Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

My great-grandmother, Freda Loaring, was a significant influence and I was lucky enough to know her for the first few years of my life. She must have been an able amateur pianist as I have inherited her scores of works including the Grieg Concerto with her own markings. She played for Santangelo’s Orchestra in Guernsey which often accompanied visiting singers and silent films at the old Royal Hotel. She encouraged my sister to play and once she had been playing for a while, I showed an interest in starting too.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Every one of my teachers has had a huge impact on my playing. Mervyn Grand’s teaching back in Guernsey motivated me and he and his son Sebastian (a pianist, now a great friend of mine and an exceptional conductor) were one of the major early inspirations that turned a hobby into a career. I studied with Murray McLachlan for six years at Chetham’s and RNCM and he really worked wonders on my technique and the way I thought about music and artistry more broadly. In America I’ve studied with Boris Berman and James Giles. I think what I’ve learned most from them is a more nuanced sensitivity to different styles and, physically, how to find appropriate sounds and colours for those styles.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Everyone tells you that music is competitive as a profession, so this comes as no surprise, but I think the greatest challenge so far for me has been the gradual realisation that there’s not a ‘divine’ justice determining success. I think I used to believe that if you worked hard enough and played well enough then someone would look after you and see that you got where you deserve to. I now realise that you’ve got to go out and make it happen for yourself. That might seem obvious, but it has been a gradual learning curve.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud  and which works do you think you perform best?

In terms of live performances, I have very fond memories of performing Rachmaninoff’s five works for piano and orchestra with Guernsey Sinfonietta and with Stockport Symphony Orchestra. I’ve always felt a very immediate connection with Rachmaninoff’s music, as many young musicians do, but as I have gotten older that connection has only deepened. This gives me the courage of my convictions. I feel I have an authentic and meaningful personal approach and can be more authoritative as a result.

When recording Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons and Ireland’s Sarnia, I set out to record a disc that comes as close to a live recording as possible. This approach, together with the possibilities offered by the piano and acoustic at Chethams’ Stoller Hall, allowed me to find sounds and colours that I am happy to hear back (once in a while).

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Programming is a delicate balance between what I feel I can play with personal authenticity and conviction, what the promoter(s) might want and what the audience might like to hear. It is also sometimes quite practical, for instance prioritising larger Romantic masterpieces like Liszt’s Sonata, Schumann’s Fantasie, Chopin’s Preludes and Brahms’ F minor Sonata so as to get them in my fingers and to start a journey with these pieces sooner rather than later. This has sometimes led to very unusual and ambitious programmes. One of these included Ireland’s Sarnia, Beethoven Sonata Opus 110, Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka and Liszt’s B minor Sonata in one evening!

Most of all I look for music that I like and that means something to me, and I try to thread a theme through the programme if I can. I also like creating global tonal schemes through a programme. Ideally all of these concerns come together in the same programme!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I love playing on home ground. I’m very proud of my island home of Guernsey and I’m lucky to be able to return home to play for a very supportive and appreciative audience in one of the country’s best acoustics for piano and chamber music at St James. I also just love the place itself. It’s not surprising that it has inspired artists from Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Victor Hugo to John Ireland, Julie Andrews and Oliver Reed.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Performing in Wigmore Hall in 2016. Of course, it’s a great hall for solo piano music but you can’t help but be inspired by the history. Backstage, the framed photographs and signatures from great musicians of the past and present are both humbling and inspiring.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

This is a difficult question to answer but I think, if we are honest, there is an ideal and a practical answer to this. Ideally, a successful musician is one that stays true to themselves and to their artistry. Someone that ‘successfully’ connects to others in their performances, in their teaching and in everyday life. Practically, if you can make enough to continue striving for this ideal then I’d say you’re a successful musician.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

As a teacher, I am always working towards the independence of my students. There are day to day concerns like how to analyse a problematic passage and practice it more efficiently on their own and how to make interpretative decisions more independently, but eventually the student needs to be equipped with a sure sense of self (and what it means, to them, to be an artist) in order to be a happy and successful musician. Artistry for me is about inward truth, outward connection and continual striving and I try to share that with my students.

Tom Hick’s recording of John Ireland’s Sarnia and Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons is available now

Hailed as an artist of ‘magnificent pianism’ with an ‘engaging personality,’ Guernsey-born pianist Tom Hicks has gained first prize in competitions including the Wales International Piano Competition, the Croydon Piano Concerto Competition and the EPTA UK Piano Competition and was also a finalist in the New York International Piano Competition and a semi-finalist in the Ferruccio Busoni International Competition. In addition, Tom has won awards such as the Richards’ Prize for Piano and Musicianship and the Dennis Midwood Keyboard Prize from Chetham’s School of Music; the Faculty of Humanities Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, the Keith Elcombe Prize for Best Overall Performance and three Proctor-Gregg Performance Prizes from the University of Manchester; and the Gold Medal Award and Peter Frankl Piano Prize from the Royal Northern College of Music.

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David Schofield and Daniel Parkinson (Photo: Tom Gradwell)
David Schofield and Daniel Parkinson (Photo: Tom Gradwell)

RNCM postgraduate conductor Daniel Parkinson and students from the School of Strings have teamed up with British pianist and Junior RNCM alumnus David Schofield to release a charity single in aid of Your RNCM.

A new version of the famous Londonderry Air, or ‘Danny Boy’ as it’s more commonly known, will be released through all major online stores on Monday 19 May with proceeds going towards Your RNCM, the College’s £3 million campaign to transform its 40-year-old Concert Hall into a state-of-the-art venue.

Recorded at the Manchester-based college earlier this month, the single was arranged for piano and strings by RNCM alumnus and world-famous pianist Stephen Hough with original orchestration by Ross Clarke.

Daniel Parkinson conducts RNCM strings (Photo: Tom Gradwell)
Daniel Parkinson conducts RNCM strings (Photo: Tom Gradwell)

Daniel, who is currently studying for an MMus in Solo Performance (Conducting), said: ‘The refurbished Concert Hall will provide a platform for artistic excellence at the RNCM. This campaign single came about thanks to the RNCM’s policy of encouraging and supporting students’ creativity as well as its ability to think out of the box. It has been a pleasure bringing together such a talented group of people to produce the track and I hope that it is successful in creating awareness and raising money for such a vital campaign.’

David, who studied at Junior RNCM before joining Chetham’s School of Music and the Chicago College of Performing Arts, added: ‘The RNCM played a major role in my early musical education and it is so nice to play a part in this single and give something back to both the College and Manchester. Stephen Hough and my good friend Ross Clarke have done an exceptional job on both the piano part and orchestration – it captures so well the meaning of the piece of music and is great to perform.

(Photo: Tom Gradwell)
(Photo: Tom Gradwell)

‘I was in the Concert Hall a few weeks ago and seeing the progress is amazing; it’s not only a great addition to the College but to musicians across the world. I have been so lucky to work with an amazing team of people on this project and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a classical number one on Sunday 25 May.’

Your RNCM officially launched in October 2013 and has so far received support from scientist and TV presenterProfessor Brian Cox, BBC 6 Music presenter Stuart Maconie, Classic FM’s John Suchet and, among others, international pianist Lang Lang.

Here’s a teaser of the single (#rncmsingle)

To date, the College has raised almost half of its £3 million target and work on the transformation, completed by Styles & Wood, is well underway. Incorporated in the plans is a complete redevelopment of the Concert Hall to include a new air-conditioning and heating system, new flooring and seating, advanced technical facilities and lighting, in addition to a balcony and raised floor area to considerably increase capacity. The backstage production areas of both the Concert Hall and RNCM Theatre will also be reconfigured to support increased student numbers and provide a professional learning environment at industry standard.

Professor Linda Merrick, RNCM Principal, said: ‘The RNCM prides itself on offering the very best facilities, not only to aspiring young musicians from all over the world, but also to audiences who recognise the significant position the college holds as one of the UK’s busiest and most diverse public performance venues. I am delighted and proud that our students are embracing our campaign and that so many are generating innovative ideas to help raise money for this exciting transformation. This single will appeal to music lovers from across the country and beyond, and is an excellent example of the talent and entrepreneurship of our young musicians.’

The RNCM Concert Hall opened in 1973 and closed to the public on Monday 27 January 2014. It will officially reopen as a state-of-the-art performance venue later this year.

For more information and to listen to interviews from performers and RNCM staff visit www.rncm.ac.uk/rncmsingle.


Meet the Artist…….Daniel Parkinson

Meet the Artist……Stephen Hough





Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and make it your career? 

I never wanted to be a concert pianist. I’m a people person (at least I like to think so!) and the idea of spending hours upon hours practising in solitary to then go and give solo performances really wasn’t for me – but I knew that I wanted to make music. It was Paul McCreesh who inspired me to become a conductor – I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life until Paul conducted the Creation and Elijah projects at Chethams. He really understood the nature of working with young people. So many conductors would have turned up for the session and disappeared at the end, but Paul made an effort to talk and get to know the students, passing on stories and giving a real insight into life as a conductor. We got talking – and he has been a mentor and a friend ever since. I admire his attention to detail as well as his ability to craft performances that are ‘different.’ You always know you’re going to hear something special and unique at a McCreesh performance. It’s always about the music.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Organising concerts is hectic and stressful – there are so many elements that can go wrong, and then to top it all off you have to be able to switch from admin mode to conductor mode. I have spent hours on my phone trying to get musicians to be in the same place at the same time! The most satisfying moment usually comes during the concert interval when I think to myself ‘this is why I put myself through hell…’

Which performances are you most proud of?  

In 2010 I was employed by the BBC to be the conductor to Benjamin Till’s A Symphony for Yorkshire project. People from all walks of life turned up to be a part of this community event – over 200 musicians took part. Working in the recording studio had it’s highs and lows – one particular moment came when the professional musicians in the string orchestra decided to walk out as soon as the clock hit the end of the session. Things just hadn’t been going our way and we had about 30 seconds of music left to record – despite the offer of over-time pay being dished out they were adamant that they were leaving. The project turned out to be a huge success and eventually won a Prix de Circum and three RTS (Royal Television Society) awards. I’m proud of what the Yorkshire community achieved – we had a few issues, but for the most part, everyone’s enthusiasm was a joy to see!

The idea of working across more then one genre of arts is something that really interests me. With the Symphony for Yorkshire project, it was working with visuals and creating something for a TV audience –very different from anything you do in a concert hall.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

Being a young conductor makes this question quite difficult to answer! When I’ve been to a few more, I’ll let you know!

Favourite pieces to listen to? 

I think I have a very open mind when it comes to what to listen to. But I have a particular affection for English choral music. Howells and Finzi are prime examples – their music is so sublime and very easy to get soaked into.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians? 

I think the most important thing when you are starting out is to make things happen for yourself. Too many people sit back and wait for the phone to ring – this is about entrepreneurship, getting out there and making your own opportunities. Hard work and sheer determination will get you a long way.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m currently working on ‘The Beethoven Piano Concerto Project’, which is an exciting and ambitious fundraiser for the Musicians Benevolent Fund. International concert pianist Martin Roscoe will be performing all five concertos in a single evening with an orchestra of past and present Royal Northern College of Music students. Supported by Pianist magazine and presented by John Suchet, this really promises to be one hell of a musical extravaganza! This adventure will take place on 5th October 2013 at the RNCM Concert Hall.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time? 

Somewhere with sun! (Only joking… although I wouldn’t complain!). The most important thing to me is that I’m working with top musicians to make fantastic music come to life.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Can anyone really experience perfect happiness? Life is full of ups and downs – and in particular, I think the life of a musician is a roller coaster of emotions. I would love to discover perfect happiness, whatever that is, but I’m just unconvinced that it will happen!

What do you enjoy doing away from music? 

Music is my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I do think it is necessary to find time to switch off. Doing non-musical things refreshes the mind. I am not a sporty person (unlike my sister who can’t get enough of it!) but I do have a particular fascination with the world of F1. I’ve been following this sport since I was a young child – the pinnacle of motorsport provides speed, determination, glamour, and an obvious desire to succeed. In many ways the workings of a Formula1 team is very similar to that of an orchestra. A lot of attention is given to the driver, but without the team around him he is nothing: the mechanics and designers all the way through to the physios and caterers!

Daniel Parkinson will conduct all five of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos in ‘The Beethoven Piano Concerto Project’ with acclaimed British pianist Martin Roscoe, introduced by John Suchet, to raise money for the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund. Tickets are on sale now. To book please visit www.beethovenpianoconcertos.co.uk

A former pupil of Chetham’s School of Music, and music graduate of the University of York, Daniel has been studying conducting with Mark Heron. He has also received tuition from Mark Stringer, Philippe Bach, Johannes Schlaefi, Russell Cowieson, Tim Reynish, Matthew Wood and Sasha Mäkilä. In 2013, Daniel will be joining the MMus Orchestral Conducting programme at the Royal Northern College of Music where he will study with Clark Rundell and Mark Heron.

Daniel has performed with a wide variety of ensembles including the North Cheshire Wind Orchestra, Liverpool Mozart Orchestra, University of York Chamber Orchestra, Chester Philharmonic Orchestra and the European Medical Students’ Orchestra and Choir. June 2012 saw Daniel conduct Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2 in a version for piano and string orchestra with soloist Masayuki Tayama. This was the third of four performances given by Daniel and the Chester Chamber Orchestra. The most recent concert also featured the Chester Consort – a vocal ensemble made up of young professional singers from across the UK. He was the Associate Conductor of the Chester Philharmonic Orchestra for the 2011/2012 season.

Daniel was the conductor for ‘A Symphony for Yorkshire.’ This was commissioned by the BBC in the summer of 2010 and received nationwide coverage across television, radio and online. It has since won a Prix de Circum award and three RTS (Royal Television Society) awards. He has also worked for Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT:UK) and is the Musical Director for Codys Productions. His enthusiasm for promoting classical music to the younger generation recently saw him conduct an educational concert in Notting Hill. As well as featuring Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, this event included a concert adaptation of the animated film, ‘The Mousehole Cat’ for orchestra, soprano and children’s choir.

Future engagements include concerts with Chester Philharmonic Orchestra and Stockport Symphony Orchestra as well as a ballet collaboration with KSDance Ltd. Autumn 2013 sees Daniel alongside international concert pianist Martin Roscoe in ‘The Beethoven Piano Concerto Project.’ All 5 Beethoven Piano Concertos will be performed in one evening to raise money for the Musicians Benevolent Fund. 

Daniel is a pianist at The Hammond School and KSDance Ltd.