Winner of the 2017 Hephzibah Tintner Conducting Fellowship, the hornist started conducting by accident.

Born Sydney
Studied Queensland Con, Melbourne University
Likes Coloured Socks, fresh bread and butter, sleep-ins
Dislikes Pointless red traffic lights, cold, wet weather


What are your early musical memories?

My mum’s side of the family were heavily involved in choral music in Anglican Churches, and my first performing experiences were singing as a chorister. On the flip side, my dad had, and still has, an enormous, eclectic record collection ranging from classical, disco, rock and pop, through to Irish Rebel music. Mum controlled the radio Sunday to Friday and it was solely ABC Classic FM, then on Saturdays it was Dad’s pick and that could be anything.

Patrick BurnsConductor Patrick Burns. Photo © Blueprint Studios

How did you come to conducting?

Conducting started by accident during my undergraduate studies when our conductor was running late and we needed to start rehearsal. I started conducting and when he arrived he encouraged me to continue. He later pulled me aside and suggested that conducting might be something I should consider pursuing.

Who are your musical heroes?

I’ve never really had long standing heroes as I go through fads and phases. However, this is a selection of the conductors I admire: Claudio Abbado, Yevgeny Mravinsky, Tullio Serafin, Sir Adrian Boult, Pierre Monteux, Erich Kleiber, Carlos Kleiber, Leonard Bernstein, Sir Charles Mackerras, James Levine, George Prêtre.

Who have been your musical mentors?

I’ve been lucky to have several great teachers, but the most influential were my French horn teacher at the Queensland Conservatorium, Ysolt Clark, and my conducting mentor John Hopkins at Melbourne University.

How did you feel about winning the 2017 Hephzibah Tintner Conducting Fellowship? 

I was thrilled and am very excited to see where things lead. Opportunities for mentorship
on a professional level like this in conducting are rare and extremely competitive to get into.

How do you hope it will develop your career?

The Tintner Fellowship is quite unique because it works across the three disciplines of symphonic, ballet and opera conducting. I am hoping to get as much professional experience as possible and develop the current skills I have in each. Hopefully it provides a pathway to further opportunities.

You are Assistant Conductor for British Youth Opera in September. Can you tell us about that?

British Youth Opera is a London-based summer programme founded in 1987 to provide professional rehearsal and performance opportunities for emerging singers, musicians and technical trainees. I’ll be assisting the principal conductor, James Holmes, conducting extra rehearsals and serving as chorus master. I get to conduct a performance featuring the covers cast.

Which are you most interested in conducting – opera, ballet or concert repertoire?

This is a tough question to answer because whilst I can say that I have a passion for working with singers both in opera and concert work, I get equally excited at the prospect of conducting a Stravinsky or Tchaikovsky ballet, or a symphonic work by Mahler, Vaughan Williams or Peggy Glanville-Hicks. Great music is great music, no matter what genre, and any day being involved with great music is a good day at the office in my book. Ultimately, I would love to have a full career conducting works for stage, both opera and ballet, and also be in a position to continue to programme and perform works by Australian composers, and work with developing artists.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring conductors?

Get out there and do it. If you want to become a star football player you don’t sit at home and wait for Manchester United to phone. Same thing for conducting, get out there and take every opportunity to conduct groups, and if there aren’t any opportunities then make some. Don’t just sit at home conducting along to your favorite Mahler recordings with your teddy bear orchestra. Think carefully and seriously about why you want to be a conductor. Your leadership role will be critical in inspiring and setting an example for the artists you work with. Think carefully about what you present and how you present it because you have inherited a 500-year-old legacy of art music and you will play a critical role in how it is presented and preserved for future generations.


Patrick Burns is working as assistant conductor on the the British Youth Opera’s production of Judith Weir’s opera The Vanishing Bridegroom at Peacock Theatre, London, September 2 – 9.

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