I joined the Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra in 1997, and have witnessed it grow and develop since then. My own playing has improved hugely with the discipline of playing every week, and I now lead the cello section. My son Tom Monk—just a baby when I first joined the orchestra—is also a regular player in the percussion section.
Over the last 15 years, the orchestra has covered a broad repertoire and played in a variety of venues both in Sheffield and further afield. Every concert programme brings its own challenges—from entertaining small children with a musical steam train ride, to transporting a harp and full drum kit to the concert venue, or deciphering the innumerable key changes in a Mahler symphony.
It has been fun to work with our wonderful musical directors, each with their own approach—the unstinting encouragement of John Pearson, the creativity of Ewa Strusińska, and now the energy and enthusiasm of Jonathan Lo. We have also enjoyed the tutelage of several guest conductors over the years, including Juan Ortuño, Tom Newall and Robin McEwan. A highlight for me was the tour to Sardinia in 2009, where we played outdoors, and were joined by a chorus of cicadas.
I look forward to Tuesday rehearsals as a chance to focus on something completely different from my work as a research scientist. The orchestra is always friendly and welcoming: the music is both a challenge and an inspiration.