1- You studied at the Junior Royal Academy of Music between 2011 and 2015, studying composition with Matthew Taylor, conducting with Rebecca Miller and piano with Eleanor Hodgkinson. How do you recall these days and these masters?
I recall these days as some of the best of my life, and miss them ever so much! Walking into the building every Saturday morning, I would look up to the Royal Academy flag, blowing in the wind, and feel so lucky to get to learn in such an inspirational, vibrant institution, with such talented friends. I had the privilege of studying composition with Matthew Taylor, whose music I think is some of the most expressive, moving and characterful written by a living composer. He would inspire me every week to feel the musical fire in me and apply that to everything I did. One of my happiest memories was in my final lesson before leaving, when Matthew turned to me and said ‘that is the end of my role as your teacher, but I am now your friend’. To have such a role model tell me how much they believe in me was an honour. Studying with Rebecca was so exciting too – she is one of the most electrifying conductors I have ever seen and really pushed me to dig deeper into any score I was studying. She really made me push myself to be the best I could be, and that felt amazing.
2- Is your family musical?
Neither of my parents are musicians, but they have both supported me unconditionally along the way. My mum brought our house the piano and started me on lessons when I was 7. My dad has always loved classical music, so soon after, when I ran back from home one day after hearing some Elgar in a school assembly and begged my dad to play me more, he eagerly played me some Dvorak from his massive CD collection and ever since he hasn’t stopped introducing me to the music he loves. I owe it to my Dad for my passion for exploring all the music I can get my hands on! I would not be anywhere close to where I am without either of my parents and will never cease to be thankful!
3- In your last two years at the Junior Royal Academy you were the winner of the Gareth Walters Composition Prize, for your ‘Sinfonietta’ and ‘Clarinet Concertino’ respectively, each receiving premieres at the Academy conducted by Matthew Taylor. How did this accolade feel like?
It felt amazing! Seeing my teacher, Matthew, being proud of me was perhaps the most rewarding. I remember when he was rehearsing a section of my clarinet concerto for the first time and there was a chord that particularly resonated in the last movement, and he just looked across the room to me with such a smile on his face, as if to say, ‘oh that is good!!’, and I have never felt as proud! Premiering my clarinet concerto also meant getting to perform it with its dedicatee, my dear friend Freya Spence, who is one of the most wonderful musicians I know. I wrote every note knowing she would really make them speak! I am so glad that we have gone on to perform this piece a further two times together!
4- As a conductor, you were the founder of the Watford Youth Sinfonia, a student-led orchestra who, since 2014, have been performing ambitious repertoire under your directorship. Do you like to push the boundaries of talent and do you feel this has led to its fruits in this orchestral gathering?
I most certainly do! For me, the Watford Youth Sinfonia was designed to give players the opportunity to perform repertoire that perhaps their normal youth orchestra would be too frightened to choose. I am so proud of what we have achieved as an orchestra – overcoming financial hurdles and administrative difficulties to perform works as huge as Mahler’s 9th symphony or Respighi’s Roman Festivals, and future plans include Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Strauss’ Alpine Symphony. I feel we collectively enjoy the challenge and always strive to go a step further with every concert we do!!
5- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?
Music has been my entire life so there are so many to say! I have to say however that I have never felt more alive than when on the podium with my orchestra, the Watford Youth Sinfonia, making the music that matters most to me with my closest friends. That’s what life is about for me! Mahler 9 is the most important piece of music to me, and when we performed the last movement, I could physically feel the power of the music radiate through my body and it truly felt otherworldly. It is for moments like that for which I am thankful I am alive. I must also mention how exciting it was to conduct the final few pages of Respighi’s Roman Festivals with my orchestra. The energy levels were so high constantly and the volume was overwhelming. It was electrifying!
6- How often do your practice?
Practising is a tricky one to work out for conductors! When preparing a score for a concert, I do try to make sure I know it inside out. But on an average day, I just surround myself with music, listening to and exploring as much music as possible. I love discovering new pieces for the first time and dreaming about conducting them one day, and enjoying that beautiful feeling of hearing a piece of music for the first time that you know will also be very important to you. Today I heard Korngold’s ‘Die tote stadt’ for the first time and was completely blown away! For me, that counts as the kind of practise conductors should do. Just love music every day we live! As Rachmaninov once said, ‘Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music’. He was so right! And not a second can be wasted!
7- Would you consider teaching in the future?
I would LOVE to teach in the future. Conducting is about sharing love of music, and what better way than teaching? Conducting is also about experimenting with your own style to find new ways of communicating, so I would love to teach to help the younger generation (when I finally grow up that is!), experiment themselves, all in service of the music!
8- What advice would you give to young musicians at the start of their journey?
Always be ambitious – if music is your dream then don’t let anything stand in your way of following it! Feel every note you ever perform and always be humble, as we are all just servants to the greatest geniuses of all which are the composers! How did they do it?!