Category Archives: Scholars Spotlight

Meeting some of the Music Scholars at Kent

Scholars Spotlight: Amy Wharton

A new feature, profiling this year’s new crop of University Music Scholars: this week, viola-player Amy Wharton.


The first instrument I ever played was the recorder at the age of four at my Infants School, which was followed by the viola at age eight, the clarinet at age ten, the piano at eleven and the double bass at thirteen. The viola was always my favourite instrument, and at age nine I started attending Wellingborough Music and Performing Arts Centre every Saturday morning, playing in various groups until the afternoon.

I then started secondary school (Weavers School in Wellingborough) and joined the school orchestra, which I was a part of until it disbanded two years later. When I was eleven, I auditioned to be in a county group, and successfully became a member of the Northamptonshire County Training Strings, and that is really where it all started. The next year I became a member of the Training Orchestra and the String Sinfonia, until I moved up into the Northamptonshire County Youth Orchestra when I was fifteen and when I was seventeen I sat on the front desk. I also became part of a string quartet (the Rank in 4) and did paid gigs.

Since being at Kent I have been delighted to find a thriving orchestra, which I enjoy being a part of as well as the Camerata. I am also looking forward to rehearsing the string quartet that I have set up along with three other string players. There are lots of musical opportunities at Kent, the concert at the Cathedral was amazing and I’m looking forward to the new building that we will be based in next year.

Sax appeal: Music Scholar Tim Pickering takes part in the Sounds New Festival

A University Music Scholar and saxophonist with the Concert and Big Bands, first-year Tim Pickering was invited to play in Canterbury’s Sounds New Festival of Contemporary Music on Saturday, as part of the ‘Big Brand New’ band. Here’s his story…


Saturday 5th May… What an exciting day!

In the morning, I was invited to play my tenor sax in Whitefriars shopping centre in town with ‘Big Brand New’, an exciting new band set up by Peter Cook and the music department at Langton Girls School. Big Brand New is somewhat of a hybrid between a ‘traditional’ big band, and a junk orchestra! The musicians are from local schools, and a few University students, from Canterbury Christchurch and Kent.

The set started off with a few tunes composed by Peter especially for the band, followed by arrangement of Count Basie’s Flight of the Foo Birds. The final number we player was Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’, for which the ‘junk’ orchestra joined the rest of the band. There were several ingenious instruments being used, the bass line being played on tuned lengths of drainpipe, along with a percussion section comprising of everything from man-hole covers to buckets. There were also some assorted flutes and clarinets made out of lengths of PVC pipe!

The band certainly has some great potential, and it was brilliant to see so many young musicians getting stuck into taking solos and improvising… a daunting task, especially in the middle of a busy shopping square! I think that the use of the ‘scrap’ instruments was great – my favourite was the drainpipe bass! – I am very excited to be involved with the band. There is talk of in the future involving some of the school’s keen Music Technology students to mix some live sampling into the band, which will certainly make this band very different to anything else I’ve played in before!

After ‘Big Brand New’ had finished playing, KYJO (The Kent Youth Jazz Orchestra) took to the stage, just as the heavens opened! Despite the weather, they performed a fantastic set, and continued to draw a crowd, despite the conditions! They concluded with a lively performance of Jaco Pastorius’s ‘The Chicken’. Whilst listening to KYJO, myself and another sax player from ‘Big Brand New’ were interviewed by ‘CSR FM’ (97.4FM or online!) for their Saturday evening Jazz Show, 8-9pm. I’m sure there’ll be lots on about Sounds New in the next few weeks, so it’ll be worth tuning in.

In the evening, I was lucky enough to have a ticket to watch the BBC Big Band perform at the Gulbenkian… And just wow! I don’t think I need to say much more!

Two days in, and the festival has certainly started in style! I look forward to what the next few weeks bring…


The Sounds New Festival of Contemporary Music runs until Tuesday 15 May.

Scholars Spotlight: Eric MacTaggart

Continuing the new feature, profiling this year’s new crop of University Music Scholars: this week, trombonist Eric MacTaggart.


As an undergraduate, I studied music education and music performance at the University of Iowa, where I played in various jazz bands, concert bands, and orchestras. After graduating from Iowa, I was a band director in Idaho for two years and was able to perform in a ska band and the Idaho Falls Symphony Orchestra.

I came to the University of Kent for the Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics Masters program, but was excited to find an active Music Society on campus where I could continue to stay active in music.

It is great to keep up with my playing in the various bands and orchestra here and I am looking forward to performing in the Canterbury Cathedral and taking trombone lessons with renowned musicians in London.

Scholars Spotlight: Melissa Tortorella

A new feature, profiling this year’s Music Scholars: this week, flautist Melissa Tortorella.


I started playing the flute when I was ten, in my last year of elementary school, but I didn’t become serious about music until high school when my participation in the school’s marching and concert band led me to private lessons. I went on to play in Orlando’s Youth Orchestra and eventually grew enough musically to participate in county and state competitions.

Although I decided to do a degree in French at the University of Florida, I couldn’t abandon music altogether. I declared Music Performance as a minor and spent four years in the University Marching Band and Symphonic Band — as well as several other for-fun groups, such as Flute Ensemble and Steel Drum Band.

Joining the musical community was a foregone conclusion when I enrolled at Kent, and I was pleased to discover a number of opportunities to make music on campus. I play the flute and piccolo in the Symphony Orchestra and sing second soprano in the University Choir. I always look forward to music nights during my week and am constantly reminded about music’s universal appeal: judging from the amount of international students that participate in musician ensembles, and as one myself, it’s clear that (excuse the cliche) music really is the world’s universal language.

Scholars Spotlight: Tim Pickering

A new feature, profiling this year’s new crop of University Music Scholars: this week, saxophonist Tim Pickering.


My name is Tim Pickering and I come from Littlehampton in West Sussex, and I am studying for a BSc in Forensic Chemistry. I studied at the Littlehampton Community School, and then took A-Levels at the 6th Form there (although for some reason, not in music!) I have been playing the alto saxophone eleven years, and have recently picked up the tenor saxophone as my primary instrument. I hold ABRSM Grade 7 on Alto Sax, and I am currently working towards Grade 8 on the Tenor.

I have played with many different groups and set ups – from quintets,  pop bands and the local ‘Littlehampton Concert Band’ through to a seventeen-piece big band I assembled with the help of a few friends.

My school never really had a great music department; in fact when I joined, the ‘orchestra’ consisted of myself on alto sax, a flute and two violins! It did improve gradually, and one of the music teachers Steve Winter (a veteran himself of the UKC Big Band and Concert Band) got a small jazz group off the ground, which was great as it got some musicians in the music department some much-needed gigs! Although when the new head of music arrived in my second year, classical music lost the emphasis and steel pans became all the rage (much to the other musicians’ disgust!). Our school wasn’t involved in the county music side of things either, so this meant if I wanted playing opportunities in larger groups, I had to create them myself!

I am currently working on putting together and rehearsing a quintet here at Canterbury, with the aim of tackling styles from straight ahead jazz to rhythm and blues, and maybe even some classic rock ‘n’ roll. I’m looking forward to hopefully performing at some of the Jazz @5 sessions , and generally what music here brings for me! I am also playing first Tenor Sax in the Concert Band and Big Band. However, I still would like to play more, so if anyone is looking for a sax player for their band…

I feel I have been very privileged in being picked as a music scholar here at Canterbury, and the musical side of life is fantastic – in fact it was the music department that really swayed my decision to apply here! To go from playing in small jazz quintets and the very occasional Big-Band get together, to rehearsing solidly once a week with decent gigs booked is an exciting change for me! I really want to use my time at university to push myself to be the best sax player I can possibly be, and I hope with the scholarship and the help of my teacher Peter Cook, I hope I can continue to progress.

Scholars Spotlight: Kathryn Cox

Continuing the series profiling this year’s crop of Music Scholars at the University. This week, soprano Kathryn Cox.


After an absolutely fantastic (and very jam-packed) first term at university, I’m excited to be back again. Just three weeks in to the new term and rehearsals for numerous concerts are already well underway. Last term involved numerous musical highlights including the first Chamber Choir concert, ‘Music for Advent’ which was a real success, with the choir collectively deciding to sing in a mixed formation! The sound was much more rounded and rich, and did not fall victim to the extensive repertoire. Other highlights included singing Finizi’s For St. Cecilia with the University Chorus and Orchestra, and not forgetting of course the University Carol Service in the Cathedral. The Carol Service demanded much multi-tasking; trying to sing whilst concentrating on not tripping on a floor- length dress or setting somebody’s hair on fire with your candle is a rather tall order.

I feel I should write a small amount about my musical background, why I’m interested in music, and what I’m involved in musically with the university, so here goes: I have been engulfed with music throughout my upbringing and definitely ‘got the bug’ so to speak. Family friends jokily call my family the ‘Von Cox’s’…….. minus the mountains and the narrow escape, they’re not far off!. Alongside working towards ABRSM and LAMDA qualifications, I was a member of Taplow Youth Choir who won the title of ‘BBC Radio 3 Youth Choir of the Year’ in 2008. Being a part of such a dynamic and friendly choir was a real privilege, and involved singing in an international choral competition in Estonia, and singing ‘Elijah’ at the BBC Proms in 2011 with the Gabrielli Consort and singers.

Singing in Chorus, Chamber Choir and the Cecilian Choir is both challenging and rewarding. Being involved with music as well as reading a Joint Honours degree in Psychology and Law can be a large workload at times, but there’s no rest for the wicked!

Scholars Spotlight: Gemma Sapp

We’re delighted to be launching a new feature here on ‘Music Matters,’ profiling students who are part of this year’s new crop of University Music Scholars. We kick-start the series this week as we meet bassoonist Gemma Sapp.


Hi, I’m Gemma. I have joined Kent to do my MA in Theatre Dramaturgy (yes this is a subject!). One of the reasons I chose to come to Kent was its wide range of musical activities and the chance to be awarded a scholarship for musical ability. Having recently completed my undergrad in classical music from the University of Liverpool, I wanted to find a university that both satisfied what I wanted from my course and that had a strong musical ethos and Kent had both of these things.

Music has always been my love in life, and from starting recorder lessons at the age of six, I haven’t put an instrument down. I specialise in woodwind, mainly bassoon and saxophone and before heading to university I was part of Somerset County Youth Concert band and had started playing for many local choral societies and operatic societies. During my time at Liverpool University, I worked my way through the ranks to become President of Liverpool University Music Society in my final year. This meant organising, running and playing in the groups and organising their finances and concerts. I was also playing in and helping to run the University Symphony Orchestra which brought together all of the universities across Liverpool together to play. While at uni I started to play professionally in pit orchestras across the North West including a two week stint at The Lowry, Salford playing for the revival of Chorus Line.

Moving down to Kent has been hard. When your contacts, pupils, mentors and friends are hundreds of miles away it can feel leave you feeling very isolated. However, there is always a band or orchestra who will let you play and I am now a member of the University Orchestra, Wind Band, Big Band and we have recently started a wind ensemble playing some finger-busting Mozart. From involving myself in these and getting to know the staff I have found work with Sandwich and District Choral Society (from which I found another contact…) and hopefully some pit work later in the year. I also have a couple of pupils again. I love teaching. Seeing someone improve, develop and enjoy music is a joy and privilege. In the last week I have also been elected to one of the positions for Post-Grad rep for the Music Society so expect to see me around a lot more.

I’m sorry this has gone on a bit but when I start talking about music I really can’t stop. The title of this blog sums it up for me, ‘Music Matters – Because it does, doesn’t it?’. Yes. Quite simply, it does.