Pianists find new paths to Chetham’s

Some young people have found non-traditional routes into music as the pandemic continues to have an impact. 

13-year-old Yasmin taught herself piano using an app during lockdown. Two years later, she has a place secured at Chetham’s where she is receiving the very best musical education. 
Yasmin’s dad, Rob Fiddaman, said: “Yasmin was bored during lockdown and she started using an app called ‘Simply Piano’. I bought her a cheap piano off eBay and noticed she was learning pieces quickly.  

“When the restrictions lifted, we got her some in-person piano lessons and after that, thanks to some encouragement from her tutor, we took her to an audition at Chetham’s. They recognised something in Yasmin and awarded her a place – we’re pinching ourselves! 

“Music was under-represented at her previous school already and then the pandemic put a stop to everything, so she found music on her own. I hope her story encourages other young people to give music a go – you don’t have to be the best or the brightest, it’s all down to dedication. I can’t wait to see Yasmin’s confidence and skills develop.”  

Yasmin isn’t the only student at Chetham’s to have self-taught. Charlie, in year 13, also picked up the piano for the first-time during lockdown and learnt using YouTube videos.  Another student, who has just started at the school, learnt to play the piano by memorising the shape of piano players’ hands, rather than by being taught to read music. 

Charlie said: “Lockdown gave me the opportunity to find and explore a musical path. There are so many technically different levels you can get on YouTube so it’s a really good starting point to learning an instrument. Without lockdown, I probably wouldn’t be here at Chetham’s today.”

Tom Redmond, our Director of Music and Joint Principal, said: “When lockdown was announced music education fell by the wayside somewhat. It’s a difficult subject to teach online, and rehearsing ensemble performances is almost impossible if you can’t be in the same room. It’s therefore not surprising that music saw the largest percentage fall for any GCSE subject in 2023.  

“Since then, we’ve noticed some children are finding new routes into music and they’re using non-traditional methods of learning. On the one hand, it’s encouraging that an eagerness to learn and passion for music is there, despite the barriers, but it’s concerning how many other children with potential may be missing out on music and the enormous benefits it brings.   

“More needs to be done to ensure young people have access to music. At Chetham’s, we are bringing music into local communities and primary schools in Manchester and beyond through our Creative Engagement and musical programme – it’s fantastic to see students sharing their gift.” 


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