profile of John Reade


John Reade's great hobby interest is playing and composing ragtime piano.

Born in Wolverhampton in the British Midlands in July 1938, he attended Wolverhampton Grammar School from 1948-56. As a boy he was taught classical piano and took the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music piano exams up to Grade 8, which is the highest usually taken. He topped these studies with a LRAM diploma in 1956, playing works from the classical piano repertoire.

National Service in the British Armed Forces was still compulsory in the 1950s and John was called up to join the Royal Signals Regiment. While based at Catterick Barracks in north Yorkshire from 1956-8 he played piano in a band calling itself The Kemmelaires. They played for troop entertainments in the NAAFI (the social club).

John's other great interest has been mathematics. (Music and mathematics often go together.) He was fortunate to merit a place as an undergraduate at Trinity College, University of Cambridge from 1958 to 1961, gaining a first class degree in mathematics. He stayed on at Cambridge to study for a Doctorate in mathematics which he gained in 1965 for a thesis on functional analysis. But throughout his time at Cambridge John played rag and jazz piano, being a member of the Vieux Carré Jazz Band, the Savoy Jazzmen, and the Idle Hour Jazz Band. In this time his repertoire of jazz and ragtime pieces amounted to about 50, all of which he played from memory.

John proved so competent at mathematics that he decided upon a career as a professional mathematician. His first post was as a Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Birmingham in 1965, which was a time of great expansion in higher education in the UK. While at Birmingham John played jazz piano with the Zenith Hot Stompers. In 1967 he was invited by Prof. Frank Adams FRS to join the expanding mathematics faculty at the University of Manchester, where he remained as a researcher and teacher until his recent retirement, in 2005.

Throughout his career in mathematics John has maintained a lively, active interest in playing ragtime and jazz. He has been the regular pianist in the Harlem Hot Stompers since 1969. This band still plays regularly in the North West of England and further afield, and can be booked to play at events such as dances, parties, weddings, retirements and other celebrations. John also composes rags in the traditional style; click left on 'Downloads' to hear a selection of these.