Continuing the series profiling this year’s Music Performance Scholars and Award holders. This week, postgraduate MSc in Forensic Psychology and violinist, Melody Brooks.
It has officially gotten to the point where I have played violin for 2/3 of my life! Originating from a musical family (hence the name), music has always been a massive part of my life, and university has been no different.
After I gained my Scholarship as a first year (2016), I threw myself into the music department at this university. I joined the Symphony Orchestra and the String Sinfonia, and over the years have played for many smaller groups whenever I was needed.
Being a scholar at Kent has allowed me to fulfil many a musical dream. I always wanted to play in a quartet, and I was blessed to participate in three quartets (for the Law Ball in 2018, the scholar concert in 2019 and for the opening of a new building on the Medway Campus, 2018). I’ve even had the chance to play in a quintet (playing the works of Olafur Arnolds, 2019). I’ve always wanted to play in a different country, and have achieved this in Canada (with the String Sinfonia in 2018) and France (with the University of Kent Camerata, 2019).
I have also dreamed of doing a children’s concert (achieved by playing Peter and the Wolf last year and this year!) and play Handel’s Messiah (played in 2018), and was a part of the premiere of a newly composed piece (Between Worlds, composed by Anna Phoebe).
Alongside the extra-curricular music I did during my undergraduate degree, I also joined the Chineke! Junior Orchestra. This orchestra was founded by Chi-chi Nwanoku for primarily black and minority ethnic (BAME) teens and young adults, some of whom are on their way to (or already attend) conservatoires. I have played with them several times over the past couple of years, and will be performing with them at the Southbank Centre later this month (the 23rd February, 2020). It has been an honour to play with other (incredibly talented) people of colour, and to play the works of so many famous black composers, such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Ignatius Sancho. I have also continued to play and sing regularly at my home church. I also had the privilege of taking part in a live performance of the albums Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, as part of the choir. Not only was this a lifelong wish of mine, but allowed me to share a stage with what is perhaps the greatest male singing group of all time: Take 6!
Gaining the scholarship this year led me to achieve a dream I didn’t even know I had: leading the Symphony Orchestra. This is an honour, and has definitely been a challenge! My predecessors were so brilliant, and the thought of filling their shoes was daunting. However, it has gone well so far. The concert in December was simultaneously the most thrilling and anxiety-inducing concert I have ever experienced. Despite the heightened emotions, it was an awesome experience.
Continuing the series profiling this year’s new University Music Performance Scholars and Award Holders. This week, first-year bassoonist reading History, Olivia Condliffe.
I’ve been encouraged to play music from a young age, coming from a musical family. At first, I started on the recorder in Year Two, of which I played throughout primary school in various local recorder festivals, however I have always wanted to play the bassoon. I’m not sure entirely why, but the fact that it was such an odd and rare instrument, plus coming from a woodwind-based family, I felt a connection towards that section of the orchestra. Before I discovered the bassoon, I played the clarinet for a year and started learning piano, to show to my parents my commitment that I would have for the bassoon, and partook in a local clarinet group.
My high school had an excellent music department and I was really lucky to take part in the ensembles there. I played in the concert band and choir, going to Paris on tour in 2014, where we even played at Disneyland! I was also a founding member of the Bassbusters ensemble; made up of bass instruments which often aren’t showcased as much as melody instruments, such as the bassoon, baritone sax and cello. During school I was also part of the theatre pit band, performing musicals such as Les Misérables; this was an exciting way to play the bassoon with actors and artists.
I also had the chance to play in the junior and senior concert bands of local performing arts scheme in Staffordshire for eight years. I was also lucky enough to be part of the local bassoon ensemble; six of us at one point, a rarity in itself! I grew up in a tiny village and there was a myriad of musical activities there, I joined the community choir and was part of the village orchestra, which for a village of 1000 people, had 3 bassoons!
Outside of my area, I’ve also been privileged enough to be part of national orchestras such as the National Children’s Wind Orchestra and National Schools Symphony Orchestra; these were nonstop weeks of immersion with players from all over the country! I was part of the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra for three years until I moved to university. I enjoyed playing with members of Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in venues such as Sage Gateshead and playing first bassoon in Scheherazade in July last year!
Since joining the University of Kent as a History student in September, I’ve tried to immerse myself in the wide range of musical ensembles that make up the department. One of the reasons I chose Kent was for its great facilities and the warm atmosphere in Colyer-Fergusson. One of the highlights of my first year was the production of Alice in Wonderland in February, in which I performed in a solo quartet with a full choir!
I am a member of the Orchestra and Concert Band and hold a Music Performance Scholarship, which gives me the brilliant opportunity to continue bassoon lessons. Since receiving this, it’s given me a chance to be much more confident in my playing, and I’m excited for all the music to come.
Continuing the series profiling this year’s new Music Performance and Award Holder students at the University. This week, final-year soprano reading Drama and Theatre Studies, Sophia Lyons.
My role as a University of Kent Music Award Holder I owe to my parents, who tactfully introduced me to my first singing teacher aged 9. I had been adamant that I would ‘never sing in front of a stranger’, but as soon as my first lesson was over, I knew I would have a lifelong dedication to my voice. Once I had shed initial tears in my Grade 1 Trinity singing exam and achieved a Merit, I made a commitment to get to Grade 8, continue training my voice, and maybe even perform. I very much ‘caught the bug’. Once I had one exam under my belt, 11 year-old me grew the confidence to audition for Annie with a local amateur dramatic society, and was offered the main role. To this day, my Grandmother still talks about how shocked she was when she first heard me sing in the curly wig; “I had no idea you could even sing!”
After Annie, I transitioned into secondary school, and began undertaking a variety of vocal exploits. I started singing Soprano, and then Alto with my local church choir, which encouraged me to join the school chamber choir. I discovered I had a natural ear for picking up harmonies, without having the experience of reading music, which meant I often enjoyed singing the Alto harmony lines. I performed in all the school concerts, often solo’s from musicals such as Les Misérables, The Wizard of Oz, and Oliver, as well as solos in the local church around Christmas times. I also played principle roles in extracurricular shows, such as High Society, Bugsy Malone, and Little Shop of Horrors.
Alongside, I continued my classical training with Trinity, but as I grew into my teens, my tastes in music and my voice primarily began to change. As a result, I began tutoring young students in Acoustic popular performance, and experimented with modern folk music. Throughout sixth form, I was a part of Gareth Malone’s ‘Sing While You Work’ P&O Choir, and for a short while, attached to an entertainments company ‘Blue Lemon’ where I duetted with a male pianist and singer, singing at gigs locally.
I then began working part time as a bespoke wedding singer, crafting setlists made from the Bride and Groom’s favourite songs, (having sung several brides down the aisle, I learnt the real pressure that comes with creating the perfect atmosphere with one’s voice!) When reaching my final year at school, I achieved Distinction at Grade 8, and my teacher noted my voice had range and potential to suit a variety of styles, but for me, classical music stood firmly in the forefront, as it was challenging and therefore most rewarding.
Leaving school, I moved to the University of Warwick to study English and Theatre Studies, and decided to audition for their music bursary. Instead, I was offered the Alto Scholarship, and as a result joined the Warwick Chamber Choir, all-female choir Gaudeamus, and started training with a teacher who toured with the English National Opera. In my first year, I was working with extremely difficult classical music, such as Mozart, Bach, and Purcell, which, whilst initially intimidating, I began to conquer. Singing in three choirs meant my sight reading improved extremely quickly, and by the end of my first year, I found I could read at the same level as those who played instruments. I took part in pieces such as Mozart’s Requiem, Verdi’s Requiem, Belshazzar’s Feast, Durufle’s Requiem, and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. I was often selected to sing solo, the most challenging being ‘Pie Jesu’ from Durufle’s Requiem in The Stratford Chapel. I was given the opportunity to travel to Nice with the chamber choir, and was lead Alto in a singing project to connect French and Chinese music together in a “Transcultural Cantata”. I worked steadily with my singing teacher to increase my vocal range to three octaves, and began to branch out into a more mezzo-soprano range. At the end of my first year, I entered the Leamington Festival, and placed 2nd in the under 25’s and 1st in the Novice category. I joined the Musical Theatre society, MTW and the Opera society. I played ensemble and solo roles in Die Fledermaus and student written opera, Jurassic Park, and then took on the principle role as Joanne in the musical Rent, performed at the Warwick Arts Centre in 2018.
I then took a gap year and transitioned into second year at the University of Kent. Whilst on my gap year, I found myself yearning to perform again, and by summer 2019, I revisited the amateur dramatics society whom I had performed with 10 years ago. I was in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, playing the top soprano part Johanna. Taking on this challenge meant my voice grew to a top Soprano range. Sondheim’s music I found bridged the gap between musical theatre and classical styles, reigniting my love for both.
Therefore, upon entering my third year studying Drama and Theatre at the University of Kent, I took the plunge and nervously auditioned for a Music Performance Award. I was desperate to get singing and performing again, and the music department at Kent has given me endless opportunities to do so, a highlight being singing the solo opening verse of Once in royal David’s city to begin the annual University Carol Service back in December in Canterbury Cathedral! I am currently singing with the University Chorus, Chamber Choir, and Cecilian Choir. I am working with an incredible singing teacher, and have plenty of concerts coming up this year, leading up to my graduation in July.
Music at Kent has also influenced my degree. As part of a module, I was involved in a project with children at St Nicholas School, Canterbury, facilitating music and drama workshops for children who were at risk of being excluded from the Arts due to having a range of complex needs. I used my knowledge of vocal exercises to create ambience and sensory environments with the children, leading up to an Applied Theatre performance on the main stage at the Gulbenkian.
This combination of Drama and Music has also transferred into my role as Alice in the production of the ‘Musical Dream Play’ Alice in Wonderland, by the Music Department. Drawing on both of these skills has meant my time at Kent has been thoroughly musically fulfilling, full of challenges, which has helped improve my vocal and musical knowledge in the most exciting way. I have a lot of people to thank for seeing potential in that shy 9 year-old, and will be eternally grateful for every opportunity I have been given, especially at the University of Kent.
You can listen to Sophia talking about her experience of being in Alice in Wonderland in a broadcast on BBC Radio Kent‘s The Dominic King Show online here, starting at 27′ 52”.
Continuing the series profiling this year’s new Music Performance Scholarship and Award Holder student; this week, first-year guitarist, Harry Micklewright-Taylor.
I began playing acoustic guitar around the age of 6; I started with group lessons but quickly progressed to individual lessons. I started to perform in my primary school concerts, both in guitar groups and as a soloist. At age 8, I also took up piano lessons, while my guitar lessons became more focussed on classical guitar. At age 12, I joined Maidstone Youth Music Society (MYMS) where I learned to play orchestral percussion.
During secondary school, I joined a club called ‘Acorn Band’ where I played keyboard. I also performed a short piano piece in year 7 as part of an inter-house music contest in front of the whole school. In year 8 I took up electric guitar and my liking for rock music grew dramatically. Although it was not until around year 9 that I started intense practice. This was largely due to my introduction to virtuoso guitar players such as Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen, who would often take inspiration from classical music to combine with rock and produce complex music.
During these years I became a part of a Kent Music project called ‘Orchestra One’ which brought a variety of musicians of different abilities together to compose and perform music. The music was usually based around a theme like ‘space’; needless to say, it wasn’t uncommon for this music to be somewhat abstract and complex due to the different interpretations. My first performance with ‘Orchestra One’ was at the Hazlitt Theatre where I played a lead role amongst the other musicians, and had an extended guitar solo within one of the pieces we composed. Throughout the rest of my ‘Orchestra One’ performances, I retained my role as a soloist and we even performed once at a musical showcase held in the Gulbenkian. Another Kent Music project I was involved in was called ‘Rockshop’. Again, I played a lead role with regular solos, but this time the group was much smaller and represented a rock band.
In terms of solo performances, I became heavily involved in school concerts and would often play very challenging pieces. One time for a Christmas concert I arranged a few Christmas songs into an instrumental guitar version. Outside of school, I also played a solo piece at the Herne Hill Music Festival.
In year 11, my band and I performed Creeping Death by Metallica as part of the school show. I will always remember half the band wearing wigs (to match my own curly locks), as well as my guitar solo, that I played with my teeth. The following year we played The Trooper by Iron Maiden, for which we received thunderous applause. During my last few years at secondary school, I also played lead guitar in three school musicals. The first of these was Schools Will Rock You where I ended up standing precariously on top of two amps during my guitar solos. The other two were Little Shop of Horrors and Oliver, where my role of guitar player was often expanded to include xylophone and tambourine (as I was also an orchestral percussionist).
At the end of my 7 years at MYMS playing percussion, I had progressed to the flagship orchestra and won the MYMS musician of the year award with the rest of the senior percussionists. Much to my delight, MYMS decided to hold a concert where members could showcase their abilities on other instruments, so naturally, I was able to show off my guitar playing to a crowd that hadn’t before witnessed it.
As I am studying Music Technology at the University of Kent, I have been able to make good use of my playing in my course, as well as being able to see it from a different perspective. I have become a regular at Music Society events, held every Tuesday at the Deep End in Medway. I usually play guitar in a cover band called ‘Pod 3’, although I have also been known to fill in for bass and even electric ukulele. I sometimes play solo performances as well. Along with this, I have joined Medway Session Band and the Guitar Ensemble, which both give me more opportunity to experience a wide range of music. I am also hoping to play guitar in the musical ‘American Idiot’, in association with the MADS drama society. I intend to make the most of all the musical opportunities available to me while I am at Kent.
Continuing the series profiling this year’s new crop of University Music Performance Scholars and Award Holders. This week, first-year flautist reading German and English Language and Linguistics, Performance Scholar Beth Chapman,
I actually had a bit of a late start to my musical journey, and that’s not even talking about the flute! I moved around a lot as a kid, constantly meeting new people and relocating to new houses so it wasn’t until I really settled somewhere, that I decided to give music a shot. I first learnt to play the piano aged 8 in Ottawa, Canada but after moving back to England, I struggled to find my enjoyment in the piano again and after 2 years I decided to quit. Despite this, I have now actually got back into playing the piano for fun and enjoy just messing around and learning pieces.
Luckily, I am not the only musical person in my family, my mum also plays the flute and piano and sings in our local Military Wives’ choir. Due to this, I decided aged 11 I would start the flute and had my first lesson at the end of year six. My most vivid memory of my first lesson was how out of breath I was, going back into my classroom proudly showing off my flute case to my classmates as it was that shiny new toy. (well actually the flute was about 30 years old!) I’d had a really thorough musical education in all my primary schools, playing in the school orchestra and singing in the choir but it wasn’t until I reached secondary school that I really started understanding the joys of music.
In year 7, I joined my school’s orchestra and junior choir, (Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdonshire) but despite this, it wasn’t really until the beginning of year 9 in which I picked music as an ‘option’ – a bit like a precursor to GCSEs- that music started to make sense for me. During this period, I was continually playing in the school orchestra, but also started taking part in the pit band for the school’s musicals, playing both flute and piccolo, and the most intense by far was Sweeney Todd! I also continued to sing in the senior and community choir in my final few years at Hinchingbrooke. Throughout secondary school and Sixth Form, I had the opportunities to lead the flute choir, as well as take part in the biennial Christmas concert performance of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, originally playing second flute, then moving to first flute in year 11; a huge achievement for me.
What also helped was joining our local music school (HUMS, pictured above) in which I was taught for a period of time and also played in a concert band there as well as in the recorder group with my mum. We both love the recorder, and currently own a wide range of sizes from descant to bass! At the end of year 10, I had the wonderful experience to travel to Marburg, Germany with one of orchestras HUMS. We travelled there to take part in a music festival, and joined other groups from Bulgaria, Slovakia, Austria and Germany. We went for four days, leaving at 2am and driving all the way to Marburg, to then perform in the evening! We played in concerts every day, alongside being able to view the brilliant other dancers and performers, and the lovely market town of Marburg. It was a really great experience and allowed me to really get an understanding of different music styles
I studied music at GCSE and A-Level, in which I found my love for analysis of music and writing chorales, as I loved the rules and logic behind them. A-Level was interesting for me as I was the only person in my class for two whole years(!), but despite this, I had a wonderful time, visiting the Birmingham Conservatoire and taking part in annual workshops with lecturers there, as well as viewing the rehearsals for Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (one of my favourite pieces!). I was also lucky to be involved with much more performing in Sixth Form, partly due to my wonderful music teacher’s great encouragement (Thanks Mrs Cooke!). In my final year, I was lucky enough to play in my school’s “Rising Stars” concert as well as Sixth Form Celebration Evening which were both overall a wonderful way to end my 7 years at Hinchingbrooke.
Since joining the university of Kent as a German and English Language and Linguistics student (it’s a mouthful I know!) I’ve thrown myself into the musical options available. I chose Kent especially for its wonderful music facilities and was a huge deciding factor when picking my top choice. I currently take part in the Concert Band and Orchestra and am a holder of the Music Performance Scholarship. Surprisingly, I’m not actually an incredibly confident performer, but since receiving the Music Performance Scholarship, it’s given me a chance to play in much larger ensembles, which is something I never had the opportunity for before, as most ensembles I played in had around 20 or less members, and I’ve seen how this has helped my confidence! So far, I have taken part in one concert with the Orchestra (pictured), which was such a fantastic experience, as I’ve never performed something of that scale before. I’m incredibly excited for the Canterbury Cathedral concert in March, as well as the Summer Music Week later on in the year.
Continuing the series profiling this year’s new Music Performance Scholars and Award Holders. This week, first-year trumpeter reading Italian, Jonny Easton,
I began playing when I was very young, as both my father and grandfather are brass players. I started trumpet lessons in Year 2 and was in the school band by Year 3. At that point there were about 18 of us in it (with an extraordinarily heavy trumpet section… the word cacophonous springs to mind…) By the time I left the school in Year 13, however, the junior school band that I was helping run had about 45 kids in it, and the senior one also had around 40 players.
My school had an excellent music department, and I was hugely lucky to get the opportunity to perform with Black Dyke Mills Brass Band, the Royal Marines Band, The London Mozart Players (for a remembrance concert in which I provided a solo accompaniment to a massed choir; an incredible experience), London City Big Band, and Jason Robello and his Trio.
Although I predominantly play the Trumpet, I was the Soprano Cornet in my school brass band for the entirety of my time in secondary school and sixth form, which I enjoyed tremendously as the Soprano part tended to be a little more interesting than the solo cornet’s.
I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to go on tour with my school brass band several times, to Paris, Italy, Austria, Barcelona and Prague, all of which were awesome trips (especially as I had a good group of friends there too!)
From the age of 11, I have spent many an hour each Christmas carolling with Salvation Army musicians, often playing leading parts but also at times playing second or third melodies.
Since finishing school, I kept up my playing, albeit to a lesser extent, while working at a Prep School in my gap year. I was helping out in ensemble rehearsals, providing a little extra tuition for a few of the boys before their music exams, and also standing in (very suddenly and without much notice!) to accompany their end of year shows. Admittedly, a lot of this job consisted of chasing down boys who had forgotten to come and see me when we’d agreed on a break time – they were always, however, exceedingly apologetic.
Since starting at the university, I’ve been involving myself in a number of groups: Symphony Orchestra; the Big Band; General Harding’s Tomfoolery (a 1940’s style swing band); the Concert Band; and at times dropping into a brass ensemble. Concert preparation was underway by Week Two, and before Christmas the Orchestra, Big Band and Tomfoolery group each had a concert – it was demonstrated to me quite how nice it is to perform in a space like the new(ish) concert hall.
Coming up before then end of this term is an Orchestral concert in the Cathedral (we’re playing Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony and Durufle’s Requiem – both massive pieces which will be awesome to play in such a venue), a joint Big Band-Concert Band concert in the Colyer-Ferguson hall, and a Tomfoolery lunchtime concert – with dancers! I will also be playing in a chamber orchestra children’s concert of Peter and the Wolf; which I rather hope they’ll be resurrecting David Bowie to narrate…
Continuing the series profiling this year’s new University Music Performanc Scholars and Award Holders. This week, first-year Biomedical student and soprano, Ellie Gould.
I began taking piano lessons when I was five years old and soon after, my teacher noticed I had good pitch, so offered to give me a few singing lessons to see if I enjoyed them (which I did!) 13 years later, I am still thoroughly enjoying both piano and singing, having reached up to Grade 8 standard on piano and achieving Distinction in both my Grade 8 exam and diploma in singing.
During primary school, my love for all things music grew even more, as my biggest excitement was the weekly music lessons, both in and out of school. I soon discovered my love of performing through taking part in the yearly Rotary Young Musician of the Year Competition and being involved in Stagecoach for eight years, which enabled me to take part in many productions; to name a few: Aida, Macbeth, Bugsy Malone and a Michael Jackson inspired ‘Thriller’ flash mob!
I would say that my musical journey really started to take off once high school began. It was towards the end of the summer holidays before the beginning of Year 7 that my Dad fortunately saw an advertisement in the newspaper regarding music scholarships at Harrogate Ladies’ College. As soon as I joined I fully immersed myself in all the musical opportunities that was on offer. I immediately joined Gallery Choir, which consisted of students from Year 6 to Year 9 and involved regularly performing at school events and singing works such as The Peacemakers by Jenkins in the Royal Hall, Harrogate. In order to improve my solo singing, I entered myself in both singing and piano at the annual Harrogate Music Festival.
At the start of Year 9, I was accepted into my school’s prestigious Chapel Choir. The highlight of Chapel Choir for me were the biennial choir trips, including Barcelona where we sang in La Sagrada Familia and Venice where we sang Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater in St. Mark’s Basilica. Other moments I will never forget were singing live on TV in the semi-finals of BBC Songs of Praise Competition (mainly because we were all dressed in bright fuchsia pink shirts!), singing in the Royal Festival Hall in London for the Barnardo’s Choir of the Year Competition, Choral Evensongs in York Minster and Durham Cathedral, performing Britten’s challenging War Requiem in Ripon Cathedral and participating in the production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.
In rehearsals and certain performances, we sat in choir stalls in our school Chapel and after each year when students left, you would slowly make your way up the row to the front. It was so lovely because as I progressed further up the row, I was given more opportunities to develop my solo singing within the choir and undertake more responsibilities. This culminated in eventually me becoming Row Leader and during Year 13, I was chosen to be Head of Chapel Choir, which was and still is a position which meant so much to me. Having been a part of the choir going on five years at that point, it was such a lovely role to have to bring my time at Harrogate Ladies’ College to an end. Within this role my confidence in my own music ability grew massively. I was tasked with leading the choir during services, performances, keeping the beat during the unaccompanied morning Amen’s in Chapel (a much harder task than it originally seemed!) and regularly singing solos.
During my time so far as a Biomedical Science student at the University of Kent, all of the extra-curricular music activities has been a lovely way for me to relax away from my studies. I have been extremely lucky and grateful to be a part of the University Chorus, Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir and a recipient of the Music Performance Scholarship. The Chamber Choir sang at the Cathedral for the Carol Service in December, and I’m currently singing the role of the Queen of Hearts for a production of Alice in Wonderland, and looking forward to singing in Canterbury Cathedral with the Chorus, Chamber Choir and at Choral Evensong with the Cecilian Choir later in the year.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before , but music and science came together in a highly unusual way earlier today, when a set of bagpipes were introduced into the environment of the science laboratory here at the University.
Be not alarmed, Gentle Reader: there was no experiment being performed on either instrument or player, who in this instance was second-year Music Performance Scholar and Biochemistry student, Eloise Jack. In her capacity as a student of Biosciences at Kent also involved in extra-curricular music-making, Eloise neatly brings together the elements of both academic study and extra-curricular enhancement of the student experience – by day, she can be found working in the laboratory or in the lecture-theatre; at weekends and during the vacations, she is busy wielding her bagpipes either around the campus or as part of the piping-community somewhere (you can read more about Eloise’s experience over the summer at the National Piping Centre on the blog here).
Representing two aspects of university life coming together, Eloise will be the focus of a feature in next month’s University magazine, and this morning’s photoshoot drew her away from the concert-hall and into the scientific enviroment. We’re looking forward to reading the feature next month.
My thanks to colleagues in the School of Biosciences, Professor Dan Lloyd and Ian Brown, for opening up various venues in the Stacey Building to help with this morning’s shoot.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.