Category Archives: Scholars Spotlight

Meeting some of the Music Scholars at Kent

Good musicians really do make good students!

Congratulations to everyone who graduated from the University in July, especially to the many musicians amongst the mortar-boards and gowns swirling around the Cathedral Precincts and celebrating their success. Included as part of the throng were the following:

Douglas Haycock, President of the Music Society 2017-18, Music Scholar reading Law
Lydia Cheng, Music Scholar reading Law
Benjamin Weiland, Music Performance Award holder reading Law
Alice Scott, Secretary of the Music Society, reading English and American Literature and Religious Studies
Imogen Willetts, Music Performance Award holder reading Classical and Archeological Studies and Drama

We wish them – and everyone else who graduated! – all the very best for the future.

Photos © Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Scholar’s Spotlight: Ramnath Venkat Bhagavath

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholars; this week, Masters student in Actuarial Science, Ramnath Venkat Bhagavath.


Having been born into a family of musicians, I started my vocal training in South Indian Classical music (Carnatic music) at a very young age.  I still remember my childhood days when my grandmother would wake me up at 5 am in the morning and make me practice for 2 hours, every single day. Being an accomplished Veena artiste, she was a perfectionist in every sense. I gave my first public performance at the age of 13 and since then, I have been regularly giving vocal concerts.

After completing my schooling in India, I did my undergraduate studies in Toronto, Canada, and immediately followed that with a Masters at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. I relocated back to India in 2012 after my studies and worked there for five years before I decided to come to University of Kent to do my second masters. I was actively pursuing and performing music throughout, alongside studies and work. I was fortunate to perform on many prestigious stages in India and abroad.

When I first came to University of Kent, I was a little worried whether I would have the opportunity to pursue music along with my masters. I was even apprehensive when I applied for the University Music Performance scholarship as I wasn’t sure whether Indian classical music would be encouraged. All this changed when I had my audition for the scholarship. Both Susan (the Director of University Music) and Daniel (the Deputy Director of University Music) were extremely welcoming and encouraging of Indian classical music. When I got to know that I was selected for the scholarship, I was very thrilled and delighted beyond words.

When I first stepped into the Colyer-Fergusson hall, I was amazed at the splendor, grandeur and acoustics of the hall. I was lucky to have couple of my skype music classes with my Guru in India, right in that hall. I also had access to practice rooms with just an email notice. I was able to actively pursue music while at Kent.

Ramnath and musicians performing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, May 2018

When I was given the opportunity to do a lunchtime concert at Colyer Fergusson, I was inexplicably happy. After all, to perform in such a hall will be every musician’s dream! My performance was well attended and appreciated by everyone. I had excellent musicians from London accompanying me on the Violin, Mridangam and Ghatam for the lunchtime concert. If not for this concert opportunity, I would not have had the chance to know these musicians. We already have plans to collaborate again in future.

Furthermore, I also had the privilege to perform during the Scholars lunchtime concert, where I performed along with other music scholars. I also worked with the University wellbeing department to conduct workshops on Raga singing, as a part of their wellness week program. I sincerely express my gratitude to everyone at the Music department for giving me wonderful opportunities to showcase South Indian Classical music. University of Kent has truly given me beautiful musical memories that will be etched in my heart forever!


Read more profiles of University Music Scholars here.

Scholars’ Spotlight: Hannah Ost

Continuing the series profiling Music Scholars at the University of Kent; this week, first-year conductor, music director and instrumentalist studying Drama and English Language and Linguistics, Hannah Ost.


An early childhood video shows a little six year old girl (me) sat at a grand piano, tentatively hammering the notes of a nursery rhyme. My mum had been teaching me piano from aged five and by junior school I was just about ready to take my first grade. Eight of them later and I am now a Music Performance Scholar at the University of Kent!

Music has always been one of my main passions. I spent my Saturday mornings at a music centre, playing lead cello in a youth orchestra, singing in a choir and taking lessons in not only piano but other instruments like African drums and recorders too. I performed in concerts and recitals, whilst steadily working through the ABRSM grades in piano.

Growing up in a family of singers, car journeys became concerts for the four-part version of the Von-Trapps, or sometimes SATB choir recitals. My sister and I were in choirs all throughout our education and in late junior school, I became a chorister for the Rochester Cathedral Girls Choir, performing on Classic FM at age nine and staying up until midnight on the 24th December to chorally welcome in Christmas Day. I joined my secondary school Chamber Choir as a soprano and I was part of the Kent County Choirs for almost the whole of my secondary education. Being a member of so many choirs meant I developed a real passion for the workings of the voice and I worked hard to improve my voice in a wide range of genres.

I joined a Musical Theatre school when I was fourteen and learnt how to sing jazz, musical theatre and belt, finding my background in classical singing to be a huge help in the development of my voice. I started a YouTube channel, posting covers and original songs and I auditioned for shows, performing in musicals, which became my main passion from Sixth Form onwards. I showcased a repertoire of Stephen Sondheim music for my Music A Level, having taken Music GCSE in Key Stage Four, and took a couple of professional singing lessons to help me sing what were several particularly challenging pieces.

At Sixth Form at Fort Pitt Grammar School, I started to broaden my musical interests and a friend recommended me for a job at a local theatre company I had performed with. Through this, I became the youngest ever employee of a youth theatre company called RARE Productions, joining the team as a Musical Director, aged seventeen. Now, I am the coordinator of my local area; as well as my musical directing, I manage the show team and am the main point of communication between my area and the Head Offices.

Finding that I really enjoyed musical directing, I started my own choir at school and taught a complex and diverse repertoire to the students who joined. I found I could combine piano and voice in a unique way, so accompanying, conducting and teaching added to my musical passions. I went on to write, direct and musically direct my own show at Fort Pitt, playing keys and conducting our live band in the final performances.

So, onto university life. Well, I’ve only been here for a term and a half but I don’t think I could have been busier if I tried! Auditioning for the scholarship was very nerve-wracking, especially since I had had a bad case of ‘Freshers’ Flu’ for about a month! I was told I’d achieved a scholarship in Musical Directing and am using the money from this to fly out to America this summer, to work as a resident Musical Director/Pianist at French Woods Festival for the Performing Arts – a prestigious performance-based summer camp, in the state of New York!

I have founded my own vocal tuition society called ‘The Pitch Project’ and I now hold weekly vocal classes for my members, using all the skills I have learnt from my background in voice and musical directing to teach a wide range of vocal techniques and genres. I have had great feedback from those involved and meetings regarding a future collaboration with Kent Sing! I have been a Musical Director for the Musical Theatre Society, leading some rehearsals in both of their showcases so far and I also had lots of fun playing keyboard in the pit band for their recent musical Bonnie and Clyde at the Marlowe Studio.

Outside of the music department, my studies in Drama and English Language and Linguistics have complimented my passion for vocal studies; I have learnt more about where the voice comes from, how the body acts as a resonator and how to correctly position vowels and consonants in speech. English has especially supported my love of writing and using some money from my scholarship, I self-released a debut EP of original music, called Let Me Read, both in hard copy and on various online music platforms, including Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and Google Play Music. This past December, I took my keyboard and ukulele (which, along with mandolin and guitar, I have been steadily teaching myself for about five years) to Ewan’s studios at ETB Mixing and recorded all the instrumental and vocal lines for four original songs in just nine hours! Needless to say, it was a crazy day!

When I’m not practising over in Colyer-Fergusson, or in the library studying (or in my bed, sleeping), you might find me gigging at pubs and bars around Canterbury, both on-campus and off. I am enjoying networking with local musicians and have met so many wonderful people during my first year at University so far. I can’t wait for what the rest of my time here will bring!


Listen to Hannah on Spotify here, and follow her on Twitter here.

Scholars’ Spotlight: Carmen Mackey

Continuing the series profiling Music Scholars at the University of Kent; this week, first-year alto reading Drama and University Music Performance Scholarship student, Carmen Mackey.


My name is Carmen Mackey and I primarily sing here at the University of Kent along with a bit of bass guitar on the side. At this point, I suppose it would make sense if I said I had a musical family who raised me surrounded by music and that I’m called Carmen after the opera. This is not the case – my parents (who are not very musical) simply liked the name!

I’ve always enjoyed performing so from a young age I attended extra-curricular stage schools. In year 7 I started classical singing lessons and since then have completed grades 2-8 in singing. I was incredibly lucky with my high school, St. Philomena’s Catholic High School For Girls and the musical opportunities it presented. With the school’s chapel choir each year we toured a different city in Europe, singing in Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Liege and Porto. Some stand out moments from this was performing the ‘Laudamus Te’ duet from Vivaldi’s Gloria in Porto Cathedral and singing the ‘Libera Me’ from Faure’s Requiem in the Kaiser Wilhelm Church Berlin.

In school, I also took part in the yearly musical and got the chance to play Fagin from Oliver, The Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, Rooster from Annie and Nicely-Nicely Johnson from Guys and Dolls. At this stage, I will remind you that it was an all-girls school and because I can sing quite low the male roles were bestowed upon me. For my singing teacher’s opera studies degree, she wrote an opera version of the Room on the Broom book by Julia Donaldson in which I played the cat which was great fun. From year 10 – 13 I compered my school’s termly concerts at which I was grateful for the opportunity to host as well as perform. As Head Girl of my school, I set up and directed the Musical Theatre Club which I ran for 2 years. Just recently I went back to my school to see this year’s production of Sister Act at which I felt like a proud mum watching my proteges.

In Year 11 my singing teacher asked me if I would join her church choir as they were down an alto, and it was there, at St. Mary’s Church Choir Beddington, that I was really challenged and pushed as I was suddenly in a group of about 8-12 adults a mass in SATB who just picked up music and sang it, only rehearsing for about an hour before. It was here that my sight reading, blending and working within an ensemble vastly improved.

I started learning the bass guitar when I was 16 and have been involved in a jazz band in school and participated in band workshops at the Roundhouse in Camden. Last year I got a Merit in grade 4 Bass, so although it’s still relatively new compared to some other people who have been playing various instruments since they were 6, I really enjoy playing and it has been a useful challenge learning bass clef!

Carmen (centre row, third from right) with the University Chamber Choir in the Carol Service at Canterbury Cathedral in December

Since starting out at Kent, I have joined the University Chorus, Cecilian Choir, Chamber Choir, the Lost Consort singing plainsong, the Musical Theatre Society and just recently General Harding’s Tomfoolery. I’ve always enjoyed music as a subject in school, studying it at GCSE and A-level; part of the reason for choosing the University of Kent is the incredible extra-curricular department it offers that  I am thrilled to be a part of.


You can watch a short clip of Carmen singing with the Chamber Choir live on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, when it was broadcast from the Gulbenkian, in December here.

Final-year Music Scholar exhibiting in We Are Human-ish next week

Final-year Music Performance Scholar, Megan Boyle, is one of seven graduating BA Fine Art students from the School of Music and Fine Art exhibiting in next week’s show in Studio 3 Gallery, We Are Human-ish.

Megan Boyle

Megan has just completed her Fine Art degree, and will be familiar to those who have attended concerts given by the Symphony Orchestra and the Concert Band, with which groups Megan has played clarinet, having also been Co-Principal clarinettist in the orchestra. Her work featured in the Fine Art Degree Show, Reverberate, which took place at Chatham Historic Dockyard last month.

“My work in the exhibition is an investigation into the influence of technology, particularly the Internet, on everyday speech” she enthuses, “including written language and published dialogue, realised through the construction of a new, physical language which questions the nature of interaction and communication methods adopted by human and machine.”

We are Humanish showcases a number of works that explore what it means to be human, questioning ideas associated with gender, culture, language, disability and technology. All the participants are united by their drive to examine human nature and the assumptions, purpose and essence of humanity.

Click to view

The exhibition takes place from 26 June until 1st July, with site-specific performances arranged for the 1 July, in Studio 3 Gallery in the Jarman Building on the Canterbury campus.

 

Scholars’ Spotlight: Melody Brooks

Continuing the series profiling Music Scholarship students at the University of Kent. This week, first-year violinist reading Psychology with Forensic Psychology, Melody Brooks.


Being part of a musical family and having such a musical name, it seems only natural that would be drawn to music. My parents have fostered in me a love of all genres of music, and waited for me to decide which instruments I wanted to play.

The first instrument I chose was the violin, after seeing an orchestra perform at my primary school. Flute and piano soon followed. After gaining entrance to my secondary school (Parmiter’s School) because of my music, I was encouraged to participate in a number of musical groups including Orchestra, Junior and Senior Flute Choir (in which I took the opportunity to play piccolo, alto flute and bass flute), Senior String Ensemble and Concert Band.

I also studied Music at GCSE and AS-Level, which widened my exposure to different genres of music and allowed me to truly appreciate composers and performers alike. I also participated in the school play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, as part of the musical ensemble.

Outside of school, I participated in the CAN Music Academy (Children Achieving Now) in both the orchestra and the choir. I also participated in the Kuyumba Youth Music (KYM) String Orchestra. The KYM experience was one of growth, as it was an extremely competitive environment based on merit and fostered in me the spirit of hard work and practice.

Rehearsing with the Symphony Orchestra in Colyer-Fergusson Hall

Singing was always encouraged in my church, and my church is well-known for its lively, inviting music. Often, I would participate in a string ensemble or play violin to accompany a meditational song. From the age of 11, I was encouraged to lead Praise and Worship with my friends, singing gospel music. We then formed a singing group called ‘Amplified Praise’ and sang in venues such as the ExCel London Centre and Pontins in Wales.

Here at Kent, I currently play in the Symphony Orchestra and String Sinfonia. I have enjoyed being a member of both groups. The Orchestra is amazing and is exposing me to different composers. String Sinfonia is smaller, but just as much fun. I love being able to develop my skills alongside those more able than me and to enjoy music once again.

Scholars’ Spotlight: Zaneta Balsevic

Continuing the series profiling Music Scholarship students at the University of Kent. This week, first-year studying Music, Zaneta Balsevic.


My interest in music was well established from the age of 11. This interest came during a local school concert where I saw a group of string players perform. This had an immediate impact on me and soon after I convinced my parents to register me for the local music school, which became my daily passion. I began to appreciate the power and meaning that music has as well as develop my performance skills on the violin. In my native country, Lithuania, I studied in a music school for four years before moving to the UK. There, I was part of a string ensemble, with whom we performed regularly in music school concerts as well as national festivals. A year later, I became part of a piano trio and in 2010 we won 2nd place in the Third Annual Dainius Trinkunas Junior Chamber Music Festival at the Lithuanian National Academy of Music and Theatre. We also performed in numerous other competitions and concerts.

zaneta-bAs I grew older, I became increasingly captivated by my instrument. I have learnt that a successful performance requires many challenges to be overcome such as gaining high self-confidence and learning to communicate musically with the audience.

Since I moved to the UK in 2012, my goal has been tightly focused; to study music at a highly respected music institution. I believed that a conservatoire education would enable me to become a successful professional violinist. I also believed it is a great place to meet like-minded musicians and develop ensemble skills through playing in chamber ensembles and orchestras. This motivated me to prepare for an audition and as a result I gained place to study Violin Performance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. Yet, I soon realised that university is a more suitable place for me as a musician and a student. I believe that having gained an academic degree it would enable me to be more flexible with regards to my career options, while being part of orchestra and chamber groups, therefore helping me to developing equally as a student and a musician.

I was a member of the Musica Nova Academy, where I participated in various concerts often taking place in St. Steven’s Church and the Rossotrudnichestvo Centre in Kensington. For a year, I have been a part of trio ensemble in my music school. With the trio, we have performed a tango piece Primavera Portena and Ave Maria by Astor Piazzolla. This is also when I passed my grade 8 in violin with distinction.

One of my greatest performance experiences was at the international music competition in Bulgaria ‘Zvezdna Dga’ where I performed Tchaikovsky’s Melodie. I was awarded first place in the category of solo classical performance. This experience helped me to overcome my greatest fears and to realise the importance of the performer as a communicator who isn’t afraid to imprint their own interpretation of the music that they play.

In addition to playing at ‘Music Nova’ I have also fully supported my secondary school music department in many ways. I was a member of the school Orchestra and I also lead the string orchestra and played in the band for a musical last year. In addition to this, I led a sectional of 60 primary school students in the school’s annual ‘Primary School Choral and Orchestral Day’. I believe that working with less-experienced musicians has helped to strengthen my communication, leadership and social skills and I enjoyed acting as a musical role model for younger musicians in the school.

I have greatly enjoyed participation in a music competition ‘Stars of the Albion’ in February 2014 and have won a second place in the category of solo violin classical music.

Visiting the University of Kent, I was astonished by this beautiful place, course, and people. This led to a decision to study here. Currently, I participate in University Choir and Orchestra (Medway), Chamber Music Forum and City of Rochester Symphony Orchestra.

Scholars’ Spotlight: Fleur Sumption

Continuing the series profiling Music Scholarship students at the University of Kent. This week, first year Art History student, Fleur Sumption.


Ever since I can remember, it seems that constantly being surrounded by music of some kind has had a massive impact on my life. Whether it was my Grandad taking me to various symphonies or being sat as a baby on the lap of the drummer in my Mum’s Jazz Band that she ran. Initially, I was encouraged to learn the piano, and for a child who could rarely sit still, when I got to about 8 years old it was decided that I’d rather take up the alto sax and have singing lessons instead.

fleur-s-newMy introduction to the world of the Theatre started at age 10, when I was picked for the children’s choir in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End. Having been “bitten by the performing bug”, this marked the start of many musical possibilities. I then went on to participate in Bill Kenwright’s touring production of Joseph in the following year, and appeared on Children in Need as part of the Joseph Cast. In 2012, my passion for singing increased when I was in the English National Opera cast of Carmen at the London Coliseum and was swiftly followed by recording Andrew Lloyd Webber’s children’s recording of Cats with The Really Useful Company.

Closer to home, I frequently participated in Music Festivals in Essex, winning classes across the seven years when I competed. In 2015 this lead me to be named Havering Young Musician of the Year, through the annual competition ran by the Rotary. I have also previously been awarded the Jacamar Shield for outstanding performance, having reached the Regional Finals of the Rotary competition. At home, I am a member of Firebirds, a local theatre group, being Cast as Martha in our production of the Secret Garden in 2014, and the Baker’s Wife in our 2016 production of Into the Woods– the latter of the two won many local awards, including “Best Performance by a person aged 18 and under” for my portrayal of the Baker’s Wife.

At my Secondary School and Sixth Form, The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School, I was able to complete my ABRSM Grade 8 for Singing, and also my Music Theatre Diploma. Throughout my years there, I have been fully involved in the music scene, being able to perform with the Symphonic Wind Band at the Mansion House for the new Lord Mayor each year, having travelled to Birmingham for the Music for Youth Finals, and played and sang around Italy in our bi-annual music trip. In my last year at Sixth Form, I was invited to perform at prestigious company events and gigs, including a wedding at the top of the Gherkin in London!

At University, I have been lucky enough to gain a place in the University Chamber Choir (pictured above) which is a huge privilege when you see the other musical talent in the University. Also taking part in Chorus and the Cecilian Choir, my musical diary is always bursting with events and rehearsals. I really love that there are so many wonderful musical opportunities here, and I am extremely excited to see how my musical journey will progress at the University of Kent.