meet mike poyser, create artist

Mike Poyser, professional musician and Create workshop leader, began learning to play the tuba aged 10. Since then, his passion and dedication to the music industry has led him to a tremendously successful and varied career. Working with Create for 18 years, Mike reflects on his experiences. 

The Sound of Dickens (2007)
Mike Poyser delivering The Sound of Dickens in 2007

Who is Mike Poyser?  

I’m a portfolio musician. I play the tuba and I run workshops. I’ve been working with Create for many years and it’s one of the organisations that has influenced me the most. Growing up, I wanted to be a scientist, but halfway through my science degree I realised I was much better at music. I pursued a double degree in physics and music at Imperial College and the Royal College of Music, and I’ve been on a journey to develop a musical career since. I’ve completed a masters in music and I’ve been a junior fellow at RCM. Now I do all-sorts!

Tell us about the all-sorts.

I teach the tuba. I run workshops with Create, the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal College of Music. And I work as a performer, arranger and writer. Last month, I recorded a new video game soundtrack. I was playing some experimental music at the Barbican Centre on the tuba and also on the bones of a horse. I’m about to go on tour with a rock band across Europe, and with a pop star and a DJ later this year. It’s intensely busy but I love all of the different challenges and adventures.

A lot of the music education highlights I’ve had have been working for Create.

mike poyser

Such an exciting career! What are some of your biggest highlights?

Being on stage for the Aretha Franklin prom last year was just something else. It was a real pinch-me moment! A lot of the music education highlights I’ve had have been working for Create. Seeing young people get stuck in and go “I want to do that on the back of what we’ve done” is quite special. I was pulled into my first Create workshop last-minute, halfway through a music and maths project called Count The Beat. It was a huge grounding for me, in terms of learning my trade and how to work with different people across the spectrum of society. Because of that, I’ve developed my own craft from there into a huge chunk of my career.

Mike Poyser Count The Beat (2007)
Create artist Mike Poyser on math themed music project Count The Beat in 2007

What is working with Create like?

From a logistics point of view, Create is unique and brilliant. Working with them feels so organised and supportive. Every project is evaluated thoroughly. All of these smaller but important things have ultimately helped me grow and develop as a musician and as a practitioner. I’ve never received any training or development work from any of the other organisations I work with, whereas Create offers this as part of the package. It’s phenomenal!

For example, I took part in Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership training with Create in October 2021. It was an amazing course. To have these issues presented in such a clear way by this programme, with my time funded by Create, I felt very lucky to be involved. The training gave me the space to start thinking about how we can gain some ownership of these problems. I loved the idea that the young people could write songs about their environmental worries, and then look at the little things they can do to help.

That sounds great. We hear you’ve incorporated your love of maths into your work with Create too?

I’ve loved presenting my passion for numbers and how it can help young people with finance. As the cost of living crisis deepens, Create’s change:matters project has become more relevant than ever. [The crisis] is in the news and if you don’t know much about finance, and you don’t understand the terminology, it can be really stressful.

In the last year of change:matters workshops, it feels like the young carers have been more focused on the financial element than the creative part. Everyone is so desperate to learn how to navigate through the crisis as best they can. The project has been amazing and seeing it develop alongside this financial disaster that’s going on has been really interesting. But it’s also a sad reflection of where we are.

To see [Create] develop and change, remould and rebrand over the years, has been one of the joys of my career.

mike poyser

Why do you think that the creative arts are so important for the participants that Create works with?

Ultimately, creativity is an outlet. Whether you’re writing a song about spreadsheets, or about some of the most intimate emotions you’re experiencing in life, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s an important tool, which enables you to reflect on how you’re feeling.

I think it’s remarkable what Create has achieved in 20 years of existence. The way it’s navigated a really complicated political, social and economic landscape in this country is very impressive. To see it develop and change, remould and rebrand over the years, has been one of the joys of my career.