Staff spotlight: Tom Harrold

By Kath Hartley


Tom Harrold

Tom Harrold

Tom Harrold is an award-winning Scottish composer whose music has received worldwide performances by a multitude of performing groups and artists, at venues which include the Berlin Philharmonie and Royal Albert Halls.

He has recently joined the Classical faculty at Leeds Conservatoire, specialising in composition. 

How did you get into composition, what drove you to pursue this as a career?

I started off as a pianist, and went to The Music School of Douglas Academy from the age of 12. I was really lucky that I had an hour of specialist composition lessons a week there with a fantastic teacher, so I always had a keen interest in writing music alongside my aspirations to be a pianist. At the age of 16, everything changed: I won the BBC Proms Young Composers’ Competition, and from that point on my focus was completely on being a composer and finding my voice.

What have been some of the most exciting commissions that you have had the opportunity to work on?

I’ve been really fortunate to have had some really interesting commissions with some fantastic musicians and ensembles. I guess the most exciting would be Raze, which opened the Last Night of the Proms in 2016. I also had a really exciting project a few years ago now where I was asked to write for 200 young performers - I think that will always stay with me as it was really unique to compose and conduct such a huge group of young musicians!

What have been some of your career highlights? 

I guess a particular recent highlight is a 30-minute ballet I was asked to write. It’s a co-commission from Birmingham Royal Ballet and Queensland Ballet, and received five performances at Birmingham Hippodrome last month with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, and is actually performed three times at London’s Sadler’s Wells next week, before going to Queensland in spring 2021. It’s my first work for the stage, and to be asked to write such a significant and large piece is really thrilling. Having my music “danced to” is a pretty fascinating experience.

What are you looking forward to most about starting here at Leeds Conservatoire?

I love that you get such an array of musical disciplines at Leeds Conservatoire. I really like that. It makes it particularly interesting for me as a composer to be teaching students with such an array of musical backgrounds and disciplines; it keeps it fresh and exciting for me as a teacher.

What would be your key advice for musicians looking to pursue a career in composition?

I guess my advice would be to always listen to music, and to listen to music that you don’t know or don’t like every day. It’s so important that as composers we are exposed to music that is maybe out-with our comfort zone; you never know what you might hear and really enjoy. Also, don’t let anyone convince you that you should be writing in a particular style or idiom - all music is valid so long as you are being true to who you want to be as a musician.

Find out more about Tom in his tutor profile.

Find out about BA Music (Classical) at Leeds Conservatoire

By Kath Hartley

It's not too late to start your Songwriting career! We have places available on both our 3-year BA Songwriting and…
UoH-Logo.png (2) QAA logo Conservatoires UK logo Partner_1.png AEC logo Roland logo prs-keychange-logo_red-blue_pantone-c (fine to use).png Luminate_Education_Group_Logo (small).png