Tag Archives: Music Award

Scholars’ Spotlight: Florence Nightingale Obote

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholars and Music Award Holders at the University of Kent. This week, third-year Biosciences student and violinist, Florence Nightingale Obote reflects on a less than auspicious start to her violin-playing career…


I have been playing the violin for 15 years. I started at the age of seven and have no memory of my first ever violin lesson or the first time I held a violin underneath my chin. My violin teacher, however, remembers it fondly and never ceases to tell me. She’d always say to me, “I remember you when you walked through the door. Your shirt and trousers were way too big for you because you were so tiny, and the moment you held your violin under your chin: you had the biggest smile on your face.”

Even though I do not remember this, I remember my very first violin concert very well. I was playing the French folk song with three other violinists. We practised ample times for the concert, and all seemed fine. But the day of the concert was a whole other issue. So, we walked onto the stage, and bowed at the applause. Then our violin teacher counted us in. As soon as I heard four, I knew I had to start playing, but I didn’t. Instead I was stood there frozen with my bow on the violin while the others were playing the right notes in all the right places. I looked to my parents on the second row who were trying their best to not laugh which started to make me giggle. Then I distinctively remember dropping my bow, and in the process of picking it up I almost whacked one of the other players. After picking up my bow, I tried to find my place, but at that moment, I forgot how to read music, so I just started playing random notes hoping no one would notice. And after the concert, my violin teacher said to my parents at the that I had potential. So, the violin and I did not get off to a great start.

I did improve as the years went passed. Year 7 was when my violin journey started to accelerate. In secondary school, MHCHS, I played in all the possible orchestras I could join. This consisted of chamber orchestra, symphony orchestra, Vivaldi strings, string group, and so on. In year 9, MHCHS did a project with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and I was given the opportunity to play the Vivaldi concerto for four violins accompanied by them. A year later, I got the opportunity again to play the Corelli Christmas concerto accompanied by them again. Both were conducted by Benjamin Pope.

Image credit: DJ8Photo

Whilst doing all these things in school, I also joined music groups externally. I was part of the Finchley Music strings for a couple of years where I joined Jazz strings as well. I wasn’t very fond of it because I was of being classically trained on the violin, but like my 7-year-old self I decided to persevere with playing Jazz on the violin (it did not last very long). Towards the end of year 9, I played in the Barbican Youth Orchestra where we got to play a several orchestral works, including the famous Romeo and Juliet overture by Tchaikovsky, and works by Glinka and Mozart.

Going back to year 7, I joined a chamber group until year 12. I got to play in trios, quartets, sextets, septets, and octets. We played a plethora of music, with my favourites being: Death and the Maiden by Schubert,  Mendelssohn’s Octet, and Dvorak’s American quartet. We also entered music competitions and participated in music festivals. Because of this period in my life, I will always love playing chamber music more than anything else.

During my year-in-industry, I went to Thailand where I joined the Thammasat University Symphony Orchestra (TUSO). I got to meet so many lovely people and had the opportunity to play gigs around Thailand and travel with them to Laos to play at Laos university. The orchestra was quite different to orchestras previously I’ve played in, in the UK. They played more music that appealed to students to get more recognition and they also arranged music from famous TV dramas and K-pop songs. It was very relaxed, and I had a great time playing with them.

Image credit: Jib Racharin

I’m coming up to the end of my final year studying Bioscience at the University of Kent, and the music opportunities in the university has been incredible. I’ve played in the Symphony orchestra, String Sinfonia, and have played chamber music with several people. After Kent, I hope my music journey will continue.

 

Image credit: Molly Hollman

I’d like to give a special thanks to my father who is the reason why I started playing the violin.

Outstanding contributions recognised at awards ceremony

One of the highlights of Summer Music Week is being able to recognise the outstanding contributions made by several students to music-making over the course of the year at the annual Music Awards ceremony.

Held after the Music Scholars’ Recital on the third day of Summer Music Week, this year the awards were excitingly scattered across the whole of the week-long music festival, as various prize-winners were away through either having the downright audacity to start gainful employment, illness or examinations – suffice to say, it made it much more fun, tracking the recipients down across the days, although it did afford the opportunity to sneak-present some of the prizes on the nominees at moments they hadn’t expected…

The Canterbury Festival Prize, which is awarded to a final-year student who has made an outstanding contribution to music at the University was this year awarded jointly to Music Performance Scholars Cory Adams and Anne Engels. Hispanic Studies student Cory has been principal timpanist with the Symphony Orchestra, one of four players in a performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique back in March, and has also been kit and percussion player with the Concert and Big Bands. Anne, studying English and American Literature and Philosophy, has played principal flute in the Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band, a member of the Flute Choir and was the featured soloist in a Harry Potter-themed lunchtime concert earlier this year. Both students received their awards from the Director of the Canterbury Festival, Rosie Turner.

Winner takes it all: Anne Engels; Faith Chan; Joe Prescott; Cory Adams;
Winner takes it all: Anne Engels; Faith Chan; Joe Prescott; Cory Adams;

The Colyer-Fergusson Music Prize, awarded to a student who has made a major contribution to organising music at the University, was awarded to India Bottomley, for her exceptional all-round, behind-the-scenes, kitchen-sink skills in administration and organisation as Chorus Manager. Having completed her degree in American Studies, India has already started employment in London, so we were especially delighted to be able to spring her award on her on the final day of Summer Music Week, when she came back to sing with the Cecilian Choir and Chorus.

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Chorus of approval: India Bottomley receives her award

Patron of the Music Scholarship Scheme, Dame Anne Evans, was present to award the John Craven Music Prize, which goes to a returning student who has made a major contribution to music at Kent. The prize was awarded jointly to Music Performance Scholars Charlotte Webb and Ruth Webster. It’s fitting that they should both be receiving this prize – both are Music Performance Singing Scholars and both in their second year, reading Biomedical Science. Both students have this year sung in the University Chorus, Minerva Voices and Cecilian Choir, featuring prominently as soloists throughout this year in major concerts in music by Handel, Lully and Vivaldi. Charlotte also plays trumpet in the Symphony Orchestra and Ruth is a member of the Musical Theatre Society show choir.

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Biosciene brilliance: Charlotte Webb, Ruth Webster and Jonathan Butten with patron Dame Anne Evans

The First-Year Prize went to trombonist and Music Performance Scholar, Jasper Rose, in recognition of someone who has made a significant contribution to music during their first year at the University. Reading Criminal Law on the Medway campus,Jasper has played in the Symphony Orchestra, the Concert Band, and has been the featured trombone-player in the Big Band this year. Jasper was unwell on the day of the ceremony, so again a lighting-strike presentation was unleashed at the rehearsal for the Concert and Big Band gala the following day; Jasper received his prize from the Director of Music, Susan Wanless.

Top brass: Jasper Rose receives his award
Top brass: Jasper Rose receives his award

The remarkably cumbersomely-titled (but no less valuable, for all that!) University Music Awards Committee Prize, for a student who has made a special contribution to music, ended up being a three-way split – the Committee has the unenviable task of allotting the prizes, and it’s often difficult to choose between nominees – between second-year woodwind player, Jonathan Butten, second-year cellist Faith Chan and final-year trumpeter and conductor, Joe Prescott. Each student is a Music Performance Scholar, and has in their way made a particularly valuable contribution – Jonathan (reading Biomedical Science) is principal oboist in the Symphony Orchestra, but the award was given to acknowledge his exceptional cor anglais playing in Symphonie fantastique in the Cathedral Concert, and as oboe soloist in concerts with the String Sinfonia in concerti by Vivaldi. A Law-reading cellist with the Symphony Orchestra and String Sinfonia, Faith’s prize recognises her immense skill as the solo continuo player in major performances of Baroque repertoire this year. Joe’s award is in honour of his contribution across so many areas of music – playing trumpet with the Concert and Big Band, his role as student conductor of Minerva Voices, and as Music Director for Musical Theatre Society showcases and productions. He has also sung with Chorus, Cecilian Choir and Chamber Choir, and is the outgoing President of the Music Society this year. He also played the Last Post for the annual Remembrance Day gathering. The prizes were presented by Chair of the Music Award Committe, Dr Dan Lloyd, and Dame Anne Evans.

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The award-winners together with violinist Lydia Cheng after the recital, together with patron Dame Anne Evans (l) and Canterbury Festival Director, Rosie Turner (r)

As host of the ceremony, Dan Lloyd, remarked, the prospect of yet another committee meeting isn’t necessarily one to lighten the spirit, but the annual convergence of the Music Awards Committee is one that is all about celebrating student success, recognising their achievements and the impact of their music-making throughout the year. This year has been a particularly fine one; many congratulations to the winners.

Images: Dr Wei-Feng Xue / Dan Harding