'The University has all the tools in place to guide any musician on their way...'
Professional Orchestral Trumpet Player and Trumpet Teacher
Thomas has been playing trumpet and cornet since he was six years old, and is now thrilled to find himself doing so in his professional career.
‘It's fantastic being able to make a living doing something that I'm so passionate about and, of course I don't have to sit behind a desk all day!’
Thomas is currently Principal Trumpet of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, a position he has held since July 2014. He is an active teacher around Christchurch, at the University of Canterbury, Burnside High School, Christchurch School of Music and an extensive private studio. He enjoys the way music enables him to work closely with others.
‘It's an amazing feeling, being part of a professional orchestra,’ he says. ‘It provides a great variety – some weeks we are preparing for orchestral repertoire concerts, others we are doing opera, ballet, or backing artists such as the Topp Twins or Dave Dobbyn. It's an exciting job.
‘It's also a pleasure getting to teach and mentor young brass players and to pass on my knowledge to a future generation of musicians.’
Elsewhere in NZ, Thomas has been contracted several times as Acting Associate Principal Trumpet with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and freelancer with NZSO and Orchestra Wellington. This followed professional success in the UK, where he has completed two trial periods for Principal Trumpet of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, a position which he is still on trial for. He was also invited to be a soloist with the London Philharmonia Chamber Group on a concert trip to Klosters, Switzerland.
Solo success includes winning second place at the Gisborne International Music Competition in 2012, and the Brass/Wind & Percussion prize in 2013. He has also been featured as a soloist with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra several times in the last few years. He is a founding member of the recently formed “E” Brass Quintet, and is passionate about Chamber music also.
Thomas grew up in Christchurch and was keen to study at UC, where he was confident that the teaching would set him up well for being a professional musician. After achieving First Class Honours here, he went on to gain a Master of Performance with Distinction at the Royal College of Music in London.
‘At UC, I was very lucky to have some incredible musicians guide me through the performance and theoretical side of being a musician,’ he says. ‘I went on to postgraduate study with a broad musical knowledge, and I was well prepared to tackle the challenges of studying at one of the world’s foremost music institutions.’
Thomas wholeheartedly recommends UC to other aspiring musicians and has some good career advice.
‘I am fully aware of the risks associated with pursuing a career in music, as jobs are extremely limited and the competition is fierce. Take advantage of all that UC has to offer – not just in music, but also in other fields. The University has all the tools in place to guide any musician on their way.’
During his time at UC, Thomas made the most of opportunities to gain experience of performing and teaching, working with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and teaching privately. As a keen basketball player, having represented Canterbury and New Zealand at age-group levels until he was 18, he also developed his mentoring skills by coaching the sport at the YMCA.
Thomas has won a number of awards and scholarships, including the Kiwi Music Scholarship, Patricia Pratt Scholarship and a Dame Malvina Major Arts Excellence Award, which enabled him to complete his studies, and he is quick to show his gratitude.
‘I was honoured to receive those awards and I am also extremely fortunate to have received help from Adrienne, Lady Stewart and Elizabeth Edgar.’