The Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition, held every two years, was founded in 1990 by philanthropist Donatella Flick. Ahead of the three rounds which will crown the 2016 winner, between the 15th and 17th November, Bachtrack's insider Nicole Wilson meets the competitors who will have to prove their talent conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

Do you come from a musical family?

Not at all, my father is a barber and my mother is a lawyer. No music in my family whatsoever!

When did they realise you had a thing about it?

I started learning the piano very young, at about 5. That was because I wanted to. I think I must have taken a liking to it and realised it was what I wanted to do from a very early age. I started on a little keyboard and when I was 8, my parents bought a small upright piano and then upgraded. Now we have a grand.

What was the first piece you ever conducted?

This was at the Junior Royal Academy of Music in London and it was the opening of Copland’s Appalachian Spring. I was about 15 years old and decided to go along to the conducting for beginners course held by a great conductor called Peter Stark. I went there every Saturday for about 5 or 6 years from the age of 12.

Why was the junior Royal Academy of Music on Saturdays so useful to you?

Up until I was about 12 I’d only been having weekly or twice week one-to-one tuition but at the Academy there were things like singing in the choir, analysis of music, music history; things I just didn’t get anywhere else. So Saturday school was great. And meeting like-minded people, who were also really interested in music was fantastic, it was the right thing to do.

You attended the prestigious Aspen Summer Music School. How did you cope with the workload?

I was there for the whole summer which was great but it doesn’t feel like you have had a summer as it’s 2 months of intense work. They invited me back next year which was nice. It’s a conducting fellowship. They invite 8-12 conductors every summer to study for two months there. We have our own orchestra who play for the students. Weekly concerts and various reading sessions, so you’re really conducting every day for 8 weeks, which is great but it’s very, very intensive. You learn a very specific set of skills, and how to learn everything very quickly.

What made you take the leap into studying conducting full time?

I had two weeks of work experience with the English National Opera. I got a phone call from someone at school saying that they were offering a placement, and at first I wasn’t really interested in opera, I didn’t know anything about opera, let alone conducting. But I thought why not, so went to have a look. I spent 2 weeks watching rehearsals, sat in on all the production meetings, casting meetings, met all of the repetiteurs, technicians, librarians, directors, and saw that there was a conductor whose job it was to bring this all together, and knew this was something that I really wanted to do.