Category Archives: Scholars Spotlight

Meeting some of the Music Scholars at Kent

Scholars’ Spotlight: David Curtiss plays Phil Woods

Our Scholars’ Spotlight series of filmed short recitals by Music Performance Scholars and Award Holders resumes tomorrow, with second-year saxophonist reading Physics, David Curtiss.

The continuing series, filmed without an audience in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, highlights many of this year’s students, and this week’s screening at 1.15pm sees David perform the wonderfully colourful, jazz-infused slow movement from the Sonata for Saxophone and Piano by the great Phil Woods.

Join us at 1.15pm when the film airs, or catch-up with it anytime afterwards.

#Beethoven250: Music Performance Scholar plays Beethoven

An historic moment on the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven; first-year Music Performance Scholar, Michael Lam, in the Kent and Medway Medical School performs the Piano Sonata no.28 Op 101.

Filmed in one single, continuous take in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, Michael plays from memory one of the most formidable challenges in the piano repertoire.


Filmed by Thomas Connor, Luke McCann and George Morris.

You can watch a series of performances by Michael in a dedicated playlist here, including pieces from the Anna Magdalena Notebook.

Scholars’ Spotlight recital series goes live

Our new series of short filmed recitals, Scholars’ Spotlight, has launched this lunchtime with a performance of twentieth-century flute repertoire by third-year Music Performance Scholar reading Legal Studies, Meg Daniel.

The developing series showcases Music Performance Scholars and Music Award Holders here at the University, in an ongoing series of closed-door performances filmed in Colyer-Fergusson Hall.

You can watch Meg’s recital here:

The series will continue with further performances, screening each day at 1pm on the Music Department’s YouTube channel.

With thanks for technical support to Thomas Connor, Luke McCann and George Morris.

KMMS Music Performance Scholar plays from the Anna Magdalena Notebook: Minuet in G

The second performance by the new Music Performance Scholar at the Kent and Medway Medical School, first-year international student Michael Lam, features the charming Minuet in G from the Anna Magdalena Notebook, attributed to Christian Perzold.

You can see the first piece in the series, and read more about Michael, here.

Scholar’s Spotlight: Melody Brooks

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).

Between Worlds. Image: Dan Lloyd

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.

Scholar’s Spotlight: Olivia Condliffe

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!

The woodwind section for the December concert

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.

Scholar’s Spotlight: Sophia Lyons

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.

The soprano section of the Chamber Choir at the Carol Service in Canterbury Cathedral

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.

Third-year Sophia Lyons in the title role

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”.