Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras presenting the RPS/ABO Salomon prize to Janet

Janet Fulton: Percussionist and Real Life-Saver

02 Aug 2019

Not only is she an outstanding musician. Percussionist Janet Fulton saves real lives as a Community First Responder for Yorkshire Ambulance Service. Read the latest musings from our 2019 Salomon Prize winner.

When at home, I am on call 24/7 for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service as a Community First Responder. I didn’t have much experience of first aid before I trained for this role – my only major qualification was two badges from the girl guides years before. But if a drummer can do it, then anyone can. (What is the difference between a large pizza and a drummer? A large pizza can feed a family of 4).

Because I live in a rural area, I am virtually always first on scene. My first job, after letting everyone there know that the ambulance is on its way, is to assess, to monitor, reassure and to listen. Not much different to a participant led musical activity! (Obviously, if attending a cardiac arrest, you are expected to have a more active role after the initial assessment). When the professionals arrive there is a handover, then you turn into the supporting act if needed.

Every now and then you ask for the Air Ambulance, and boy does it make you proud to see the level of support the land and air crews give. I was once on a call out in the middle of a field, and the air ambulance team arrived – by car! The low cloud was preventing them flying, but they were still listening in to what was coming in, and decided they were near enough to help. Teamwork is key. Everyone has knowledge and appreciation of each other’s roles (I have been on full 12 hour shifts with the ambulance service to observe). One always takes the lead but will consult throughout, and they are highly trained individuals coming together to create the best possible outcome for the patient. Just like an orchestra being made up of highly trained individuals led in the best scenario by someone who consults to create the best possible outcome for the listener!

I have never experienced the situation we have read about in newspapers of professionals being too scared to offer an opinion even when they can see things going wrong because of the hierarchy within the NHS. I have experienced that in the musical world though! It has got a lot better over the years, but some conductors would have been better off consulting with the highly trained individuals around them, methinks.

Janet Fulton is Principal Percussionist of Manchester Camerata and was awarded the prestigious Salomon Prize in 2019, presented by the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Association of British Orchestras. In awarding her the Prize, the panel stated, 'Janet is part of the fabric and DNA of our orchestra and its communities. We feel that her passion for music and her constant drive to improve people’s lives deserves to be recognised.'

Read Janet's previous blog - Life as a Percussionist: Is That All?