Tom Watts

Award: Postgraduate Award

Year: 2021

Genre: Classical

Instrument/voice type: Trumpet

Location: Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Tom embarked on an orchestral career at the age of 14, having been inspired by his first performance of Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony with the Watford School of Music Youth Orchestra. He went on to perform various major works with the orchestra as Principal Trumpet over the next few years, including Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Mahler’s 5th Symphony, and he led the section for the WYO’s performance of E.T: Adventures on Earth at the Youth Proms in 2016.

Tom’s Proms debut came in 2018 with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, having accepted a place in the prestigious orchestra for the year 2017/18. Since starting the 3-year intensive BMus course at the RNCM, having been awarded the Dobie Award entrance scholarship, orchestral highlights for Tom include performing in the RNCM Symphony Orchestra’s performances of Mahler’s 5th Symphony and Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony. He was also successful in gaining a place on the inaugural tour, in 2019, of the Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra, across Russia and the UK. 82 musicians from conservatoires in both countries performed 12 concerts in venues such as Moscow Conservatory's Great Hall and The Cadogan Hall, celebrating music by British and Russian composers. After his success in two rounds of audition, Tom was given the opportunity to perform in the Trumpet section of the Orchestra of Opera North on their run of La Bohème in 2019 (as part of the Professional Experience Scheme at the RNCM). He played with the Hallé in rehearsal in 2020 (as part of a similar scheme) and is hoping to perform with the orchestra later this year, as this aspect of the scheme was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aside from Symphony Orchestras, Tom has had varied experience in smaller ensembles whilst at the RNCM. A member of two Brass Quintets (Apex Brass and Seraphim Brass) and a Brass Septet (Whitworth Septet), Tom is a keen chamber musician and arranger. Tom has arranged Borodin’s String Quartet No.2 for a Brass Band Quartet, Bach’s Toccata in E Minor for Apex Brass and the ‘Prologue’ from West Side Story for The Whitworth Septet, amongst others. During the lockdown in 2020, this septet arrangement was multi-tracked by the group, and submitted as part of the Phillip Jones Brass Chamber Competition, a competition which Tom had won in 2019 with Apex Brass.

Other key small ensemble highlights for Tom include his performance with the RNCM New Ensemble in 2019 of Sir George Benjamin’s ‘At First Light’ (working alongside the composer), as part of his birthday celebrations held by the college. The group performed in both the RNCM Concert Hall and Wigmore Hall later that year. Tom also performed during the collaborative concerts between the RNCM and Oslo Conservatoire of Music in late 2019, at the RNCM. The programme included a diverse mix of Brass repertoire, from an arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition to Festmusik der Stadt Vien by Richard Strauss.
From September 2021, Tom will study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama on the Orchestral Artistry course, side by side with the LSO, having been awarded a scholarship from the conservatoire in addition to financial support from Help Musicians UK.
I have been accepted onto the Orchestral Artistry course at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, starting in September this year. The course is hugely exciting, allowing me to learn from Dave Elton, Principal Trumpet of the LSO, as well as the rest of the Brass section, in workshops, practice auditions and rehearsals with the orchestra. I will also be able to perform with the LSO next year as part of LSO Discovery (one of their outreach schemes). The course will undoubtedly be invaluable for my playing and professionalism; learning from and playing with players of a very high standard will force me to push my own musical capabilities to the limit. The course is part of the Master of Performance degree at Guildhall, which I will be awarded after the second year. A career as an orchestral musician has always been my goal, and this master’s course is the best springboard into that profession available to me. The skills I will learn and contacts I will make will greatly benefit me in the years to come.

Despite being awarded a scholarship at audition, it will be difficult to fund the postgrad course at Guildhall. Without any external funding, I would have probably been forced to delay my postgrad course by a year, and thus postpone my entry into the profession after graduation.

The reason I accepted the offer to take the 3-year intensive BMus course at the RNCM (as opposed to the standard 4-year course) was in order to enter the profession more quickly, whilst ensuring that I have the training necessary. Having had my ability recognised by the RNCM in this way, I would not want to waste the opportunities afforded to me now. The advantage of taking this course, as well as starting the postgrad course at Guildhall in 2021, would have been nullified if I had been forced to delay my entry.
The classical music world is changing rapidly, and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will undoubtedly be unprecedented and significant. I want to ensure that as orchestras and freelance musicians adapt, I am able to finance my education, and contribute to this evolution. The Help Musicians Postgraduate Award alleviates worries I have about my financial stability and enables me to concentrate on my musical and performance development.