INTERVIEW: Tom Daggett

Exposed catches up with Tom Daggett, the newly arrived Director of Music at Sheffield Cathedral, who’ll be leading an ambitious programme to bring the joy of singing to children across the region. 

You moved to Sheffield and started in the role earlier this summer. How have you been settling in? 

I immediately felt at home in Sheffield. There’s a warmth here, and I’m getting used to people calling me love! I already love everything from the hills (keeps you fit!) to the quality of beer in the pubs (the best I’ve ever had!). I’m settled and really excited about what the future holds here. 

Could you tell us a bit about your previous work with St Paul’s Cathedral and how you’ll be bringing the National Schools Programme to Sheffield? 

I started the programme for St. Paul’s Cathedral to take choral music to children in places where it’s not likely to be seen or engaged with often. I was able to see first-hand the joy and transformation that music brought to children and the vision for Sheffield is very much a case of continuing that work.

How are you implementing this in practice?

A lot of it is about changing the usual access routes. Traditionally, choirs have had schools attached to them or children may have parents who’ve been able to sponsor them with music lessons. Auditions can also be seen as quite highfaluting and competitive. 

I think there’s a different role for cathedrals, which is to see the whole of the region as packed and ready. We will resource schools around the government’s music curriculum requirement, also offering potential for things like after-school choirs. Through singing, we hope to introduce children to other opportunities: local school choirs, local youth choirs, and organisations like the Steel City choristers. 

sheff cathedral

How do you see the cathedral itself playing a role in this process?

There are a few ways. For example, we’ll bring schools to the cathedral for end-of-term singing services and offer routes into the cathedral’s choirs. Interestingly, I’ve discovered since being here that a surprising number of people from Sheffield haven’t actually been to the cathedral. People might feel a religious distance or a notion that these communities are exclusive. However, it’s meant to be a place for all and we’re very passionate about showing that.  

Overall, I’m really keen that whatever work we do in schools is pointing them on towards something else. Our goal is to instil a lifelong love of singing. It’s not really about flying in with some beautiful choral music and giving children a one-off experience. We’re more about rolling up our sleeves and trying to bring some lasting benefit for the kids.  

So, your approach is more geared towards a lifelong engagement with music?

Precisely. We’re committed to a comprehensive, long-term perspective. Music isn’t a fleeting experience; it’s a lifelong journey. Unlike sporadic workshops or short-term instrument learning, we’re fostering a deep-rooted connection with music that endures throughout life. 

I like to call it a “toddler to teacher” mentality. A child could begin by attending our Rhythm Time session at Sheffield Cathedral, starting at a young age. As they grow, they can join our Little Lights Choir for ages four to seven.

If their enthusiasm for singing persists, they might even become choristers at the cathedral, or if a child in one of our partnered schools shares that passion, they too could join us as a chorister and be more actively involved.

We’ve accounted for the changing voices of boys, as they transition into adolescence. By offering roles for tenors and bases, we ensure their continued participation despite their vocal changes. Similarly, we provide opportunities for higher voices. The hope is they can become choral scholars, eventually becoming teachers themselves.

I’ve seen these programmes impact students in meaningful ways. It’s not about finding X Factor contestants, but rather providing opportunities for growth. Kids who have limited exposure to the world beyond their surroundings benefit greatly from singing. Through music, they gain confidence, stand taller, and excel in other areas of their lives. The positive effects are immeasurable.

What else will you be getting involved in your role as Director of Music? 

I oversee all musical aspects at Sheffield Cathedral. This includes rebuilding cathedral choirs, recruiting young choral scholars, managing children’s choirs, and building a new music department. I’m currently bringing in new talent like James Mitchell, who’s experienced in contemporary collaborations with DJs and composers. This is in addition to managing to managing the school singing programme, coordinating choral directors, training teachers, and driving across different areas to ensure its success. It’s keeping me nice and busy! 


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