Born in Tanzania to Australian parents, Tom Woods grew up in Perth, Western Australia, where he learnt cello and piano and studied conducting with Richard Gill at the West Australian Conservatorium. In 1989, he received a Department of Foreign Affairs scholarship to enable studies in Moscow under Maestro Vladimir Ponkin.
Returning to Australia, Tom joined Opera Australia in 1993, becoming one of the youngest conductors in the company's history with his debut A Midsummer Night's Dream at age 23 to critical acclaim. Between 1993 and 1997, Tom was Assistant Conductor for over sixty operas; assisting such maestri as Richard Hickox, Simone Young, Christopher Hogwood, Sir Charles Mackerras, Richard Bonynge and Carlo Felice Cillario.
His ongoing relationship with Opera Australia has seen him conduct the world premiere of John Haddock’s Madeline Lee, the Australian premiere of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and works including La bohème, Madama Butterfly, Turandot, La traviata, Un ballo in maschera, Carmen, Il barbiere di Siviglia, La Fille du Regiment, The Gondoliers and Patience. Tom has conducted for the State Opera of South Australia (Rigoletto, Il barbiere di Siviglia), West Australian Opera (La traviata) and Opera Queensland (The Mikado).
Tom has conducted all the major Australian symphony orchestras and was the Artistic Director of the Sydney Youth Orchestra between 1999 and 2005. In recent years, he has conducted the Sudwestdeutscheskammerorchester Pforzheim, the Krasnoyarsk Symphony, Sendai Philharmonic and Osaka Symphoniker. He has conducted in Hong Kong and Bangkok and took the London Festival Orchestra on tour to Brunei, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta - as well as touring the Sydney Youth Orchestra to Denmark, Sweden and Italy.
Tom has frequently conducted The Australian Ballet, Queensland Ballet and Royal New Zealand Ballet in works such as The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Raymonda, Le Sacre du Printemps, Petrouchka, The Firebird and many others. He has also conducted numerous world premieres including John Taverner’s Lament for Jerusalem and Matthew Hindson’s Symphony No. 1.
Since 2007, he has been a frequent visitor to New Zealand, where he was Chief Conductor of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra 2008-2014. He is currently Chief Conductor Emeritus. He has also conducted seasons of The Magic Flute, Aida and Il trovatore for Southern Opera and appeared with the Auckland Philharmonia in concerts with Simon O’Neill and Sumi Jo.
Tom returned to OA in 2012 for Madama Butterfly and La bohème in 2013; he also won the Green Room Award for Outstanding Conductor in Opera (Of Mice and Men). Recently, he accepted the position of Stellvertretender Generalmusikdirektor at Oper Regensburg.