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Author Archives: alexknight

  1. Chetham’s celebrates Black History Month

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    Chetham’s School of Music – the UK’s leading specialist music school – provides an academic and musical education to more than 300 of the finest young musicians in the UK.

    Black History Month celebrations at Chetham’s are well underway, spanning the full academic curriculum, with students being encouraged to read and share works by black authors, including At Night all Blood is Black by Senegalese writer David Diop, a tale of two Senegalese soldiers in the First World War.

    Chetham’s junior students have completed research projects on important historical black figures, from Rosa Parks to Barack Obama, Mae Jemison to Louis Armstrong.

    Meanwhile, public concerts during Chetham’s October music course include two remarkable works by inspirational black composers.

    Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra will perform Fairtrade by Ayanna Witter-Johnson, on Friday 22 October. Witter-Johnson – a British composer of Jamaican heritage – is a singer, songwriter and cellist. She was a MOBO award shortlist nominee for Best Jazz Act in 2012 and has composed for the London Symphony Orchestra.

    Chetham’s musicians will perform her work at The Stoller Hall, on Friday 22 October, in the first Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra concert at the venue since before the pandemic.

    On Thursday 21 October at The Stoller Hall, Chetham’s Lower School Orchestra will perform Symphony in G Major by Jospeh Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (pictured above).

    Bologne was a true trailblazer. Born the son of a slave and a white plantation owner in 1745, he became a violin virtuoso, a leading conductor, and a composer in the court of Marie Antoinette. One of the first classical music composers of African ancestry, he lived a remarkable life and left a lasting legacy.

    Chetham’s School of Music is a charity, with a mission to nurture young people regardless of background or financial situation. As the UK’s largest specialist music school, our student body comprises more than 300 students from 28 different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, with a common passion for music.

  2. World’s first “Chinese Music Classroom” set to open at Chetham’s School of Music

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    Students and teachers – at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester and Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing – are set to share performances and music teaching ideas, thanks to the unveiling of the world’s first ‘Chinese Music Classroom’.

    The new facility – which launches this September at Chetham’s School of Music – will host a series of cross-continental concerts, teaching seminars and musical masterclasses for students.

    Chetham’s in Manchester – home to more than 300 of the world’s most exciting young musicians, aged 8-18 – is the UK’s leading music school and the only one in the North of England.

    Chetham's student Fang performs in The Stoller Hall with Chetham's Symphony Orchestra

    Percussion student Fang Zhang from Henan province in China received bursary funding to  study at Chetham’s School of Music. He went on to win the prestigious BBC Young Musician competition in 2021.

    Chetham’s mission is to educate and nurture the brightest young musicians irrespective of background or the ability to pay.

    The Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing is China’s leading music school and is home to more than 3,000 national and international students. Its purpose is to share Chinese culture and Chinese music with the world and absorb the excellent music culture of other countries and ethnic groups.

    Now, the two world-leading institutions are uniting as part of a unique cultural exchange, designed to deepen understanding and appreciation of the UK and China’s rich musical heritage and advance music teaching standards, whilst also creating opportunities for students to experience new cultures and performance opportunities.

    Every year, Chetham’s welcomes students from around the world with many supported through the school’s bursary scheme. The school is a charity – with a mission to nurture young musicians regardless of background or financial situation. More than 90% of students are supported by bursaries, funded by the Government’s Music & Dance Scheme and private donors.

    Chetham’s are hoping to create more opportunities for international students by launching a new bursary scheme, helping to ensure entry to the school is based on musical potential, not on the ability to pay and to support diversity within the music industry.

    Chetham’s student Fang Zhang, who travelled from Henan province in China to study at Chetham’s in 2018, was one of many international students supported by the school’s bursary funding. In May 2021, he captured the hearts of audiences across the UK when was the winner of the prestigious BBC Young Musician competition.

    Tom Redmond, Artistic Director at Chetham’s School of Music, said:

    “Within the concert halls and rehearsal rooms of Chetham’s School of Music and the Central Conservatory of Music you’ll find some of the world’s most remarkable young performers at work. We’re very proud to break down some of those walls with this new initiative, to be able to open up new cross-continental performance opportunities for students, to help them exchange musical ideas internationally and to help our teachers learn from each other.

    “Our much-loved student Fang Zhang is a shining example of what can be achieved when we create opportunities for creative talent to cross borders, experience new cultures and teaching methods.”

    Professor Yu Feng, President at the Central Conservatory of Music, said: “We can’t wait to see our own brilliant performers working side by side with the best young musicians in the UK. China and the UK have a long, rich history of cultural exchange. This is a major new step towards continuing that tradition.”

    Research Fellow Zhao Min, Chairman of the University Council of Central Conservatory of Music and Chairman of the Board of Advisors of the Chinese Music Classroom, said: “The establishment of Chinese Music Classroom is a practical result of Sino-British music education and cultural exchange, and is also a new platform for young people to learn
    more about the world.”

    Zheng Xiyuan, Consul General of The People’s Republic of China in Manchester said: “We are delighted to be supporting this innovative project which will encourage cultural exchange and learning between Manchester and China. Chetham’s School of Music and the Central Conservatory of Music are both world-class institutions and we are excited to see what comes from this collaboration.”

    Rhys Whalley, Executive Director of the Manchester-China Forum said:

    “This partnership is a brilliant illustration of the strong ties that exist between Manchester and China and the role that cities play in bringing the best and brightest of tomorrow’s generation together. International collaboration across culture and education has never taken on greater significance and I’m delighted to see the UK’s best music school playing a leadership role in this space.”

    The partnership will be officially unveiled at a ceremony and concert in The Stoller Hall at Chetham’s on 21 September 2021, featuring live performances by students at Chetham’s School of Music and remote performances from students Central Conservatory of Music broadcast into the venue from China.

    The event will see the launch of the new international student bursary appeal. In October, the partnership will commence with the first in a major new series of Chinese and British online musical masterclasses for students, delivered by world-leading music tutors from both institutions.

    In November, an online concert – co-hosted by Central Conservatory of Music and Chetham’s – will showcase quartet performances from musicians at both institutions.

    An online academic seminar in December will then share teaching ideas and facilitate discussion between some of the world’s leading music teaching experts.

  3. Grant from The Leverhulme Trust gives more students chance to study at Chetham’s School of Music

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    A grant from The Leverhulme Trust – totalling almost a quarter of a million pounds – will create remarkable opportunities for talented young musicians, aged 8-18, to study with us at Chetham’s School of Music, in Manchester.  

    Chetham’s is the UK’s leading specialist music school and educates around 300 musically gifted students from around the UK and overseas every year. 

    Chetham’s mission is to nurture young musicians regardless of background or financial situation. The school supports 90% of all students through its bursary scheme thanks to funding from the Government’s Music & Dance Scheme and the generous support of donors.  

    The new Leverhulme Arts Scholarships at Chetham’s School of Music will run from 2022-2025.  

    Hanaa Skalli, Director of Development at Chetham’s School of Music, said: “This grant will enable even more students to study with us from 2022, many of whom might not otherwise have been able to. We’re so grateful to the Leverhulme Trust for their support. 

    “A place at Chetham’s School of Music is a truly life-changing experience for students. Thanks to the Leverhulme Trust we can break down the barriers that prevent gifted young musicians from accessing a world-class education and reaching their full potential.” 

    Students at Chetham’s enjoy a well-rounded music and academic education with one-to-one tuition from renowned musicians and incredible performance opportunities at world-class concert venues including The Stoller Hall. The school offers boarding accommodation as well as welcoming day students who live in the local area.  

    Earlier this month more than 300 students performed at Bridgewater Hall in four concerts given as part of Chetham’s end of year celebrations. The massed choir and three orchestras were the first youth music ensembles in the UK to perform to a live audience for more than a year.  

    To find out more about bursary funded places at Chetham’s, visit our admissions page. 

  4. Chetham’s students perform first live youth orchestra concert for 16 months

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    Chetham’s students are performing in front of a live audience today – becoming the UK’s first youth orchestra to do so since the pandemic began.

    The event – which is the culmination of a two-week festival of music at Chetham’s School of Music – features all 328 of our students, spread across four concerts in one day.

    Chetham’s is home to many of the country’s finest young musicians, aged 8-18. Their performances, in front of socially distanced audiences, are taking place at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.

    Chetham’s School of Music Joint Principal, Tom Redmond, said:

    “It is a long time since any young person in this country has performed in a youth orchestra in front of a live audience. These are the experiences which really shape a young musician. It’s  quite emotional for all of us involved!”

    The day of concerts features works by composers from Beethoven and Tchaikovsky to Brahms and Resphigi.

  5. Funding to kick start your music career: The Neil Vint Bursary for Chets alumni

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    The Neil Vint Bursary 2021 is now open for applications.

    Each year, the bursary offers one former Chetham’s student the chance to kick start their career in the music industry, with the award of £1,000 in funding.

    The funding is available to former students of Chetham’s, aged between 20 and 26.

    Preference will usually be given to students who have recently left music college or university.

    Neil Vint, a student at Chetham’s School of Music from 1984-1988, died tragically in 1994. In his memory, his parents have established the Bursary Fund to help young musicians as they begin their professional career.

    Former Chetham’s students can apply in writing by emailing a letter of application, outlining why they are suitable for the award and how the funds would be used.

    Applications should be sent to Lesley Haslam, PA to the Joint Principal, by email at lesleyhaslam@chethams.com by Wednesday 30 June 2021. 

    Applicants should include details of their education and professional career, and tell us why they would find the Bursary useful.

    Good luck!

  6. Congratulations Fang: BBC Young Musician winner!

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    Chetham’s percussion student Fang has been named winner of the prestigious BBC Young Musician competition!

    The competition is the UK’s leading contest for young classical musicians, celebrating the most promising young performers.

    It has launched the careers of international stars such as Nicola Benedetti, Mark Simpson and Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

    Fang came from China to the UK to enroll at Chetham’s School of Music in 2018, to study a full range of percussion, including snare drum, marimba, timpani and vibraphone.

    His studies at Chetham’s have been supported by The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Bursary. Bursaries support more than 90% of Chetham’s students, ensuring entry to the school is based on musical potential, not financial background.

    In February 2020, just one month before his BBC Young Musician category final, Fang played Keiko Abe’s Prism Rhapsody on the marimba with Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra, in front of a packed audience in The Stoller Hall. He played the same piece again during the BBC Young Musician Grand Final. Watch his stunning performance here:

    Fang is a member of the China Youth Percussion Orchestra and has won prizes at many Chinese and international youth percussion competitions, including the China Youth Percussion Competition, the New York International Percussion Competition and the Tokyo International Percussion Competition.

    As a result of the pandemic, Fang has recently returned to his family in China where he will continue to study marimba, and is looking forward to performing in front of live concerts audiences once again!

  7. Good luck Fang: BBC Young Musician competition

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    Chetham’s wonderful percussionist, Fang Zhang, will star in the prestigious BBC Young Musician competition this weekend!

    Fang was the brilliant winner of the Percussion Category Finals, filmed in 2020 just before the Covid-19 lockdown. Watch that stunning performance again here.

    Now, much delayed due to the pandemic, BBC Young Musician returns for it’s long-awaited final two rounds this Friday and Sunday evening.

    The competition is the leading UK contest for young classical musicians and has launched the careers of international stars such as Nicola Benedetti, Mark Simpson and Sheku Kanneh-Mason. It celebrates the talent of some of the country’s most promising young performers.

    Join us to cheer on Fang from 7pm on BBC Four on Friday 30 April.

    The Grand Final will be broadcast on BBC Four at 8pm on Sunday 2 May and BBC Radio 3.

    Fang came from China to the UK to enroll at Chetham’s School of Music in 2018, to study a full range of percussion, including snare drum, marimba, timpani and vibraphone.

    His studies at Chetham’s have been supported by The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Bursary. Bursaries support more than 90% of Chetham’s students, ensuring entry to the school is based on musical potential, not financial background.

    In February 2020, just one month before his BBC Young Musician category final, Fang played marimba with Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra in front of a packed audience in The Stoller Hall. Watch his stunning performance here:

    Fang is a member of the China Youth Percussion Orchestra and has won prizes at many Chinese and international youth percussion competitions, including the China Youth Percussion Competition, the New York International Percussion Competition and the Tokyo International Percussion Competition.

    As a result of the pandemic, Fang has recently returned to his family in China where he will continue to study marimba, and is looking forward to performing in front of live concerts audiences once again!

  8. Choral Evensong from Manchester Cathedral: Live on BBC Radio 3

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    Chetham’s and Manchester Cathedral choristers will sing live on BBC Radio 3, at 3pm, this Easter Sunday.

    This Easter’s Choral Evensong will be broadcast live from Manchester Cathedral, with works by Handel, Stanford and Buxtehude.

    To listen online, or to see the full programme, visit the BBC website here.

    To find out more about joining Chetham’s as a chorister, contact aliceherbert@chethams.com.

    The chorister programme is a passport to unrivalled musical experiences and an all-round education.

    We’re accepting applications to the chorister programme for students aged 8-10 years old, with full Bursary support available.

  9. A Year in the Life of… Chetham’s woodwind players

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    It’s one year since pandemic lockdowns began in the UK. As we warmly welcome students back from what we hope is the last ever school lockdown, Belinda Gough, our Head of Woodwind, looks at the positive lessons learnt, by our young musicians and our experienced team alike.

    Wow. What a year! The future arrived on our doorstep and it has been a rollercoaster.

    I am a flute player from Australia via Paris and have run the famous Woodwind department at Chets for around 19 years. It’s such a treat to have worked with so many amazing young people and musicians over the years. I remember them all!

    We are really lucky to have super students (around 50 currently) who are open minded, passionate and self-driven. Our staff (a team of 20) are some of the best players and teachers at what they do… flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, recorders, saxophones, jazz & baroque. To work or study here is like a dream come true for so many of us!

    For those outside Chetham’s, you might not realise what a friendly, welcoming community this is, or realise exactly what life is like as a woodwind player at Chets. Well this year has been unusual, to say the least, but also inspiring.

    First, I have to say that during this last year of lockdown, I have been so happy to see that our Woodwind students are a powerhouse of creativity. Lockdowns and remote working have allowed us to explore how our music might change the world, to experiment with digital storytelling and to find new ways of having fun with our art!

    From the start, we decided to immerse ourselves in learning and discovering communication: as an art, an expression of ourselves, as a technical tool (digital) and as a means to bring people together, starting with us and spiralling out. We had a lot to learn! We are used to being live performers. We’re comfortable with stage work, ensemble playing and concert delivery live. But only a small handful of our students had recorded themselves for public performance before. Almost none had done so live from their own homes.

    Students have been perfecting the art of recording performances for audiences to enjoy digitally, like Matt's Irish whistle jig!

    By the autumn term, we were back on site together. But the digital skills we had developed remained crucial. Our Year 13 gathered plenty more experience. They prepared recordings for Music College auditions, which would usually have been performed live at colleges, but this year they needed to be recorded digitally. This was our challenge, but doing these on site, with staff accompanists, our beautiful venues, great sound gear… it was the chocolate box experience.

    Then, suddenly, we were at home again! Many students were back to sharing a room with siblings or practicing in a 1 metre square space alongside home working parents and siblings in online academic classes. This has been our shared experience. You know the score.

    But a household filled with music is also joyful thing. We congratulate every single student (and parent!) for learning and progressing despite these challenges. Some students even joined our school in January during lockdown; they deserve an extra level of praise for their efforts, and it’s been wonderful to have them!

    Supportive families have been crucial to our young musicians in lockdown. Shia's performances with his mum were an inspiration to the whole Chetham's woodwind community!

    In my house, my own two teenagers had to put up with flute & oboe 24/7 (my husband is Principal Oboe with the Halle, as well as teacher at Chets). My oldest tells me the oboe is all about spit and sing! My youngest invested in noise cancelling headphones. Meanwhile, our new puppy slept soundly underneath the base of an oboe bell, as well as during my high register flute exercises… but NOT at night! And don’t get me started on home wifi issues.

    But despite all the challenges, we have developed new, life-long skills. These skills will be important in the future careers of our young musicians, who will live and work and perform in a more digital age than we’ve ever experienced before.

    We learnt how to record better quality sound from home, about the optimum distance from a mic, about good light sources, about framing us and our instrument successfully, about working on camera shots without intrusive stands. We learnt how to better engage with our audience. Students figured out how to get a ‘good take’ and observe themselves from the outside rather than the inside out. That in itself, has been a fascinating journey. Then they learnt how to download and upload to various sources – a few simple words but in reality, a lot of time and frustration for many, me included!

    Our project has been to create a Soundcloud of ourselves: choosing 3 of our favorite pieces that express who we are, what we love and how we feel. Wow, this was like opening up a creative maelstrom. Our young musicians presented their ongoing work in weekly online performance classes. We laughed a lot and learnt a lot (yes me too) from each other.

    Many students went on to create full video movies with their sound recordings, with visuals inspired by their lives and the music they chose, text and scores adding context where a programme note would have in the past.

    We were “playing” and “improving” with music & sound through digitals.

    Students mixed fun with serious. I had young student roller skating in their garage to disco lights playing a Gosseck Tambourin; saxophonists playing to local cows and sheep, trying to communicate with animals; and a student multitracking bassoon arrangements of their favourite Nintendo game soundtracks. We had one student explore the ability to use their music for climate activism, creating their own ‘Earth Cry’ in a 1980’s rock style; another produced a short movie staged in mini-Acts on ‘the present, past and future’, based around Stravinsky’s 3 pieces for Clarinet.

    Among all this, there were many really high quality performances, as you would expect from our artists of the future: like Ibert flute concerto recorded onsite, then edited with visuals from the student’s walk with her family during the first snowfalls over Christmas.

    Importantly, during the past year we have remembered why we do what we do and the value of sharing and communicating our musical selves. It kept us all going: students, staff, and hopefully(!) their families.

    We also did a huge amount of all the daily drill stuff that comes with being a woodwind player. Believe it or not, we like this! Weekly scale classes online in small groups, orchestral excerpt classes and yes even weekly reed classes online. Great tools are essential, take infinite hours and years to refine and allow us effortless freedom of expression. Quality in our ears and hearts. Meeting each other online kept us inspired on the low days, laughing on the good days and hopefully helped our southern sliding intonation.

    There were also the breathing classes (Belinda’s Breath Class) where we learnt to move in space and time, link breath with movement for a real understanding of pulse (i.e., movement through space and time) whilst learning how to be calm and present and powerful. Say that in one breath!

    So it’s not often that we can say we changed the world, but this year we did. It’s incredible to suddenly be back in the same room as other people, we cherish that privilege now, but we won’t throw away the skills we learnt while we were apart. They’ll stay with us forever.

    Belinda Gough, Head of Woodwind

    Apply Now:

    Inspired to join us? We are accepting applications from students for the 2021/21 academic year. Read our Admissions page or get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

    Woodwind Bootcamps:

    This March, young musicians aged 8-18 are invited to join Chetham’s tutors for a free online ‘Bootcamp’ to get back into practice as we come out of lockdown. Check out our What’s On pages and register now for top tips from our friendly, expert team. 

  10. Beautiful and poignant memorial plans approved

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    Today, plans were approved for a memorial to the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing attack. The memorial, called The Glade of Light, will be located outside Chetham’s, in the area between our land and Manchester Cathedral.

    Chetham’s Joint Principals, Nicola Smith and Tom Redmond, said:

    “The Glade of Light is a beautiful, poignant memorial to the victims of 22 May 2017. We welcome the memorial’s approval today.

    “The Manchester Arena bombing, which took place just metres away from our busy boarding school, is something none of us in the Chetham’s community will ever forget. Once again, we are thinking of the victims and their families today.

    “Thank you to our partners and friends at Manchester City Council – with whom we have worked closely on the finer details of the planning scheme – for their collaborative approach to the memorial design, something which is so important to every one of us in the city.”