10 Years On: A Catch Up With Trinity Laban’s First Junior Conducting Fellow

Tom Hammond was the first recipient of the Sir Charles Mackerras Junior Fellowship in Conducting at Trinity Laban Conservatoire (2006-08). Ten years on, Graduate Intern (Press & PR) Robyn met with Tom to hear his thoughts on his training, the music profession, and his career.

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Tom is enjoying success as an orchestral conductor, music educator, record producer and festival founder, and yet couldn’t be further from the Lofty Maestro caricature I was anticipating.  As we chat over Styrofoam cups of coffee in the King Charles’ Court café, he explains how, despite his achievements, he doesn’t subscribe to the Cult of Personality that trails certain individuals in the conducting profession. Instead, Tom believes his job is simply to serve the music.

‘It’s a horrible cliché but it’s true!’ he justifies, ‘The greatest conductors are the ones who actually take a step back.’ One such great is, of course, the late Sir Charles Mackerras, who selected Tom for Trinity Laban’s inaugural Junior Fellowship in Conducting. ‘There he was in his eighties,’ Tom recalls with admiration, ‘but still thinking “every single time I come to something I’m going to approach it like it’s the first time and it’s going to be fresh.”’

Tom expresses how much he learned from his fellowship at Trinity Laban, and clearly enjoyed a wonderful relationship with his mentor – he even had the honour of being the first call Mackerras ever made on a mobile phone, an anecdote Tom shares with a fond chuckle – but Tom didn’t always know how prestigious an opportunity working with Mackerras was. ‘To my shame, I didn’t really know that much about him before…I probably would’ve been incredibly nervous if I had known enough about the incredible breadth of his achievements.’

Perhaps this naivety was due to growing up in the midlands in a place where ‘there wasn’t a huge amount of music going on’. But, as the proverbial black sheep in his non-musical family, Tom went on to study trombone at the Royal Academy of Music. He had an interest in the conducting world throughout his playing career, and only in his early thirties did he hear about the Mackerras fellowship and chose to pursue conducting professionally.

Plagued by ‘terrible imposter syndrome’, Tom worried that he didn’t have a good enough ear to be a conductor, so used the fellowship to improve his skills. Simon Young, Trinity Laban’s Head of Performance Studies at the time, helped him ‘uncover something about myself that I thought I was missing. And now I’m doing CD producing which involves listening to tiny inflections of intonation or ensemble.’

I ask how his producing experience compares to conducting. ‘You’ve got this little barrier when you’re conducting – you have to be driving the car not watching the scenery. It’s amazing what you will hear when you don’t have the distraction of waving your arms.’ Another difference is that he’s not fussy about repertoire as a producer, something that he is zealous about as a conductor, ‘I don’t think anyone should conduct a piece of music they’re not personally convinced is amazing.’

 

Tom is clearly bonkers for classical music, his eyes shining with childlike delight as he discusses his work. One project he is particularly proud of is the Hertfordshire Festival of Music that he launched in 2015 with composer James Francis Brown. Tom insists that he wasn’t looking to start a high-level classical music festival, but with its picturesque location, cultural history, and core loyal music audience, Hertford seemed too perfect to resist. Originally just a one-day event, it has expanded into an entire week for 2018 and has been backed by local politicians, authority, and individuals. ‘What we want to grow is a really major addition to the music calendar every year and a place where we can nurture new music, home-grown talent, community events, and feature a living composer every year. We’ve got huge ambitions.’

Given Tom’s disapproval of the “boys club” of the music profession, I noted that it was funny that he was, by his own admission, playing the same game, having called on his professional contacts when putting together the festival programme. When I queried how he got such big names, such as Tasmin Little and Dame Emma Kirkby, involved, he deadpanned: ‘Pay them.’ Modestly he continued, ‘I’m lucky to work with some fantastic people.’ But one doubts it is simply luck. ‘We got to know these artists personally and hopefully they like us and see what our vision is. We also offer them quite a lot of flexibility. Each year we work with that principal artist figure and say “let’s develop a theme together”’.

This same generosity abounds when he speaks of his fellow musicians. In fact he speaks so highly of internationally-renowned pianist Stephen Hough – who will be the Featured Artist and Composer of the 2018 festival, and who Tom has previously worked with performing Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 – he sounds like he’s in the deep throes of a bromance: ‘He’s a lovely guy…he can be incredibly easy-going without losing any of the gravitas… in the performance he will bring something extra which is exciting…and he’s genuine as well…and a dry and infectious sense of humour.’

And Tom talks just as animatedly about his ongoing roles with the Palestine Youth Orchestra, Ingenium Academy, and the Yorkshire Young Sinfonia, sounding almost like a proud dad. It is evident that he relishes working with people, whether it’s seasoned pros or aspiring young musicians, and feels strongly about music education and young musicians’ engagement with classical music, wholeheartedly supporting the ethos of music as a tool to foster human connections.

This seems especially important today when, as Tom puts it, ‘Classical Music word is no longer a pastime in which many participate.’ He points to the sector’s necessary and increasing reliance on private funding, and the financial risks associated with pursuing a career in classical music, as reasons why ‘those without resources are excluded.’

To help counteract this, Tom believes that music professionals ‘need to better understand where their audience comes from and find ever increasing ways to feel linked to those they perform to’. It is something that is already part of the ethos at Trinity Laban, which Tom finds deeply encouraging.

We end our chat feeling like we’ve put the world to rights, and I, with tongue firmly in cheek, enquire what his goals are when he grows up. He offers a candid response, ‘frankly just being able to continue to conduct the repertoire that I love until I fall over, I’d be very pleased.’ Wouldn’t we all.

 

To find out more about what Tom is up to visit: http://www.tom-hammond.org.uk/ and www.hertsmusicfest.org.uk

If you’re interested in studying at Trinity Laban, you can find out more at: https://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/study

 

Written by Robyn Donnelly, Graduate Intern (Press & PR)

Careers in Music Leading: 5 reasons to come along to Press Play

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Thinking about the next steps after you complete your music studies? Starting out and looking for some guidance?

Here are 5 reasons why you need to come along to Press Play…

  1. Get your foot in the door

One of the best ways to get started is to put yourself out there, whether that be through volunteering or shadowing, a social media presence, making and nurturing connections with employers or meeting people who are already established music leaders. Everyone has to start off somewhere and those in the business coming along to Press Play have their own journeys and experiences to share with you.

Animate & The Band / LPO & Trinity Laban

  1. Find out what employers want

Do you really know what they’re looking for? Our visiting organisations and professionals are coming along to Press Play so that you can ask them your questions. Find out what they look for in potential employees and what they think makes a stand out candidate. They can also advise on further development routes such as postgraduate study, trainee schemes and one-off training days.

  1. Know all of your options

Having an open mind and the willingness to explore a variety of work routes will get you far. There are so many rewarding possibilities available to musicians in education, teaching, community settings or arts organisations and being open to trying something new can introduce you to amazing careers that you perhaps never knew about!

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  1. Turn your ideas into reality

You don’t need to be a contestant on The Apprentice *sigh of relief* to get your project idea off the ground! It’s all about having the drive to make things happen. Press Play provides you with the opportunity to seek advice from experienced producers and find out about the practicalities and logistics of producing your own participatory music project.

  1. Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Being prepared to step out of your comfort zone is a hugely valuable way to learn. By coming along to Press Play, you can discover new and exciting career paths for you to follow and discover exactly what you need to do to get started. So whether you are in your first or last year of studies, recently graduated or just starting out, now is a great time to think about your future and get ahead on your career.

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27 OCT 2017 10.00 – 17.00h

Laban Building, SE8 3DZ

Light lunch and refreshments provided

£15 for Trinity Laban students | £20 for other students | £45 for standard admission

Find out more and book your place here.

10 reasons why you should choose The Teaching Musician programme

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The Teaching Musician is a postgraduate programme, designed to increase your skills as a professional musician working in music education. It’s for musicians working in the UK and internationally in any educational setting: from instrumental and vocal teachers in schools to musicians working in community settings.

Discover 10 reasons why the Teaching Musician is the perfect programme for you:

  1. Continue to work as you learn: The programme is designed to be completed alongside a busy professional career
  2. Make connections: Build your professional network of fellow music educators from across the UK and beyond, and engage with Trinity Laban’s highly regarded Learning & Participation team, renowned for their outstanding work and support

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  1. It’s value for money: Achieve the complete MA programme for less than £5,500 and spread the cost over 2-4 years depending on how intensely you would like to study
  2. Receive world class tutoring: Gain support and mentoring from expert staff actively working in the music education sector and drawn from a variety of Higher Education Institutions
  3. Learn at home: Much of the programme can be completed online with four trips to the spectacular Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London for face-to-face training weekends during school holidays
  4. Research and reflect: Critically reflect on and develop your practice through engagement with current theory and research
  5. Get back to the books: Our student services and library teams are always on hand to support you in getting back into higher education and academia
  6. Boost your CV: Get letters after your name and gain recognition for your work as a music educator
  7. Get out of your comfort zone: Work in an unfamiliar education context to diversify your practice and learn new skills with support from a placement supervisor
  8. Learn new tricks: Refresh your teaching practice with new approaches, ideas and knowledge of the contemporary music education sector

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Applications close on 30 NOV 2017. For more info and details on how to apply please visit trinitylaban.ac.uk/teachingmusician.  If you have any questions about the programme or application process after reading the information in the programme brochure and on our FAQs page, please contact us at admissions@trinitylaban.ac.uk

STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

Push!  Pull! Get down! … you may be familiar with these three terms  if you’ve ever attended one of our Strength & Conditioning or HIIT classes in the Conditioning Studio here at Trinity Laban. These free classes are beneficial and open to ALL Trinity Laban students which can support your practice as a dancer, musician, or musical theatre student.

Are you thinking strength and conditioning doesn’t apply to you and your practice? Never trained for strength or conditioning and don’t know how to start?

Read on to learn more about supporting your individual practice and how Trinity Laban is here to support you.

#KickStartSC IS for You!

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Image: Chris Nash Photography and Random Dance

What the science says:

Whether you’re a music student, dance student, or musical theatre student, maintaining physical fitness is important for performance enhancement and injury prevention. Numerous studies on the physical demands of dance have shown that the cardiorespiratory requirements of dance classes are significantly lower than dance performance. This gap between the demands of class and performance leave dancers unprepared for the rigor of performance, resulting in fatigue and in some cases, injury. Further, a high frequency of injury in dancers has been linked to insufficient levels of strength and endurance. It has been recommended that dancers train strength, especially for areas of the body that receive extra load during training, and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which most closely simulates a dance performance setting.

Training in music presents a different set of physical demands on the body. A study examining the physiological demands of music found that music is an intermittent activity with fluctuating cardiorespiratory demands. It was suggested that interval training, such as HIIT, would be a beneficial form of supplementary training to support a musician’s training.  Other studies highlight the high occurrence of overuse injuries in musicians, as well as injuries caused by bad technique habits, and postural misalignments. Strength—especially in areas such as the core or the limbs required to hold or play the musician’s instrument—is needed to support a musicians’ performance without injury.

According to a study from Medical Problems of Performing Artists, musical theatre performers are the “triathletes” of the performing arts. This field of the performing arts involves elements of both dance and music and therefore requires the physical demands of both fields. Additionally, singing while dancing proposes unique demands on the performers’ breathing patterns. Like in dance, it was found that in-class training does not meet the demands of performance in musical theatre. One study found that 46% of their participants reported receiving two injuries per year and 30% receiving three or four per year, with the most common being injuries of the lower extremities.  Based on these findings, it is important for musical theatre performers to engage in supplementary fitness training to prepare for performance conditions.

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Image: Conditioning Studio at TL, JK Photography.

#KickStartSC:

For the first time, the Trinity Laban Conditioning Studio will be putting on a Kick-Start series of strength and conditioning classes taught by Trinity Laban alumni Khyle Eccles, MSc Dance Science, specializing in strength and conditioning for performing artists. This series, which will take place during the first week of Term One, will focus on introducing students to using the Conditioning Studio for supplementary strength and conditioning training.

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Image: Khyle Eccles

Over the previous year, the Strength & Conditioning and HIIT classes taught by Khyle have helped students from all programs to increase their fitness levels and aid them in training and performance. These classes are also great resources for learning principles of strength and conditioning that can be applied to one’s own practice. In the past, students have learned the importance of warm-up and ways to incorporate a sufficient warm up into their practice, how to use all of the various pieces of equipment that exist in the conditioning studio, and that strength and conditioning can be fun and exciting! If Khyle’s enthusiasm and great dance moves don’t get you hooked on these classes, then the benefits on your training will. Each class targets different aspects of training, so attendance at these classes will always apply to you and could result in increased jump height for all the dancing needs, increased endurance for long performances, or increased upper body strength for holding up those instruments day after day.

Come join us this coming week for #KickStartSC and see what this is all about!

Written by Elizabeth Yutzey

Dance Science Graduate Intern

10 WAYS YOU CAN JOIN US IN #MUSICMAKING

Today we are celebrating Make Music Day, an international celebration of music making, first launched in 1982. The festival will take place in over 750 cities worldwide, inviting anyone and everyone to come together to make music.

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Image: Tas Kyprianou

At Trinity Laban, we believe that music should be accessible to all. From one-off taster workshops to weekly classes, courses, creative arts projects and music/dance collaborations, our public programmes attract participants of all ages, whatever their background or ability.

Here are just 10 ways you can join us in music making:

1) The Certificate: The Practice of Music Making

The Certificate: The Practice of Music Making, is a one-year programme developed by Trinity Laban in partnership with the Open University. It offers adults with a passion for music the opportunity to develop their practical music making and performance skills through online distance learning with a residential learning week at our home in Greenwich.

2) Inspired not Tired – Over 60s Music and Dance

Our Learning and Participation teams are working with Lewisham-based partners as part of Older People’s Arts Network (OPAN) to make Lewisham a great place to grow old! Supported by Lewisham Council, Inspired Not Tired offers a weekly programme of music and dance to older participants aged 60+. See all groups on our website.

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Image: Tas Kyprianou

3) Professional Development

Our professional development programme enables music and dance artists, teachers, tutors and community practitioners to receive high quality training both regionally and nationally. Our music programme offers unique opportunities from extended study for an accredited qualification to shorter day and weekend courses. Take a look at training opportunities over on our website.

4) Junior Trinity

Junior Trinity is a Saturday Music Department for 3-19 year olds. Our Junior Department was the first of a UK Conservatoire to open its doors to schoolchildren on Saturdays in 1906. Since then, thousands of young people have benefited from the opportunities that Junior Trinity brings! From Trinity Teenies aged 3-5 right through to university and conservatoire entrance, Junior Trinity aims to encourage a lifelong interest in music and to give students the opportunities to develop to their maximum potential.

5) Take Part for Children and Young People

We offer a wide range of music and dance opportunities for children and young people. These include collaborative performance platform Lewisham Live, Animate Orchestra for school years 5-10, Schools’ Concerts, Youth Forum and more.

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Image: JK Photography

6) Jazz for Girls and Young Women

We want to get more girls in jazz! Our Girls and Young Women in Jazz day brings young female jazz musicians together to develop their skills through fun and informal workshops and masterclasses. Participants work alongside jazz musicians and students from Trinity Laban, perform as part of an ensemble, share new musical ideas, give peer-to-peer feedback and receive helpful support and advice on their playing from industry professionals.

7) Viola Day

On Saturday 1 July we’re welcoming viola players to join us for workshops, performance opportunities, and masterclasses with world-class violists from our Faculty of Music teaching staff. Visitors can chat with our current students about what it’s like to study viola at a conservatoire, and get some tips about the audition process.

8) Percussion Day

For all those with a passion for percussion, we’re hosting a day for percussion enthusiasts which will include fun and interactive workshops, performances, a trade show of percussion suppliers and demonstrations. Trinity Laban percussionists then take to the Greenwich Music Time main stage to perform a free concert featuring everything from Afro-Cuban fusion to swing!

9) Summer Schools

Music making doesn’t have to stop over the summer! Trinity Laban offers a choice of summer schools in music, musical theatre and dance every year. Participants can go Beyond the Dots in our music summer school for young people aged 11-19, or Take the Lead in a week-long intensive musical theatre training experience, for participants aged 16 and above.

10) Take Part for Teachers & Schools

We provide a number of opportunities for schools and teachers, from in-school workshops with our experienced team of workshop leaders to taster days at Trinity Laban for students considering a Higher Education course in Music or Dance. We also create bespoke programmes for school groups and offer Professional Development courses for teaching staff.

To find out more about Make Music Day, visit www.makemusicday.org.

Feeling inspired to Take Part with us at Trinity Laban? Find your programme here.

 

Historical Project: Recreating Hofesh Shecther’s Sun

Hofesh Shechter is recognised as one of the most exciting artists working today, renowned for composing atmospheric musical scores to compliment the unique physicality of his movement. He is Artistic Director of the UK based Hofesh Shechter Company, formed in 2008. The company are resident at Brighton Dome and Shechter is an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells Theatre. His works for his company include Uprising, In your rooms, The Art of Not Looking Back, Survivor (in collaboration with Antony Gormley at the Barbican), Sun, Political Mother, and Barbarians.

Sun premiered in Melbourne in 2013 and Hofesh Shechter Company has toured the work internationally for over three years. The extract performed for the Historical Project is a stripped down version that takes its inspiration from various sections of the original work, in which the performers portray perhaps the last remnants of a lost and crumbling society.

Winifred Burnet Smith, Sam Coren and Philip Hulford are the Rehearsal Assistants staging the work, who said:

“We are so thrilled to be restaging and reinvigorating an extract of Sun with the Trinity Laban undergrads – dance legends one and all. All the students have worked so hard, and have been a joy to teach. We cannot thank them enough for their perseverance and positive attitude to learning Hofesh Shechter’s unique style.”

Second year student Sara Maurizi is one of the dancers performing in the work, she said:

“The process of learning Sun by Hofesh Shechter is challenging and inspiring me both as a human and as a dancer. The qualities of movement, the different intentions and the characters are intriguing in the piece and it has a percussive rhythm. I have to let my whole self be driven by the piece and dance without judgement and fear. I am very glad I had the chance to be part of this project.”

Emma Lane is another dancer in the work, she added:

“The experience is both physically and mentally challenging as I am being taught new ways to move my body and new ways to connect with emotions authentically. Finding a way to move my body in totality and having to constantly shift the dynamics of my movement has allowed me to reach new extremities that I will take with me for the rest of my training and career.”

For more information and to book tickets visit our Events page.

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Image: Sun by Gabriele Zucca

Historical Project: Merce Cunningham’s MinEvents

Merce Cunningham (1919–2009) was a leader of the American avant-garde throughout his seventy-year career and is considered one of the most important choreographers of our time. With an artistic career distinguished by constant experimentation and collaboration with groundbreaking artists, Cunningham expanded the frontiers of dance and contemporary visual and performing arts.

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Photo: Merce Cunningham in Changeling (1957) by Richard Rutledge

MinEvents 2017

A MinEvent is an uninterrupted sequence of excerpts drawn from the work of Merce Cunningham.  Each MinEvent is unique, and is designed to suit the particular space in which it is presented. Trinity Laban MinEvents are arranged and staged by Daniel Squire expressly for the dancers of Trinity Laban. Daniel said:

“This is the third year in a row for which I have created and staged four MinEvents using Merce Cunningham’s choreography for Trinity Laban. Each year, several sections have been pulled from various works ranging from the 1958 to 2002. This year we will include one section which appeared in Trinity Laban MinEvents 1, 2, 3 & 4 in 2015: this is from un jour ou deux, which was originally performed by the Paris Opera Ballet. The sections will be shuffled differently for each of the four performances, making each one unique. Some sections will be double – or triple – cast within each work, though all fourteen dancers will appear in each MinEvent.

Music is being composed and will be performed by Trinity Laban students; the décor is by Sarah Batey, a student from UCL, Slade School of Fine Art. I am very much looking forward to seeing Merce’s work and in this case a collaboration with the musician-composers, the artist, lighting designer, and costume designer to create four works never before seen but rather recontextualising extant choreography by Merce Cunningham.”

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Photo: Daniel Squire by Ed Chappell. Interscape (2000) by Merce Cunningham: décor & costumes by Robert Rauschenberg

Second year student Jon Hope is one of the dancers performing in the MinEvents, he said:

“Working with Daniel means that every day is an adventure in itself. He teaches us material at a fast pace and has high expectations of our technical ability. This has made me aware that we must always strive to improve and never settle with what is safe or comfortable. In the choreography we use chance procedure which challenges our minds as we cannot rely on memorising the movement; each time it’s different. We have to learn all the possible outcomes and be ready to do any one of them when the opportunity arises. This way of creating ever-changing dance really intrigues me.

It’s great to have such an intensive time with one technique, one teacher and one piece. It allows for full focus, quick improvement and it’s refreshing to work with a different group of people than I usually do.

To get a full experience of MinEvents I urge the audience to keep a keen eye on the details, to look for the relationships between the dancers and movement, and to enjoy the co-existence of the dance, the sound and the set. Expect to see a new combination of extracts from Events created by Cunningham in a different setting and in a different time.”

Next week we delve into the process of recreating an extract from Hofesh Shechter’s Sun.

For more information and to book tickets visit our Events page.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR