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Cheshire-born Jamie Phillips becomes Halle Orchestra's youngest assistant conductor

PUBLISHED: 20:46 05 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:50 20 February 2013

Wielding the baton on the podium

Wielding the baton on the podium

At the amazingly young age of 21, local musician Jamie Phillips has been appointed to one of the most prestigious roles in the country, with the Hallé Orchestra. WORDS BY ROBERT BEALE

Remember the name Jamie Phillips. Just 21, hes the youngest assistant conductor to be appointed by the Hall Orchestra, and hes Cheshire-born. He takes up his duties this month.

Edward Gardner, the first Hall assistant conductor, appointed 10 years ago, is now in charge of English National Opera and this summer conducted at the opening night of the Proms in London. Others look like making international careers, too.

Jamie was in fact 20 when he got the job. He was also the youngest competitor in an international competition in France last year, where he reached the semi-finals, and the youngest of three finalists in the Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award in April this year.

Theres music in his genes Cheshire music, on his mums side, as grandfather James Hindle was organist at St Johns Church, Chester, until 1969. Mum and dad are professional musicians Jenni is now head of woodwind at Birmingham Conservatoire, and Mark plays French horn in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Jenni previously played oboe with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

His own instrument has been the trumpet (and its brass band cousin, the cornet). I was given a cornet for Christmas when I was four, started lessons on it at four-and-a-half and Ive enjoyed making a racket ever since! he says.

My parents never pressured me into a musical career. In fact when I was thinking about university they encouraged me to go for something else.
But by 17 I had come to the conclusion that it was music for me. He chose the joint course at the University of Manchester and Royal Northern College Hallof Music, which has produced several star conductors already, including Andrew Gourlay, whose highly successful tenure as Hall assistant conductor finished with a Youth Orchestra tour to Prague this summer.

Ive a lot to thank that course for, Jamie says. We were able to spend so much time in front of orchestras, bands and ensembles of every kind, getting experience very quickly, and Mark Heron, who teaches conducting at the university, is amazing.

He had played in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and reached the regional final of BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2007. And he formed his own small group from members of the NYO and conducted them in 2008...just for fun, as he puts it.

Hes now founded the Birmingham Festival Orchestra. Its mainly old friends from university and the NYO a tried and tested method and we sold out our first two concerts. Its a student thing and I dont think it will ever take over the world, but I hope it will be a long-term project.

His base is still in student-land in Victoria Park in Manchester. But the 21future looks very exciting. At the conducting competition in Salzburg the jury was equally split between him and another competitor as overall winner, and hell conduct at next years festival.

Meanwhile he has artistic responsibility for the Hall Youth Orchestra: his first concert with them is on December 22 in Manchester.

It wont be a million miles away from what Ive been doing at the university its about helping the players to get their fingers around the music. With the Hall itself its very different: they could play it without any help at all, and the cHallnge is to try to find the deeper aspects.

He gets his first chance in public to do that in November, when he shares the podium with Sir Mark Elder, who was at his final audition for the Hall job. Hell watch, advise and give me support for the next few years, says Jamie.

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