Tag Archives: Music Scholar

Chineke! Junior Orchestra at the Southbank Centre: Melody’s view

Over the weekend, third-year Music Performance Scholar and violinist, Melody Brooks, took part in the Chineke! Junior Orchestra’s events as part of the Imagine Children’s Festival at the Southbank Centre; this is her story…


This weekend, I had the pleasure of playing with the Chineke! Junior Orchestra as part of the annual Imagine Children’s Festival that takes place in the Southbank Centre. Children of all ages gathered (with their parents) to take part in a number of workshops with us and then watch our concert.

Each workshop was led by a different person. The first two were led by dancers, who focused on the first and last movements of the Othello Suite by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. They taught the children dances to to fit the pieces, and then the orchestra surprised them by entering through the audience and performing the pieces live. After an initial play-through, the children and orchestra performed the piece together, in front of all their parents and peers. The final workshop, led by a viola player in the Chineke! senior orchestra, was a singing workshop. This focused on the ‘Children’s Song’ in the Othello Suite. She taught them a song based on the main melody of the piece, and again, the children were able to perform it live with the orchestra. The audience truly enjoyed exploring the movements of this recently resurrected suite.

The concert started at around 3:20pm. Conducted by the brilliant Stephanie Childress, we performed the St. Paul’s Suite by Gustav Holst, the first movement of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, and four of the five movements of the Othello Suite. We were truly inspired by our conductor, who brought clarity and excellence to our interpretation of the pieces. A former BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist, she was the epitome of musical excellence. The atmosphere was truly electrifying. The children were enthralled by all the lively movements, whilst their parents were moved by the slow ones. Everyone was in awe of the two young female soloists in the Bach concerto. They carried themselves with grace and poise, and perfectly embodied the essence of Bach. I was especially proud of Inez and Shona, especially as I had met and played with Shona as a budding violinist 10 years ago. All in all, it was a beautiful concert, especially considering that we only had two-and-a-half days to prepare!

Finally, the concert ended with a bedtime story told by the founder of Chineke!, the formidable Chi Chi Nwanoku, OBE. She told the children how music had always been a massive part of her life, and how she started playing the double bass after a knee injury took her out of the running for the Olympics. As she revealed her motivations for founding Chineke! – and more specifically the Chineke! Juniors – the orchestra accompanied her with the harrowing ‘Willow Song’ of the Othello Suite. It was truly moving.

All in all, it was a beautiful weekend experience. I had fun learning the new, enthralling music by Coleridge-Taylor and playing St Paul’s Suite (which has a special place in my heart!). I was able to meet new musicians, including several LPO Junior Artists (the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s initiative in partnership with the Royal Academy of Music) and future Royal College of Music attendees. It was an honour to play with such talented and dedicated BME youth, and I look forward to seeing what the orchestra does in the future. Be sure to check them out!

Scholar’s Spotlight: David Curtiss

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholarship students and Award Holders. This week, foundation-year physicist and reeds player, David Curtiss.


I started my music-making on the piano at age 7, something that I have tried to continue developing throughout my years of study. I then decided that I wanted to be part of my school orchestra and so chose to start the clarinet, leading me onto the local area wind ensemble and a host of fantastic opportunities that followed.
I started on third clarinet in the youth band, and after 4 years found myself principle in the main band. I was then offered the chance to play the tenor saxophone, I took it (because who doesn’t want to play the coolest instrument?). This then opened the door to join big bands and play in different ensembles.

Because I could now play multiple reed instruments, including the oboe, I was invited to play in the pit band for the school productions, such as The Sound of Music and We Will Rock You. It’s something I have thoroughly enjoyed and made sure to take part in every year. I also had a brief trip onto the stage for our production of West Side Story where I played the lead role of Tony, a fascinating experience which gave me a new respect and insight into musical theatre.

My next venture was into the baritone saxophone when I was asked if I’d like to give it a go and I haven’t looked back! It has given me the opportunity to play alongside the Scots Guard in their chapel next to Buckingham Palace and at The Royal Albert Hall as part of the Hampshire County Youth Wind Ensemble, as well as a host of other locations that I would never have thought possible.

I continued my musical education at college however switched courses to pursue a scientific route. Last year, a few friends and I had the idea of starting up an orchestra for fellow college students. This idea spread into a full orchestra, wind band and string orchestra resulting in a full concert last year in Winchester. This new musical venture also gave me the opportunity to do more conducting with the string orchestra when we performed Grieg’s Holberg Suite. We have also just planned a concert for Easter where we will be putting together a jazz band and some smaller ensembles which is very exciting!

David, third from left, with the Big Band sax section

My musical journey has continued to grow here at Kent where I am part of the Concert Band, Big Band, Pops Orchestra, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, Chorus and Cecilian Choir. One of my goals for my time here at Kent is to assemble a sax quartet. I have some pieces that I have arranged that I would love to be debuted by an ensemble such as this. I am amazingly grateful to be a recipient of the Music Scholarship, as it has allowed me to purchase some desperately needed upgrades for my instrument, and also to have the chance to be taught by the fantastic Peter Cook. I look forward to developing my playing and getting involved with everything that the brilliant Music Department here at the University has to offer…


Read more in the series here.

Burns unit: first-year Scholar pipes us home

Congratulations and thanks to first-year Music Scholar, Eloise Jack, who piped us home on Friday evening in honour of Burns Night.

Jack of all trades…

Dressed in her Day Uniform, Eloise – who is in her first year studying Biochemistry – patrolled the piazza outside Gulbenkian as people headed home at the end of the day, sending a selection of traditional Scottish tunes skirling into the evening air.

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

A chicken sandwich, a shoe emergency and a conductor’s baton: a day in the life of Hannah Ost

Recently, first-year Music Performance Scholar, Hannah Ost, had the opportunity to work as Music Assistant to Andrew Lippa at the Royal Festival Hall; here, she reflects on the hectic pace of life, the need for the right shoes, and working on The Little Princess


A few months ago, I saw an email advertising open auditions for Andrew Lippa and Brian Crawley’s musical A Little Princess. The auditions were for the main child leads and, needless to say, I was a little bit too old to go! However, there was contact information listed, so I decided to send an email to express my interest in the show and offer my assistance in any way possible. To my great surprise, I received an email back from the executive directors of the show, who had forwarded my email to Andrew’s full-time assistant. There were a couple of emails back and forth between us and about a week later I found myself sitting in my study, on a Skype call with Mr. Andrew Lippa himself (mildly freaking out, as he is my all-time favourite composer, but managing to keep calm and composed… if you’ll pardon the pun!) He talked to me about the possibility of my being his assistant; we went through the role, his expectations of me and what I should expect on rehearsal days.

So it came to be that on Friday lunchtime (25th June), I found myself carrying a chicken salad and diet coke to the Southbank Centre, to give to Mr Lippa, in a rehearsal for his musical, ‘A Little Princess’. I made notes during the Sitzprobe and formatted them to send in the evening. I got to listen to incredible singers, and musicians (from the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra) perform incredible music, being conducted by the incredible man who wrote it. We had dinner together and we talked a bit about me and my background, and also about his work and his life. He gave me some tips on making it in the industry, how to conduct a cast and orchestra and how the process of composing a full-length musical begins. It was a little surreal, considering Lippa’s music has been some of my favourites for years!

But Friday was nothing in comparison to the crazy day I had on Monday 28th…

9am – I arrived at Andrew’s hotel room, ready to head to the theatre. Helped him with his bags, got in a car and went through the Artist’s Door to the Royal Festival Hall at about 9:30.

10:30am – Technical rehearsal. I sat in the 2nd Violinist’s chair onstage and looked out at the 2,900 soon-to-be-filled seats, down at the performers, then back at Andrew, who was conducting the pianist and actors. Once again, surreal.

2:30pm – Dress rehearsal! I sat in the middle of the front row and watched the full thing. It was a fantastic opportunity and if anybody went to see the performance, you’ll know just how talented that cast was.

5pm – At roughly 5pm, we broke for dinner and Andrew went to get prepared for the show. All’s going well until I realise the showbiz after party is tonight and I’m going to be there. I look down at my £6 Primark plimsoles… I need shoes.

6pm – With an hour ’til house opens and Andrew getting ready in his dressing room, I walk 15 minutes to the Strand and frantically run around trying to find a cheap size 5 pair of heels. After spending 15 more minutes in a Next, I decide on a pair that fits and hurry back to the theatre.

6:55pm (5 minutes before house opens): I wait for the slowest lift in the world to come to my floor, shoot up to the stage and check everything is how it should be: Baton in place, scores organised, water bottles in position. I race back to the dressing room and get there on the dot of 7pm. Showbiz life: nailed.

7:25: Act One beginners call! I take my place in the stage right wing and page the curtain for Andrew, as he enters at 7:30, to begin the show…

From here, my job was essentially finished for a couple of hours. Besides paging the curtain, I was free to watch the show on the monitors and listen to the roar of the crowd after every number. I became a bit like a backstage helper, helping cast members find props, bringing cups of water to nervous performers, drawing the curtains after an exit/entrance. It was wonderful to see the smiles on the kids’ faces especially – when they came off stage after a big number!

At roughly 10:30, after packing up Andrew’s music, I joined him at the after-show party, where I was introduced to performers, press and agents alike. I shook hands with so many people I couldn’t even begin to count and exchanged details with a few too! Being in the presence of so many experienced industry professionals was amazing and I was happy to listen to them talk about their experiences working in musical theatre, television, film; I even spoke to some musical directors which made my heart leap just a little bit!

After that, myself and his full-time assistant, Matt Webster, got Andrew into a car back to his hotel, rejoined and stayed at the party ’til it ended at 11pm. I got the train home, albeit a little too tipsy for my own good, and hit the hay for a needed sleep.

So what does all of this mean for me?

Well, as someone whose life goal is to be a West End Musical Director, these two days gave me the opportunity to see how professional theatre comes together. I’ve worked in ‘Am-Dram’, but this was very different to that in a lot of ways. The main difference is the amount of people it takes to make a show. In the world of youth theatre schools, a sound 15 people will make up the backstage team. In professional theatre, there were at least that many people on the stage at any given moment, with another 30 backstage at least! You realise everybody has their own very specific job, which is of the utmost importance to them, but which others do not realise is happening. It is always non-stop and I barely sat down for two days… but that’s the exciting thing. There was always something to observe. I observed how to conduct an orchestra, two choirs and a full cast simultaneously. I observed how hierarchy works in the business. I observed how and how not to behave in the working world and it’s given me a brilliant new outlook to apply to my own endeavours at University.

Hannah rehearsing the ‘Pitch Project,’ an a cappella group she has formed at Kent this year

A lot of life lessons were learned in a very short space of time, but I am honoured to have worked for my favourite composer, on a fantastic production at the Royal Festival Hall. One of the best experiences of my life so far, for sure!

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.

Lunchtime Concert explores South Indian music on 30 May

We’re delighted to have been able to reschedule our postponed Lunchtime Concert from February, to bring music from South India on Wednesday 30 May at 1.10pm.Postgraduate University Music Performance Scholar, Ramnath Venkat Bhagavath is studying for a Masters in Applied Actuarial Science at the University of Kent, and brings a strong performing tradition to the campus. In 2016, Ramnath performed in the renowned ‘Swathi Sangeethotsav’ at the royal palace of Trivandrum, an event which attracts musicians from across the globe.

The Lunchtime Concert, taking place in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, will feature a selection of different ragas and thalas in the Carnatic music tradition, accompanied by violin, mridangam and ghatam.

Admission is free, with suggested donation £3.

Furley Page logo
Sponsors of the Lunchtime Concert series

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.