Obituary: Tom Hammond

Making Music was sad to hear of the passing of Tom Hammond (1974-2021), a former staff member and conductor of many of our member groups.

Tom was known across London and the south-east as a passionate and enthusiastic conductor. He always put the music first and was a champion for increasing access to music and enabling the understanding of it, bringing the composer to life from the notes on the page.

His conducting took him around the UK, as well as to Denmark, Berlin, Italy, Jersey and Ireland. On several occasions, he was also proud to lead the Palestine Youth Orchestra, with whom he visited Jordan, Dubai and Oman. In addition, during his varied career, Tom founded the chamber group sound collective, the Hertfordshire Festival of Music, of which he was Co-Artistic Director, and the recording company Chiaro, for which he was a producer.

Tom Hammond conducting

Tom looked on amateur music-making in its truest sense – for love. He had a real flair for choosing appropriate repertoire, programming lesser-known works alongside the more famous ones,  and addressing everything at the right level for those involved.

During his time as Making Music’s Regional Development Officer for London, a role he shared with Heather Tomala, Tom played a key role in promoting leisure-time music across the capital and connecting Making Music member groups with larger organisations – most notably helping to curate a series of performances by member groups as part of the Southbank Centre’s ‘Bernstein Project’ in 2009/10.

His seemingly endless energy, zest for life, and encouragement for anyone involved in music-making – whether professional, amateur, young, late starter, or anywhere in between – will be missed by everyone who came into contact with him.

Tom and his rescue dog, Patch

Discussions are under way for a bigger musical event later in the year, at which anyone who wishes to remember and honour Tom would be very welcome. Meanwhile, his Hertfordshire Festival of Music will run 2-11 June.

Robin Osterley, former Chief Executive of Making Music, and two of the Making Music member groups Tom had most recently worked with, pay tribute below.

I well remember when Tom came to interview for the job of London Development Officer at Making Music. In bounced this dynamic and extremely personable conductor who immediately blew us away with his enthusiasm and excitement for community music-making. It was straightaway clear that he was going to do an excellent job (shared with none other than Heather Tomala) and so it proved. Tom’s subsequent endeavours with various choirs, orchestras and with the Hertfordshire Festival of Music are testament to his ability to get things done and work with people from all backgrounds and circumstances. I will miss him enormously for his energy, can-do attitude, and effectiveness in music making, and his warm and winning personality. A huge loss, and my best wishes go to Heather, and to Tom’s family at this awful time. 

Robin Osterley, former Making Music Chief Executive

Since his appointment as our Principal Conductor in 2016, Tom was  totally committed to taking the orchestra to the highest levels, building strong connections with all our players and bringing out the best in all of us in our rehearsals and concerts. He will be desperately missed by all those who knew him and leaves a legacy of many fantastic concerts enjoyed by players and audience alike. We are keeping Tom’s partner and family in our thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time.

St Albans Symphony Orchestra

Tom was Hertford Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director for seven years and had an incredible impact on the musical lives of so many people. It was such a privilege to have shared so many fantastic musical experiences with Tom, including our two most recent and very memorable concerts back in November and December 2021 after a gap of 20 months due to the pandemic. We all miss Tom’s passion and dedication to music.

Andy Medhurst, Chairman, Hertford Symphony Orchestra