Let’s meet Ian Crowther, owner of Crowthers of Canterbury.
Do you have a musical background?
I grew up in Portsmouth. My parents were not professional musicians, but my father was an avid listener of classical and opera and would take me to lots of concerts as a child. I guess this must have influenced my decision to start a musical instrument, and I ended up starting oboe at school at the age of 13. I loved the instrument and so ended up going to the Royal Marines Music School from age 16-18 which was brilliant and gave me lots of opportunities to learn and perform. I continued in the Royal Marines for 10 years as an oboist until a back injury meant I had to leave.
Although I continued playing the oboe, I went on to do a history degree and postgraduate degree at the University of Kent. I studied Modern British and European History, focusing on the Revolutions in Russia and Europe during the 19th and 20th Centuries. During this time, I also gained an avid interest in Chinese history focusing on the last dynasty the Qing. This led me to do a postgraduate study of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and Masters’ paper focused on the period 1966-1969, looking at how the indigenous Chinese viewed the Revolution during this period.
I have never stopped playing the oboe though and set up the Festival Chamber Orchestra in 2002. I play in this and manage the group. We regularly perform at The Great Hall, Kent College, Canterbury, and other top music venues in London. I also play regularly in The Crowther Wind Quintet.
How did Crowthers of Canterbury start?
My passion for the oboe never faltered and I wanted to do something with this and set up my own business. This was not easy, but I started Crowthers of Canterbury in 1989 by first visiting the trade fairs and getting to know the industry. There was and still is, a real focus on oboes and I have become a real specialist in this. I am also the main UK agent for two key brands of oboe, Marigaux and F Loree.
What is the secret of your success as a business?
I pride myself on the fact that I always want to find the best instrument for the person buying and I have the knowledge and product range to do so. I like to think I give unbiased advice and can always source the right product for people.
What is the best thing about running a business like Crowthers of Canterbury?
For me, I thoroughly enjoy the autonomy and not having to be answerable to anyone. Obviously, there are always pressures as I am totally responsible for all aspects of the business, however I seem to thrive in this environment. In addition, I get to meet some wonderful people from all walks of life and some fantastic players. It is always a great pleasure to see someone develop from when I first meet them as a beginner, to then see them become a top musician.
What is your advice for someone who is passionate about running their own music shop and wants to pursue this as a career?
I think the main advice I have is to carry out your research, know your product and have a good business plan.
There will always be unknowns and unexpected pressures, however if you strongly believe in what you are doing, just go for it. In addition, be prepared to work hard. I think a wonderful quote from Henry Miller really facilitates this point, “All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act, without the benefit of experience”.