Only 21, Jamie Phillips has already bagged a key role in the prestigious Halle Orchestra. Christopher Morley speaks to an exciting young talent.
Just turned 21, Jamie Phillips has recently been appointed assistant conductor to Sir Mark Elder at Manchester’s prestigious Halle Orchestra.
Jamie comes from an impressive orchestral pedigree, with his father Mark a co-principal hornist with the CBSO, and mother Jenni previously oboist with the orchestra and now head of woodwind at Birmingham Conservatoire.
Jamie himself is a trumpeter of much distinction, but how did his interests turn to conducting?
“It began when I was about 10,” he tells me not far from the family home in Harborne.
“I looked at my Dad’s collection of scores, and decided Vaughan Williams’ London Symphony was the best, as all the instruments were written in English!
“When I was about 16, I said to my schoolteacher at King Edward’s Camp Hill Boys’ School ‘could I have a go?’. So I did the first movement of Beethoven’s Sixth, and he said, that’s all right, that’s ok.
“So we did a little bit more. When Birmingham Town Hall re-opened we did a school concert in there in December 2008, and I did Vaughan Williams’ ‘Wasps’ Overture.
“Next was the National Youth Orchestra, and I asked the director if I could form a chamber orchestra, so we did that, on our last course, and Vassily Petrenko came to watch. He gave me some good feedback.
“We did the first movement of Beethoven Seven, just over a couple of evenings. We rehearsed it a bit, and then performed it. There were lots of NYO professors there, and they’d seen people like Robin Ticciati and probably Rattle conduct when they were members.
“Then I went to uni and told my now conducting teacher that I’d been doing a bit, and that’s how it started.”
Coming from such a glittering musical background, does Jamie think his gifts are in the genes? “It’s always been difficult, actually, to tell if being musical was inevitable. But I seem to remember, since I was about three, sitting in on CBSO rehearsals.
“I guess I’ve always been looking at the conductor and thinking ‘he must be having a good time!’
Jamie goes on to tell me about the particular conductors who have influenced him.
“I was in the CBSO Youth Chorus when I was about seven for about five or six years. My first concert was at the Proms when I was seven, Mahler Three with Bernard Haitink.
“I remember doing Mahler Eight with Rattle. I saw Sakari (Oramo) and Andris (Nelsons) an awful lot, and they were a really great inspiration, in very different ways. The amount of energy that Andris puts into everything is incomparable. In terms of his commitment, he’s exemplary!
“We caught up with him for dinner in New York. He’s such a genuine human being.