From Winifred Holtby Academy to Wyke, from Wyke to the Royal Northern College of Music, from RNCM to the Royal Opera House and more. Former A level Music student, James Hendry has achieved so much since leaving college. He is now working in Hannover, Germany, as Principle Conductor for the country’s state opera house. With so many questions to ask, we are thankful to James for keeping in touch, to share his Wyke highlights and to offer some excellent advice to our current students.
What are your best memories of Wyke?
My best memories of Wyke must be the seasonal concerts we did at the end of each term. When I was a student at Wyke, the college had a really great choir made of students and also staff members. It was a great way to mix with other people who didn’t study the same subjects, as everyone was welcome to come and sing. I would also say that I made some excellent friends at Wyke, and I wouldn’t be able to explain every one of the memories otherwise I would have to write a book.
How did your Wyke studies help shape your future?
The music department at Wyke has always been known for its high standards. Wyke gave me a great grounding in my musical studies, and my other subjects included English Literature and Language which really complimented my musical studies. Wyke also helped me grow as a person into an adult whom was responsible for my own learning and my own future prospects, this must be the most vital thing that Wyke gave me. It enabled me to go to university with a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve and a focus that was self-driven.
What advice would you give our current students?
Take every opportunity that the college gives you. Try something different and challenge yourself whether that be joining a musical group/lunchtime club, sports or drama. Do something outside of your subjects to give you a balance. Also, set your goals and don’t give up on them, but remain open to the twists and turns that may come along the way that may lead you down an altered path, that can be jarring but also very exciting. When I was at Wyke I didn’t think I would be working in Hannover, Germany as the Principle Conductor for the State Opera. I knew I was interested in working with people and singers but conducing was something that came much later for me. It was a path that I explored and it worked out for me, you have to be willing to take the chances.
Describe your time at Royal Northern College of Music?
I had a great time at the RNCM, first I studied Solo Piano and gained a first class Honours degree, I then went onto do a master’s degree there in repetiteur skills which I passed with distinction. RNCM was an extremely exciting place to be with many opportunities to take part in and also see a wide range of music and other performances. Manchester as a city is the best place to be a student! I worked extremely hard at the RNCM and was constantly busy both with my own studies but also playing for other peoples lessons on the piano or conducting local student theatre groups. RNCM gave me not only the skills but also the contact to the people in the music business.
Discuss the highlights of your professional life and the awards you have received.
I was lucky enough to get a full scholarship to study for my masters at RNCM, otherwise it really wouldn’t have been possible. I then went onto the prestigious Jette Parker young artists programme at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. I would say my time at the ROH is one of my highlights so far, Working with Antonio Pappano, who was a great mentor, really inspired me and taught me so much, but everyone who I worked with there was absolutely fantastic both on and off the stage, it really is a place of the highest possible creative standards.
Other highlights would include making my debuts with ENO and Opera North and now gaining the post of Erster Kapellmeister at the Staatsoper Hannover. My awards include being the winner of the degree category of the British Education awards for the amount I achieved during my master’s degree, and most recently being made an Associate of the Royal Northern College of Music. Of course receiving awards is great, but for me I am just doing my thing and enjoying my life and music.