo, who lives in the front bedroom.
The 33-year-old moved to Adelaide from London three years ago after securing the role of principal French horn player with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
He has been honing his craft as a musician since the age of five, learning the piano from his music teacher mother Alison, who is also a professional flute player.
“Then I started on the tenor horn when I was about seven years old. I remember watching a trombonist on the BBC Young Musician of the Year on TV and wanted to play like that,” Adrian says.
“My teacher at the time advised me to play the French horn instead because ‘it gets better orchestral parts’ and so I ended up playing the horn.”
Before he started on his path to internationally-successful classical musician, Adrian took a detour to Oxford University where he achieved honours in a bachelor of Biological Sciences.
“To get to a professional level with music you have to start from an early age and practice every day and be so dedicated,” he says. “I was happy to do that but I also really wanted to do a different subject at university, so I chose biology because that has always been my other passion.
“The natural world is so fascinating – just learning about it and why we’re here and how everything interacts with each other.”
This love of science was passed down from Adrian’s Dad Michael, a professor in physics at Bristol University.
The science/music genes were inherited by all members of the Uren family – Adrian’s identical twin Alan was a professional violinist in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and is now completing a PhD in urology, and his sister Heather is a cellist and a lawyer.
Once Adrian completed his studies at Oxford, he turned his attention back to music, completing a Master’s degree in music at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. It was at that crossroad that Adrian knew he had to decide where his full-time career would lie –music won out over science.
He went on to freelance with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Covent Garden Orchestra amongst others, before ending up with the position in the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, a role that he relishes.
“The thing I love about this job is the variety of things that we do,” he says.
“From Harry Potter to the big symphonies, plus the operas and ballets and other concerts out in the cities like Mount Gambier where we did Generations in Jazz. We even accompany bands like the Hilltop Hoods, just totally different genres.”
“Probably the biggest moments in the French horn repertoire are in Mahler’s 5th Symphony and Bruckner 4th Symphony and we have played both in the last couple of years here. They are very satisfying to play.”
When he is not playing music, Adrian continues to indulge his love of wildlife and reptiles.
He is a field trip coordinator for the South Australia Herpetology Group and regularly travels around the state doing scientific surveys of reptile species in remote locations.
“We do reptile and amphibian surveys and try to increase the knowledge of reptiles,” he says.
“All records go to the department of environment and go on a national database. We also go to Science Alive exhibitions to tell people about what we are doing and educate them.
“It’s great to discover what’s in our conservation parks because there is very little known about what is out there in the Australian outback. We are still discovering new species. In the future, I’d like to do a PhD in some sort of reptile related subject.”
Adrian has brought his love of reptiles into the home he shares with his fiancé Amy Baker. In the couple’s front room is a massive glass enclosure that Adrian built, which contains his pet lizard Komodo.
Adrian proudly shows off his unusual pet and says “he’s like any other pet – doesn’t talk back and responds when I give him attention”.
“I will take him out and put him in the garden when he is a bit bigger but for now he runs around his cage. It’s great fun to feed him and watch him grow up,” he says, revealing that Amy also likes Komodo but would also like to get a cat.
The couple has a lot in common, both enjoying the great outdoors, wildlife and music. Amy is a lecturer and researcher in mental health at the University of South Australia and she also plays violin, guitar and sings in a band called The Wisps.
And when he’s not playing the French horn with the ASO, or collecting reptile information or playing with Komodo, Adrian plays top level, premier league squash.
“I guess I am competitive and I tend to stick at things if I really enjoy them and get as good as I can at it,” he admits.
You can hear Adrian perform at The Studio: 54 Reasons to Party, on 29 & 30 June in the Festival Theatre.
Top image: via ASO Facebook.