When Covid struck, this orchestral musician worked as a virologist

When Covid struck, this orchestral musician worked as a virologist


norman lebrecht

December 30, 2020

Joshua Kosman has a fascinating profile in the San Francisco Chronicle of the British horn player Mark Almond, newly appointed associate principal French horn player in the San Francisco Symphony.

Mark, who is 40 and from Boton, Lancs, is a fully qualified physician with a PhD in virology.

Over the last few months, he put on his scientist’s hat and trooped off to the Rosenberg Lab at UCSF, where he’s been doing COVID-19 research as a paid member of the laboratory staff. ‘I’ve been really lucky to have this background in pandemic flu,’ Almond told The Chronicle.

How did that come about?

Almond was the principal horn player in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and then the European Union Youth Orchestra, all while preparing for university on a medical track. ‘I studied pre-clinical medicine at Cambridge; then in my second year I got a phone call from the London Symphony Orchestra, asking me to come play with them. So I made my professional debut at 19, touring Europe with (conductor) Riccardo Chailly…. I had literally just delivered a baby as a medical student when the Philharmonia Orchestra called and offered me the job of third horn.’

Read more here.



  • JussiB says:

    with a brain like that, maybe he should try composing. the new music written today is all but unlistenable. even mozart did not finish college.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    Perhaps with that level of talent he can renegotiate BREXIT, work on peace in the Middle East, and help humanity address climate change.

    Playing in a symphony orchestra is a
    waste of his talent.

  • henry williams says:

    talented man. music & medicine.

  • Skippy says:

    What is it about horn players? While Charles Kavalovski served as principal horn in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he was also a tenured physics professor at Boston University.

  • Shalom Rackovsky says:

    Sarah Willis did a wonderful horn hangout with Mark, who basically explained the pulmonary system for wind players. It is a must-watch for anyone interested in the horn, in wind playing in general, and/or in Mark [and if you love music, you should fall in all 3 categories!].


  • Petros Linardos says:

    He is in good company: Jeffrey Tate, Giuseppe Sinopoli… but not Hector Berlioz.

  • Peter Phillips says:

    Boston Lincs, not Lancs.

  • BruceB says:

    Well it’s nice to see a musician doing something useful with his life for a change…. /eyeroll

    (I wonder if people at his research facility ever ask him if he actually gets paid by the San Francisco Symphony, or if they all just do it for the love of music.)

  • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

    Wow. Very impressive.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    A horn playing friend of mine from San Jose – sometimes subs in the S.F. Symphony – was telling me about Mark Almond just two days ago. My horn player friend now owns nine horns!

  • Nik says:

    He was also in Soft Cell

  • JussiB says:

    Many Russian master composers (and Charles Ives) had full time jobs and wrote music on the side. None of them wasted their time and talent doodling as orchestra musicians. We just don’t have composer talents anymore in the 21st Century or in the past 40 years (Bernstein was probably the last master classical composer who could write tunes.)