Piano Accompanist - Testimonials

I am a violin and viola teacher working with young people in schools in south Leicestershire. I also conduct the Concert Orchestra, one of Leicestershire Music Services' higher level Saturday morning orchestras. I have been teaching for some 17 years since graduating from Birmingham Conservatoire and I also perform regularly in and around Leicester with my string quartet '4tissimo' and in theatre bands. I am also a former leader of Leicester Symphony Orchestra. 

I have been using John for all of my exam accompanying over the last 4 years. He provides an excellent service, playing all the parts perfectly where my limited piano skills fall short of the mark. John is a very versatile accompanist and I have used him through the entire grades from 1-8 with my students. He has a very amiable manner, all of my students come back after a rehearsal with him and tell me how nice he was, and how he put them at their ease.

Rehearsal session feedback has always been constructive and supportive with a really positive atmosphere for the students. John is also able to provide extra support with aural tests should you need it, and additional rehearsals are also an option which help sometimes with the higher grades.

"a really positive atmosphere for the students"

On the day of the exam, John will also have a quick run through at the exam centre and offer some final words of advice for that great exam mark and to calm the nerves. I thoroughly recommend him for all your accompanist needs.

 Mike Shaw (Wigston)

John accompanied me for my grade 8 violin exam, and his friendliness, understanding and encouragement contributed to making it an invaluable experience. During the hour’s rehearsal a couple of days before the exam, he immediately made me feel comfortable, and I found myself really enjoying playing with such a talented and sensitive pianist. He provided constructive advice and his compliments were a great boost to my confidence. He happily complied with my requests for tempo changes. During the exam he played flawlessly, and his warm presence put me at ease; in the end, it felt less like an assessment, and more like a performance, which I think is the best way to go for an exam!

If a reliable, patient and motivational accompanist is wanted for any occasion, John Gull is the first name I would give!

Hannah Erlebach (Leicester)

John's ability to listen and to follow as an accompanist is quite rare. He expresses fully what is required of the piano, yet is never intrusive or intimidating for the performer. I never felt out of control, or had to sing in a way that was different to what I had practised independently.

I am now age eighteen and about to embark on a music undergraduate degree at King's College London.

Imogen Smalley (Lincoln)

I am currently studying music at the University of York, and am a soprano specialising in Renaissance polyphony, Early Music performance practice and Contemporary vocal repertoire. I work semi-professionally in choirs and as a soloist for large choral works, recitals, weddings and other events.

I have been lucky to work with John as my accompanist for exams, music festivals and competitions since my early days as a chorister at Lincoln Cathedral and music scholar at Lincoln Minster School.  John's technical ease with piano accompaniments in virtually any genre allows me maximum freedom of expression and interpretation. Further, he picks up on subtle inflections and articulations in my vocal lines and incorporates them into his playing, giving my performances an ease and coherence I have struggled to find with other pianists. 

"a pleasure to work with such a sensitive and supportive accompanist"

I have, as most musicians do at some stage, suffered with performance nerves at times, and John has always been very reassuring and supportive. I will always remember a piece of advice John once gave me: he said that when performing I was not alone, it is a duet, as the voice and piano are two inseparable and equal aspects of the music. This not only calmed my nerves, but made me much more aware of the writing in the piano part, and I think, a more sensitive performer and observant musician.

John offers insightful coaching on song interpretation and also pronunciation of foreign languages, which I have found endlessly helpful.  It has always been a pleasure to work with such a sensitive and supportive accompanist.

 Avalon Summerfield (Lincoln)

I am about to pursue my career as a Mezzo-Soprano on the Masters of Performance course at the Royal College of Music, London where I have been studying for a Bachelor of Music degree for the past four years.

As a former Chorister at Lincoln Cathedral, I first met John in his role as a Lay-Clerk singing for all the Cathedral’s liturgical events. I began to work with him as an accompanist and singing coach in 2007 when we worked on the role of Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, this was my first operatic role. John then went on to accompany me for the ABRSM examinations I took in Voice, Oboe and Flute. In 2009, our work culminated in a successful audition for the Royal College of Music and since, we have regularly performed together as a duo of Piano and Voice offering exciting recital programmes including works by Dowland, Schumann, Berlioz, Faure and Gershwin.

As a gifted and hugely talented musician, accompanist and singing coach, John has the ability to nurture, challenge and engage musicians of all ages, whatever their musical ability. His ambitious and passionate approach to both accompanying and teaching is thoroughly infectious and uplifting. His professionalism and dedication to his work and his students empowers his pupils to strive for nothing less than excellence.

"an outstanding teacher, coach and accompanist"

As a singer, it was hugely important for me to work with such an open and honest individual and John’s in-depth knowledge and experience of foreign languages coupled with his love of poetry and literature deepened my overall understanding of performance and musical delivery.

Above all, his creativity, intellect and his sense of fun make him an outstanding teacher, coach and accompanist for musicians of the future. I have had the pleasure of witnessing John prepare fellow young musicians as they embark on a career in music be that for ABRSM examinations or auditions and interviews at the UK’s leading conservatoires and universities. I would have no reservation in recommending him to you.

Rachael Cox (London)

John is a versatile musician, having a fine tenor voice and being an experienced choir trainer: he accompanies with both sensitivity and colour. He has much experience with singers of all ages and is popular with the members of the UK Japan Choir. He shows commitment, reliability and enthusiasm.

Jonathan Gregory  (Director of UK Japan Choir, London)


I have been teaching saxophone, clarinet and recorder in schools around the Leicester & Leicestershire area for the past 20 years. I graduated from Leeds College of Music and then went on to teach in schools for the Leicestershire Schools Music Service for 17 years. During that time, I have conducted the LSMS Big Band 2, which I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of!

Due to circumstances beyond my control and the restructure of the LSMS, I have been a self employed teacher since 2012. Over the past three years I have continued to work closely with my schools and my students and have also continued to conduct the LSMS Big Band 2. I now also do some private teaching at home. I also love playing with my soul band, 80s band & function band around the country on my sax and with the Leicester Big Band when I can.

I regularly enter my students for exams and I was introduced to John this year, 2015. He accompanied 3 of my sax students for their Grade 8 exams. I was impressed not only with John's obvious skill and talent as a player, but also as an accompanist. He worked extremely well with each individual student, put them at ease, got them to perform and made the whole experience an enjoyable one! Which is exactly what you need from your accompanist!

John is punctual, keen to encourage and bring confidence at the exam and help to make the students perform on the day. I will certainly be using John's talents for future exams, Grade 1 to Grade 8 and beyond!   

I have two daughters who both play the violin and the younger also plays the clarinet. They are taught the violin by Mike Shaw, who suggested we use John about 4 years ago. John has accompanied Emily, my elder daughter for grades 3 to 8 and Lucy for grades 1 to 4, in addition to her first clarinet exam.

I have often sat in for the rehearsals and have been really impressed with the way John always brings out the best in their playing. He encourages them and gives them lots of pointers and tips which really improve the way they play their pieces, in terms of musicality as well as technique. He always points out areas which he thinks need improvement, but then shows them how to go about doing it whilst still helping them feel good about themselves. In addition, his accompanying is so good that the pieces which I have heard practised many, many times at our house come to life and sound beautiful.

My girls both look forward to going to practise with John in the run up to their exams. I have faith in his ability and he manages to really put them at ease, both in the practices and at the exam centre on the big day. Lucy says that he helps you feel less nervous on the day of the exam. When Lucy learned that she was to take a clarinet exam, she immediately asked if John could be the accompanist. I was delighted that John was able to accompany her.

I know that John has contributed to their success in exams, along with their music teachers. I would not dream of using anyone else to accompany them and they would not want to use a different accompanist either.

Helen Moody (Harborough)

I'm a professional violinist and singer, having studied at Trinity College of Music, London and at Scuola Civica di Milano in Italy. I perform with the 4tissimo string quartet and as guest leader of the Rutland Sinfonia. I enjoy performing in a variety of ensembles and can often be found playing baroque violin, folk fiddle, or in a theatre pit.

I have a busy teaching practice in Leicestershire, teaching both violin and voice (classical and musical theatre) to all ages and abilities. I also coach and conduct a variety of ensembles both instrumental and choral, including working with the Leicestershire Schools Music Service.

When preparing students for ABRSM and Trinity Guildhall exams I will recommend John Gull as my accompanist of choice. Those who've had the joy of working with him always come back happy with their experience. They feel immediately comfortable with him and he builds their confidence bringing out their musicianship. He not only accompanies accurately and sensitively but he understands intuitively the way they have been taught by me and shows respect for that while offering his own advice too which always leads to a confident performance in the exam and a great mark.

Karen Silverwood (Leicester)               

Contact Karen via email at karensilverwood@googlemail.com

I am Enhanced DBS-checked for working with children and vulnerable adults.  DBS documentation is available for inspection on request.