Recent graduate lands top London orchestral job

-Posted on 31.08.2017

Academy oboe player wins Philharmonia position aged only 21

Oboist Tom Blomfield, who graduated from the Academy this year, has won the position of Joint Principal Oboe at the Philharmonia Orchestra, aged only 21, following a successful trial with the orchestra.

He described his first experience playing with the Philharmonia: ‘It was amazing. As a student, you anticipate that playing in a professional orchestra is one of the hardest things you’re going to do to. It’s nerve-wracking and you feel you’re being judged, especially if you’re on trial, but it actually turns out to be the easiest way to play. Everyone else is there because they know how to play with other people and you feel very supported. It was daunting to begin with but after ten minutes of the first rehearsal I felt more relaxed. Everyone fits so well together and it’s a tight section – a really nice group of players to be involved with.’

Blomfield studied with Chris Cowie, who previously held the job. He said of Cowie’s input: ‘Chris knew everything about how to get me to where I am now. He taught me that it’s about listening to others more than to yourself. Often it’s more important to know what’s going on around you than what you’re doing yourself. He discussed blending and fitting in with other players, particularly with regard to rhythm and intonation.’ 

During his time at the Academy, Blomfield worked with conductors including Edward Gardner, Oliver Knussen, Trevor Pinnock, Mark Elder and Semyon Bychkov. He said, ‘The conductors you get to work with at the Academy are very inspiring, but it’s not just them. The strength of the orchestral training is about all the people who rehearse you and tutor you in sectionals beforehand. They’re all living it themselves. Many of them are Philharmonia players or from other leading orchestras, and you get to pick up everything they’re doing, day in and day out.’ 

Blomfield’s final concert at the Academy was playing Principal Oboe in Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony under Semyon Bychkov at the Royal Festival Hall in June. He said of the experience: ‘The Mahler was probably the highlight of all my playing at the Academy and came at a time when things were getting exciting with the Philharmonia trial. It was a great way to work with a fantastic conductor and to go out after my four years at the Academy. Semyon Bychkov is an incredible all-round musician who knows the score unbelievably well and brings fantastic context to everything, giving us a very informed interpretation.’ 

What tips would he offer Freshers who start at the Academy on 11 September? ‘Take on every bit of advice that you get from anybody at the Academy or who comes to teach or give a masterclass. Take advantage of as much that’s offered as possible. Don’t be afraid to get involved socially. It’s good to get to know the people who could potentially employ you in the future: it’s a two-way thing – you’ve got to be a good player but it helps if you’re easy to work with. And master the practice room booking system – put the hours in!’ 


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