The St Albans Symphony Orchestra is entering 2017 with a new principal conductor.

We spoke to Tom Hammond to find out all about him and his new role…

Where do you live?

Bermondsey, London

How old are you?


Where did you grow up?

Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire

Was music a big part of your childhood?

Yes, from about the age of 10. Music was not part of my family's life, so I was the black sheep. I discovered the music of Sibelius by chance and from that point became, well, obsessed.

Did you play instruments growing up?

The trombone and the piano. The former was because a neighbour owned one and said I could borrow it and he gave me my first lessons.

Did you study it?

I went on to study trombone at the Royal Academy, then pursued a professional career through the instrument for a decade before conducting took over.

What is your favourite type of music?

Symphonic repertoire and tone poems. Give me concerts of Sibelius and Beethoven and I'm a happy boy. I also love Golden Age (Cole Porter, George Gershwin, etc.) If you haven't heard them yet, check out Postmodern Jukebox on You Tube.

Any favourite artists?

The Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer  for bravely challenging orchestral orthodoxies, plus other conductors like Danielle  Gatti who only do things for the music, not to show off to the audience.

I also knew and spent some time being mentored by the late, great Sir Charles Mackerras, who was a musical giant. I often turn to his recordings for a lesson in how to do things...

Tell me about your new role

I am Principal Conductor of SASO, which means that I'll musically direct most performances each season.

How long have you been there?

I'm very new. I joined in September, so am just a few months into the role

Is there anything you are setting out to do differently? 

There are things I would like to develop with the orchestra as we get to really know each other. I have strong ideas about stylistic things in different periods of music and how concert programmes are constructed.

Any conductor changes the group dynamic the moment she or he steps on the podium, and it's a fascinating aspect of the job. However there are many things SASO already does well and as the saying goes, if it ain't broke...

Is this a full-time job?

Music is my full-time job - I spend my time conducting and working on musical projects; most recently this includes trying to establish a major classical music festival for Hertfordshire (the Hertfordshire Festival of Music).

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Concerts! The hard work happens in rehearsals.

Tell me a bit about the upcoming performance 

A New Year concert just has to involve Waltzes, and we have some super ones... not just the Viennese type. We also have Tchaikovsky's stunning score for Swan Lake which involves a superb waltz, plus a suite of music from Richard Strauss' opera Der Rosenkavalier, which is made from raunchy humour and tender love in equal measure.

Plus, we have the spectacular concerto for four French Horns by Schumann, his Konzertstück. The quartet of soloists will be led by one of the finest players in the UK or anywhere, Pip Eastop.

It promises to be a super evening and with more variety than a New Year concert might suggest.

You can read more about the upcoming performance here.

It was take place at St Albans Cathedral, St Albans, AL1 1BY, Monday, January 2, 2017. Details: 01727 890290,