We caught up with timpani player with the Flanders Symphony Orchestra, Tom Lee, ahead of the orchestra's performance at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 2 November as part of the Leeds International Orchestral Season 2019/20.
How long have you played with Flanders Symphony Orchestra?
A little over 2 years.
What has been the most memorable experience of your Orchestra career to date?
Playing Janáček's Glagolitic Mass at the Beethovenfest in Bonn was a big highlight.
What has been the funniest experience of your Orchestra career to date?
There was a fairly infamous incident where that evening's conductor arrived, on tour in a foreign country, on a Sunday, without any trousers. Management quickly scrambled all jets and ran to the men's dressing rooms. Of course as the person who sits furthest back in the orchestra I was instantly suggested as a replacer for said trousers. Naturally I refused, and instead threw my good friend in the violins under the bus, as he was a "better fit" for the maestro.
Do you do any work outside of Flanders Symphony Orchestra?
Yes, I live in London and freelance there and around the UK.
How were you introduced to music?
Both my parents are musicians so growing up I was fairly immersed in a wide range of styles.
Do you enjoy practising or find it a chore?
Sometimes I enjoy it and sometimes not! It definitely helps to have something to work for, such as an audition or tough concert.
What piece of music do you most enjoy playing?
Usually it's whichever Beethoven symphony I last performed.
Do you play any other musical instruments?
Were your parents musical?
Yes - mum's a classical flautist and pianist, and dad's a jazz saxophonist/clarinettist.
If you could play a different instrument what would it be?
The trumpet. Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool was my first ever album and that sound has stuck with me ever since.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
I used to enjoy maths lessons at school so most likely something with that.
What are the best and worst things about touring with the orchestra?
Best: getting to explore new places and halls - every new acoustic brings new challenges which usually keeps the music-making fresh enough even on longer tours with the same repertoire.
Worst: all that time spent on buses...
How do you deal with pre-concert nerves?
Eating a banana half an hour before the concert starts seems to help. Also the more prepared I can be, the fewer nerves I'll feel.
When was the last time you went to a concert as a member of the audience, and what did you hear/see?
It was a friend's opera company, Opera Kipling's production of Cosi Fan Tutti at the Edinburgh Fringe.
What was the last CD you bought or downloaded?
Noname - Telefone
What is your most treasured possession?
My board game collection.
What music do you listen to in the car?
Depends on the drive. If there's not too much extraneous noise I might try and get through an opera, but often it's some jazz or 90s hip hop. Anything really!
Do you have any hidden talents?
I'm quite good at accents.
What is your favourite book?
George Orwell – 1984.
What's your favourite film?
Where’s your favourite holiday destination?
And your favourite concert hall?
The Usher Hall in Edinburgh has a pretty special place in my heart.
Book for Tom Lee performing with the Flanders Symphony Orchestra at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 2 November
View the Leeds International Orchestral Season 2019/20 brochure online