Down for the Count was formed by nine school friends in 2005, and the line-up of the band has hardly changed since. The band is now recognised as one of the top swing and soul function bands in the country. Find out more about each band member below.
Bandleader and pianist Mike Paul-Smith formed Down for the Count whilst still at school in 2005. He is a classically trained pianist and organist, and turned his hand to jazz at the age of 14. Mike studied piano under the tuition of Anna Markland at Aylesbury Music Centre, with jazz tuition from Gwilym Simcock and Jo Ruddick. He has also tried his hand at playing drums, percussion and saxophone - with varying degrees of success!
Mike has performed with many big bands including the AMC Dance Band, University of Oxford Big Band and University of London Big Band, and with these ensembles he has been lucky enough to receive tuition from and perform alongside some of the biggest names in jazz, including Pete Long, Frank Ricotti, Stan Sulzmann and Norma Winstone. Mike also enjoys being involved in Musical Theatre, and has Music Directed productions of Carousel, Anything Goes, A Chorus Line, City of Angels and Oklahoma along with co-founding the Aylesbury Vale Youth Theatre society.
Mike is in charge of the day-to-day running of the band - including the musical direction of the band, liaising with clients and organising logistics for all the band's performances.
Katie Birtill is our lead vocalist, and recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Music. She was part of the RAM choral group who supported Elton John at the Royal Albert Hall, and since graduating she has featured on the T-mobile advert Welcome Back filmed at the Heathrow Terminal 5.
Katie has also performed as a backing vocalist with artists as diverse as KT Tunstall, Fyfe Dangerfield, Jon Allen, Michael Ball, Mica Paris, Fran Healy, Craig David, Tony Hadley, Marti Pellow, Il Divo, Suzi Quatro and Elio Pace at Hyde Park Arena for Elvis Forever. She was also featured as a solo backing vocalist in the Friday Night is Music Night’s Christmas Eve special with Barbara Windsor.
Katie recently sang backing vocals on Russell Watson’s UK tour and is on the DVD of his Royal Albert Hall performance released this Christmas. In June 2011 Katie was cast in the UK Tour of Dreamboats and Petticoats, completing the tour in December 2011.
Nicky Dega joined the band as our deputy vocalist in February 2011, and has been consistently wowing audiences all over the country with her stunning voice and incredible performances.
Our bassist Steve was originally a classically-trained guitarist. He toured Belgium with Aylesbury Music Centre’s senior Guitar Ensemble, playing in festivals and cathedrals, including performing at the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate near Ypres.
He made the switch to electric bass around the same time the band formed in 2005, and ever since the band has become a greater part of Steve’s life as they have travelled all across the country playing for weddings, charity events, birthdays, anniversaries, corporate events and several rather more obscure functions! Along with Down For The Count’s performances, Steve has also played bass in productions of A Chorus Line and City of Angels.
Steve enjoys birdwatching, ale, the internet, squash, is a YouTube sensation (for all the wrong reasons) and is working on ‘finding himself’ in Central London before it’s too late!
Richard has studied the drums since the age of 10 and joined up with the rest of the band members during his time studying at the Aylesbury Music Centre.
In 2006, he gained a Diploma in Popular Music Performance from Tech Music Schools in West London and has since graduated from Bangor University with a degree in Psychology. In the future, he hopes to combine his love of music with his interest in Psychology through future postgraduate study.
As well as his ventures with Down for the Count, Richard has recently recorded and performed with various other rock, pop-punk and hip-hop projects.
Amelia is a classically trained cellist and pianist. She joined the band five years ago to play keyboard when we were looking to expand our sound and add more instruments to the line-up than really possible with nine players.
With a passion for all things vintage, Amelia has loved learning more about classic jazz, Rat Pack and soul music and is always listening out for new song ideas.
Amelia has worked for the past three years at Granger Hertzog - a prop hire company for film and television. She regularly puts her set design experience to the test, styling the band's annual live concerts – where a village hall is transformed into something far more glamorous. She also helps with the design of all the band's promotional material.
Max joined the band in 2010, deputising on lead trumpet for Tristan whilst he is abroad. Max has been playing trumpet since the age of 8 and in his time as a musician has had the pleasure of playing with several superb groups, including the Thames Youth Orchestra, the Paul Jordanous Big Band, his own band The Martinis and, of course, Down for the Count.
He also has a large amount of experience with shows and musicals, having been involved with productions of West Side Story, Oklahoma!, Anything Goes, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and many more. He is set to add to his musical CV in the next year as Musical Director for Guys & Dolls at the Bloomsbury Theatre and Director of Live from London: The Rat Pack in the Garage Theatre Workshop, alongside several other projects. Max is even special enough to have his very own website!
Simon has been playing the trumpet since he was nine years old, caught the jazz bug playing all over Europe in the AMC Dance Band with Mike, Claire and Stan, and hasn't looked back since! Today, he is currently based in Manchester where he regularly plays at the top venues including Matt and Phred's jazz club, with local bands such as 'Diaspora', musicians from the Riot Jazz Brass Band and his own group, the Blackbird Quintet. He has performed in various shows, and has also tried his hand at music-directing, including a production of Bernstein's On The Town with a 20-piece orchestra, and this summer's Aylesbury Vale Youth Theatre production of Guys and Dolls.
Simon has just graduated with a degree in Music from the University of Manchester, where he will be remaining to complete a Master's in Composition on a full scholarship. At the university he will also be co-running the Manchester University Big Band with Patrick Hurley (Beats and Pieces Big Band), conducting his own co-founded Manchester Medical Students Orchestra, and of course taking the regular trips across the country to play with (still his favourite band) Down for the Count!
Kate has been playing saxophone from a young age and over the years has covered a variety of genres, such as jazz, soul, pop, hip-hop and funk and in 2009 she graduated from Leeds College of Music with a 1st Class BA Hons degree in Popular Music Studies. Whilst studying for her degree Kate explored several different musical styles and mediums and has a wealth of performing and recording experience behind her.
As well as performing regularly with Down For The Count, Kate has performed with a variety of other bands, including funk band Jacuzzi 500, alternative band Mörkö and function band The White Keys. Kate has also performed with and for a number of high profile musicians such as Take That saxophonist Snake Davis, Jools Holland saxophonist Derek Nash, Acoustic Ladyland guitarist Chris Sharkey and Embrace drummer Mike Heaton, as well as performing at Sandhurst for HRH Prince Phillip.
Kate gigs regularly as a solo performer and DJ, playing at parties and events around the country as well as running workshops on hip-hop and improvisation for children and young people across Yorkshire and the South.
Claire first picked up a clarinet at the age of 9, then the soprano and tenor saxophone followed in quick succession. She was the lead tenor saxophonist for the Aylesbury Music Centre Dance Band, and personal highlights include performing at the North Sea Jazz Festival and performing with Jools Holland's former saxophonist Pete Long. As well as being classically trained on the clarinet, Claire studied with Sting’s saxophonist Butch Thomas.
Whilst completing her Music degree at Royal Holloway University, Claire enjoyed a variety of performance opportunities, from playing for the film The Butterfly Tattoo (an adaptation of the Phillip Pullman novel) to performing Weber’s Clarinet Concertino at a sold-out concert. Since graduating in 2009 Claire focused on expanding her performance and teaching experiences. She has been an active member of the Rehearsal Orchestra, performing in open rehearsals throughout the year, and has been a member of the RAF Voluntary Band, parading at prestigious events such as the War Widow’s Remembrance Service with Prince Charles at the Cenotaph in London.
More recently, Claire qualified as an instrumental teacher, and plays for the band of the Wimbledon Light Operatic Society, and in May she played in Singin’ In The Rain.
Tristan was the band's original lead trumpeter, and left the band in 2010 to study for a PhD in Physics in Tokyo. He can still be heard on some of the recordings on this website and will always maintain a very special place in our hearts!
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