In January 2020, we welcomed our new Music Director, Benjamin Westerman.
British conductor Benjamin Westerman graduated from the University of Bristol in 2014 and went on to train at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. Dutch Opera Magazine described him as ‘a star of the future’ after he conducted a performance of the Dutch National Opera as part of the 2018 Opera Forward Festival. He was a semi-finalist in the 2019 Jeunesses Musicales conducting competition in Bucharest.
During his studies Ben has taken part in masterclasses with internationally renowned conductors, including Daniele Gatti and Karel Mark Chichon, and has worked with a number of different ensembles, including the Orquesta Filarmonica de Gran Canaria, the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra in Bucharest, and the Netherlands Radio Choir.
Music has been part of Ben’s life for as long as he can remember, playing the piano and, on occasion, making himself heard on the trumpet and trombone. He sang as a boy treble in major European opera houses such as Covent Garden, with the Royal Opera, and in La Fenice, Venice, and particularly remembers being part of the cast of The Magic Flute at Glyndebourne when he was really quite young.
Bens’s first experience of conducting was taking the baton for a performance of the Mozart Requiem while still at the early stages of his studies. Unsurprisingly he describes this as having been somewhat ‘daunting’. He focussed on this element of music-making during his university career, and chose to go to Amsterdam for his MA year. Asked why he should make this choice, Ben responded that he was attracted by particular teachers and their focus on technique – on substance over style. He appreciates the way that Europeans value music-making so highly. Being British by birth but very much a European in ancestry and inclination, Ben is at home in the Netherlands. He speaks four languages and is working hard on the fifth, so has few problems with communications!
He loves travelling – sometimes to follow a cricket team, although he is wary of playing the game too often in case he damages his hands.
Ben is enjoying getting to know the players and singers of Tonbridge Philharmonic and setting us the challenge of challenging ourselves! He wants to ensure that the Society is never complacent but always seeking to improve. Most importantly, he wants us to do what he sees as the greatest benefit of local music-making – providing opportunities for as wide an audience as possible to get involved with and exposed to classical music in all its forms.