All posts by Daniel Harding

Deputy Director of Music, University of Kent: pianist, accompanist and conductor: jazz enthusiast.

Scholar’s Spotlight: Will Morgan

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholars and Performance Award students. This week, first-year pianist and violinist, Will Morgan.


My parents were keen for me to learn an instrument, so I started piano lessons when I was 5 years old. A year later, seeing how much I was enjoying piano, my parents suggested I start another instrument. After trying out the violin and the cello I enthusiastically decided violin was the one for me. From then on music has always been a significant part of my life both at home and through school.

I was fortunate enough to get into the Cathedral School in Peterborough which had a fantastic musical reputation which during my time there, they certainly lived up to. Over my years there I played with the orchestra, string orchestra and several smaller chamber groups. On the piano, I played hymns in assemblies, accompanied soloists and choirs and was given ample opportunity to perform as a soloist which helped me grow as a performer. In addition, I was introduced to choral music for the first time. The school also ran music tours every other year and I was lucky enough to perform in three of them; in Italy, France and Germany. These tours were some of the most defining experiences of my musical life for instance my first solo as a singer at Bayeux Cathedral, France. The other highlights of my musical ‘career’ to date also happened at school. Winning the Inter-House Music Competition was most certainly my high point. After a month of preparing an orchestra, junior choir, senior choir, band, finale and a host of soloists for the annual competition, all our efforts payed off on the night where my house (St. Oswalds) won overall!

After leaving school, I used my gap year to really focus on my music. I started teaching piano, violin and music theory to students in local schools. I joined local musical groups such as Stamford Chamber Orchestra and the St Peters Singers at Peterborough Cathedral. I also used my new-found time to finish off Grade 8 on the violin!

At the University of Kent, I’ve been looking to continue gaining musical experience. I receive piano lessons from Matthew King, Professor of Composition at the Guildhall, and am planning to get involved in accompany other Music Scholars and playing in chamber music groups. I’m also having a great time as a member of the Symphony Orchestra, the String Sinfonia and the musical theatre band. I’ve particularly enjoyed being able to perform in the Colyer-Ferguson Hall and I’m also excited to be playing violin with the orchestra in a cathedral again soon.

Image gallery: Olafur Arnalds concert

Thanks to photographer Molly Hollman, not only for these atmospheric photos of the performers in last Friday’s Lunchtime Concert, but also for her spectacular landscape photography which featured in the performance.

A string quartet of third-year students Florence Obote, Melody Brooks, Molly Richetta (all of whom are University Music scholars or Award holders) and cellist Ken Macdonald, together with Your Loyal Correspondent at the piano, unfurled the meditative music of Icelandic composer, Olafur Arnalds, into a darkened concert-hall, against a backdrop of Molly’s photographs capturing the natural landscapes from around the country.

A rapt audience was kept spellbound during the entire performance; thanks to all the performers.

Sanford Sylvan: a legend

Sad to hear of the passing of the great American baritone, Sanford Sylvan, who has died at the age of 65.

I grew up listening to his recording of John Adams’ moving The Wound-Dresser, a meditative reflection on the First World War based on Walt Whitman’s recollections of serving as a hospital volunteer, in which Sylvan is a commanding presence, yet also an intimate one; the recording was nominated for a Grammy.

Sylvan also created the role of Chou En-lai in Adams’ opera, Nixon in China; there is a wonderful moment in the final act, where Sylvan’s elegant craft at the phrase ‘The taste is still in my mouth’ as Chou En-lai and Pat Nixon recall the taste of apricots, which is a joy to year.

I had the great fortune to hear Sylvan live in 2002, in a concert performance of Adams’ controversial opera, The Death of Klinghoffer, in an electrifying delivery of the title role. His warm, communicative and expressive singing will be sorely missed.

A legend.

‘Remember me…’

Rehearsals are well underway for the performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by the University Cecilian Choir, String Sinfonia and soloists in two weeks’ time; here are some shots from recent rehearsals, including Music Scholar, soprano Helen Sotillo, rehearsing Dido’s heart-breaking lament, the Cecilian Choir as palace courtiers in Act I, and some of the String Sinfonia rehearsing Act II.

The tragic story of the doomed love of the Queen of Carthage for the Trojan prince unfurls in Colyer-Fergusson Hall on Friday 1 February at 7pm; more details online here.

Scholar’s Spotlight: David Curtiss

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholarship students and Award Holders. This week, foundation-year physicist and reeds player, David Curtiss.


I started my music-making on the piano at age 7, something that I have tried to continue developing throughout my years of study. I then decided that I wanted to be part of my school orchestra and so chose to start the clarinet, leading me onto the local area wind ensemble and a host of fantastic opportunities that followed.
I started on third clarinet in the youth band, and after 4 years found myself principle in the main band. I was then offered the chance to play the tenor saxophone, I took it (because who doesn’t want to play the coolest instrument?). This then opened the door to join big bands and play in different ensembles.

Because I could now play multiple reed instruments, including the oboe, I was invited to play in the pit band for the school productions, such as The Sound of Music and We Will Rock You. It’s something I have thoroughly enjoyed and made sure to take part in every year. I also had a brief trip onto the stage for our production of West Side Story where I played the lead role of Tony, a fascinating experience which gave me a new respect and insight into musical theatre.

My next venture was into the baritone saxophone when I was asked if I’d like to give it a go and I haven’t looked back! It has given me the opportunity to play alongside the Scots Guard in their chapel next to Buckingham Palace and at The Royal Albert Hall as part of the Hampshire County Youth Wind Ensemble, as well as a host of other locations that I would never have thought possible.

I continued my musical education at college however switched courses to pursue a scientific route. Last year, a few friends and I had the idea of starting up an orchestra for fellow college students. This idea spread into a full orchestra, wind band and string orchestra resulting in a full concert last year in Winchester. This new musical venture also gave me the opportunity to do more conducting with the string orchestra when we performed Grieg’s Holberg Suite. We have also just planned a concert for Easter where we will be putting together a jazz band and some smaller ensembles which is very exciting!

David, third from left, with the Big Band sax section

My musical journey has continued to grow here at Kent where I am part of the Concert Band, Big Band, Pops Orchestra, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, Chorus and Cecilian Choir. One of my goals for my time here at Kent is to assemble a sax quartet. I have some pieces that I have arranged that I would love to be debuted by an ensemble such as this. I am amazingly grateful to be a recipient of the Music Scholarship, as it has allowed me to purchase some desperately needed upgrades for my instrument, and also to have the chance to be taught by the fantastic Peter Cook. I look forward to developing my playing and getting involved with everything that the brilliant Music Department here at the University has to offer…


Read more in the series here.

Burns unit: first-year Scholar pipes us home

Congratulations and thanks to first-year Music Scholar, Eloise Jack, who piped us home on Friday evening in honour of Burns Night.

Jack of all trades…

Dressed in her Day Uniform, Eloise – who is in her first year studying Biochemistry – patrolled the piazza outside Gulbenkian as people headed home at the end of the day, sending a selection of traditional Scottish tunes skirling into the evening air.

Arts, Heritage and Tourism Minister visits Colyer-Fergusson

We were delighted to welcome the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, Michael Ellis, to Colyer-Fergusson yesterday, at the formal announcement of the successful partnership bid for funding from the Cultural Development Fund to develop culture and heritage sites in the Thames Estuary region.

Pictured here is Michael looking around the concert-hall with Director of University Music, Susan Wanless, and in conversation with Director of Arts and Culture at the University, Liz Moran, and Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen Cox. Congratulations to everyone involved in the successful bid.

Images © Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Scholars’ Spotlight: Leon Schoonderwoerd

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholars and Performance Award students. This week, second-year Physics post-graduate and clarinettist, Leon Schoonderwoerd.


My name is Leon Schoonderwoerd, born and raised in the Netherlands. I am a second-year PhD student in Theoretical Physics, as well as a recipient of the University of Kent Music Performance Award.

My musical journey started with clarinet lessons at age 7, which I continued all through primary and secondary school. A few years later, I joined a local wind orchestra where I worked my way from third clarinet in the youth band to first clarinet in the main orchestra in a few years time. Meanwhile, I taught myself to play drums and played in a few small bands, unfortunately none of which made it very far.

After a trial lesson at the Amsterdam conservatoire, I decided to not enrol there but instead pursue a science degree. I studied at the University of Amsterdam for six years, obtaining first a BSc in Natural and Social Sciences, then an MSc in Theoretical Physics. During this time, my music-making was mostly on hold, with the exception of a band I started with a few friends during the master’s. We played a few gigs, but when our frontman moved to Germany to pursue a PhD, we decided to quit while ahead.

After finishing my Masters, I lived and worked in Amsterdam for another year, during which I joined a student orchestra. My background in classical music combined with my experience on the drums allowed my to fill their vacancy for a percussionist. When after one programme the opportunity arose to switch over to bass clarinet, I took it. This was a truly great year for me, playing pieces such as Ravel’s Piano Concerto, Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and Janáček’s Sinfonietta. The year ended with a bang when we joined forces with a student orchestra to give a series of concerts in the Netherlands (ending in a sold-out Concertgebouw in Amsterdam) as well as a three-concert tour abroad in Freising, Germany and Bologna, Italy.

By this time, I had accepted a PhD position with Gunnar Möller at the University of Kent, so in the summer of 2017 I moved from Amsterdam to Canterbury in pursuit of science. Here, I joined the lively music programme, which awed me with its beautiful concert hall and proceeded to take over most of my free time. During my first year at Kent, I played bass clarinet and percussion in the University Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band, sang bass in the Chorus, joined the pit band for two musical theatre shows and started a woodwind quartet.

This year, I vowed to take any musical opportunity I possibly could, as a result of which I am playing clarinet in the Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band as well as in an array of chamber ensembles, bass clarinet in the Pops Orchestra, and the odd percussion part for different performances (I hear there are still some tickets for Dido and Aeneas…) [deftly plugged there, Leon: well done…ED]. Additionally, the Music Performance Award has allowed me to take lessons with the incredible Ian Swatman, also director of the University Concert and Big Bands and legendary Hull City supporter…)

Music at Kent thus provides me with ample opportunity to take my mind off physics. Many thanks to the Music Department and Music Society for making all this possible!


The Music Performance Award is open to returning students at Kent, and offers a year’s worth of instrumental / singing lessons in support of a holder’s contribution to the musical life of the University: read more here.