LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM ― The Violin Channel recently caught up with 17 year old British cello wunderkind Sheku Kanneh-Mason – winner of the prestigious 2016 ‘BBC Young Musician of the Year’ accolade.
In a VC-exclusive blog, Sheku talks us through his exciting recent career developments – including last week’s announcement that he has signed a major recording deal with Decca Classics.
“Since becoming BBC Young Musician 2016, a lot of things have happened and there have been many exciting opportunities. Most recently, the major recording contract with Decca Classics has been a wonderful development and I’m looking forward to recording the first album.
The BBC Young Musician competition was a very tough journey, with eight months of intense work from the first round until the Final. By the time I walked out on stage at London’s Barbican to play Shostakovich Cello Concerto no 1 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, facing a packed concert hall, I was already a more mature, more focussed and more technically assured musician than I had been eight months before.
When faced with the reality of a very busy concert schedule and decisions to make about which paths to follow, I have been very lucky to be surrounded by my family. My six siblings, all of whom are also classical musicians, have been there to support me, give me advice, perform with me and generally keep me concentrating on the music. Coming from such a supportive musical family has been a great strength and has always made my approach to music a collaborative one. Although I love solo playing, I feel that it is in the interaction between soloist and accompanist, or within a chamber group, orchestra and concerto soloist that music comes alive.
My artist manager, Kathryn Enticott, has been wonderful in guiding and helping me to forge the career I would like to have as a cellist. I have had incredible teachers and mentors to help me as well, such as my brilliant teacher at The Junior Royal Academy, Ben Davies, Sarah Huson-Whyte, Guy Johnston, YCAT, Krystyna Budzynska, Howard Ionascu, Chi-Chi Nwanoku and Julian Lloyd Webber. The Nottingham Comprehensive School, Trinity Catholic School, that I have attended since the age of eleven, and where I am now studying for my A Levels in Maths, Music and Physics, has been vital in their support. Also, The Royal Academy of Music has given me the musical training and the peer group that I needed. I am grateful to have been loaned beautiful cellos by Frank White of Ladystone violins, by Florian Leonhard and by The Royal Academy of Music.
When I was offered the recording contract with Decca Classics, it was a dream come true. I have always wanted to inspire a more diverse and younger classical music audience around the world. As the first black winner of BBC Young Musician, I hope to inspire other young people to take up classical music and, even if they don’t see it as a career, to become involved and to come and listen. My involvement with Sistema, London Music Masters and Chineke! Orchestra has strengthened my belief that classical music should be for everyone.
Highlights for me have been my debut at The Royal Festival Hall, London, with Chineke! Orchestra, performing with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at Proms in the Park, appearing on BBC’s The One Show and the BBC documentary, Young, Gifted and Classical. I am excited for my forthcoming engagements in Canada, Zurich, the USA and Europe over the next two years. I will be performing Shostakovich Cello Concerto No 1 in The Barbican again in April 2017 with The National Youth Orchestra, and Haydn Cello Concerto in C with Chineke! Orchestra in Bristol later that month. My dream has always been to perform around the world and to communicate the music that I love to as wide an audience as possible.
SHEKU KANNEH-MASON | SHOSTAKOVICH CELLO CONCERTO NO. 1 | 2016 BBC ‘YOUNG MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR’ GRAND FINAL | 1ST PRIZE