Tag Archives: Music Scholar

Scholars’ Spotlight: a profile of Rachel Fung

In her second year studying Law, Rachel Fung is a University Music Performance Scholar, singing in the Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir, Minerva Voices, playing the violin in String Sinfonia, and also singing in scholar lunchtime concerts. Here, Rachel reflects on her experience being involved in extra-curricular music, and the possibilities offered by the Music Scholarship she holds.

I entered the University when I was in Clearing, realising that the music-related Scholarship excited my vision to come to Kent. I’ve always been dreaming of being a lawyer, to uphold justice; I was born and raised in Hong King, where the social movements in 2014 and 2019 have been a major point for me to pursue a legal career.

I’ve been studying three music instruments since I was 3; being eligible for the Music Scholarship has definitely persuaded me to continue making music alongside my academic life. As I am a singing scholar, I’m involved in the choirs at Kent, and a singing lesson every two weeks. My uni life has been made more fruitful as I’ve got the opportunity to meet like-minded friends.

I like how the staff have been so supportive throughout the year, and very responsive. The facilities are very accessible and I really enjoyed myself coming to the Colyer-Fergusson Building! I enjoy music activities and was really grateful when I made many like-minded friends. The staff are really friendly and really hope for the best from you; I’ve definitely improved in terms of my singing abilities. The performance at the end of last year which I performed in is one of my fondest memories so far, it was also streamed online!

I’m hoping to enter the legal field, but apart from that, I’ve love to be a donor for the Music Performance Scholarship in the future, to continue this kind act. People really benefit from the scholarship, and I do think the scholarship improves the uni as a whole.

Hold Your Heart: live webchat with alumna and musician Lena Younes

One of the pleasures of engaging digitally with people this past year has been catching up with various alumni and finding out how they have been creatively active at a time when creativity and the arts has been facing real challenges.

My guest earlier is no exception – former Music Scholar Lena Younes, who graduated in 2011 having read Drama and Theatre Studies and History at Kent, singing with the Chamber Choir and at the Jazz @ 5 sessions on the old Gulbenkian cafe stage.

Lena releases her first single, Hold Your Heart, at midnight tonight (or will have done, depending on when you read this…), and I took the opportunity to chat to her about her writing process, the challenges of remaining creative during the past year, and the influences on her music. Watch it online here – my thanks to Lena for taking part.

Awkward Tiger: webchat with alumna and former Music Scholar, Steph Richardson

Many thanks to alumna and former Music Scholar, Steph Richardson, who joined me in the virtual studio this week for a live webchat about new fashion brand, Awkward Tiger.

Steph Richardson
Steph Richardson performing during ‘Jazz @ 5’ in 2012. Photo: Mick Norman

Since graduating in 2014 having read Drama & Theatre Studies (many readers might remember her singing with the University Big Band and the Chamber Choir), Steph has recently been working at Farnham Maltings in Surrey, and over the past eighteen months decided to launch her own fashion brand.

Headbands made by Awkward TigerIn the webchat, Steph talks about the inspiration for the company, the ethical values embedded in it, her love for British Sewing Bee, and her imminent move to work at the National Theatre. Watch it here if you missed it…

Scholars’ Spotlight: Harry Micklewright-Taylor

Continuing the series profiling this year’s new Music Performance  Scholarship and Award Holder student; this week, first-year guitarist, Harry Micklewright-Taylor.

I began playing acoustic guitar around the age of 6; I started with group lessons but quickly progressed to individual lessons. I started to perform in my primary school concerts, both in guitar groups and as a soloist. At age 8, I also took up piano lessons, while my guitar lessons became more focussed on classical guitar. At age 12, I joined Maidstone Youth Music Society (MYMS) where I learned to play orchestral percussion.

During secondary school, I joined a club called ‘Acorn Band’ where I played keyboard. I also performed a short piano piece in year 7 as part of an inter-house music contest in front of the whole school. In year 8 I took up electric guitar and my liking for rock music grew dramatically. Although it was not until around year 9 that I started intense practice. This was largely due to my introduction to virtuoso guitar players such as Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen, who would often take inspiration from classical music to combine with rock and produce complex music.

During these years I became a part of a Kent Music project called ‘Orchestra One’ which brought a variety of musicians of different abilities together to compose and perform music. The music was usually based around a theme like ‘space’; needless to say, it wasn’t uncommon for this music to be somewhat abstract and complex due to the different interpretations. My first performance with ‘Orchestra One’ was at the Hazlitt Theatre where I played a lead role amongst the other musicians, and had an extended guitar solo within one of the pieces we composed. Throughout the rest of my ‘Orchestra One’ performances, I retained my role as a soloist and we even performed once at a musical showcase held in the Gulbenkian. Another Kent Music project I was involved in was called ‘Rockshop’. Again, I played a lead role with regular solos, but this time the group was much smaller and represented a rock band.

In terms of solo performances, I became heavily involved in school concerts and would often play very challenging pieces. One time for a Christmas concert I arranged a few Christmas songs into an instrumental guitar version. Outside of school, I also played a solo piece at the Herne Hill Music Festival.

In year 11, my band and I performed Creeping Death by Metallica as part of the school show. I will always remember half the band wearing wigs (to match my own curly locks), as well as my guitar solo, that I played with my teeth. The following year we played The Trooper by Iron Maiden, for which we received thunderous applause. During my last few years at secondary school, I also played lead guitar in three school musicals. The first of these was Schools Will Rock You where I ended up standing precariously on top of two amps during my guitar solos. The other two were Little Shop of Horrors and Oliver, where my role of guitar player was often expanded to include xylophone and tambourine (as I was also an orchestral percussionist).

At the end of my 7 years at MYMS playing percussion, I had progressed to the flagship orchestra and won the MYMS musician of the year award with the rest of the senior percussionists. Much to my delight, MYMS decided to hold a concert where members could showcase their abilities on other instruments, so naturally, I was able to show off my guitar playing to a crowd that hadn’t before witnessed it.

As I am studying Music Technology at the University of Kent, I have been able to make good use of my playing in my course, as well as being able to see it from a different perspective. I have become a regular at Music Society events, held every Tuesday at the Deep End in Medway. I usually play guitar in a cover band called ‘Pod 3’, although I have also been known to fill in for bass and even electric ukulele. I sometimes play solo performances as well. Along with this, I have joined Medway Session Band and the Guitar Ensemble, which both give me more opportunity to experience a wide range of music. I am also hoping to play guitar in the musical ‘American Idiot’, in association with the MADS drama society. I intend to make the most of all the musical opportunities available to me while I am at Kent.

Music and science meet in the laboratory

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before , but music and science came together in a highly unusual way earlier today, when a set of bagpipes were introduced into the environment of the science laboratory here at the University.

First-year Scholar, Eloise, rehearsing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall

Be not alarmed, Gentle Reader: there was no experiment being performed on either instrument or player, who in this instance was second-year Music Performance Scholar and Biochemistry student, Eloise Jack. In her capacity as a student of Biosciences at Kent also involved in extra-curricular music-making, Eloise neatly brings together the elements of both academic study and extra-curricular enhancement of the student experience – by day, she can be found working in the laboratory or in the lecture-theatre; at weekends and during the vacations, she is busy wielding her bagpipes either around the campus or as part of the piping-community somewhere (you can read more about Eloise’s experience over the summer at the National Piping Centre on the blog here).

Representing two aspects of university life coming together, Eloise will be the focus of a feature in next month’s University magazine, and this morning’s photoshoot drew her away from the concert-hall and into the scientific enviroment. We’re looking forward to reading the feature next month.

My thanks to colleagues in the School of Biosciences, Professor Dan Lloyd and Ian Brown, for opening up various venues in the Stacey Building to help with this morning’s shoot.

Piping hot: first-year Scholar Eloise at the National Piping Centre

As part of her Music Performance Scholarship, first-year Biochemistry student and highland bagpiper, Eloise Jack, recently took part in a piping course at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. Here, Eloise reflects on her experience.

Thanks to the music scholarship I received from the University, I was able to attend an intensive piping course from the 24th-28th of June at The National Piping Centre in Glasgow. Each day consisted of three one-to-one sessions, with time between the lessons to practice in one of the centre’s practice rooms. Throughout the week I had lessons with four different instructors, covering different styles and playing techniques, and also tuning the pipes and general maintenance.

First-year Scholar, Eloise, rehearsing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall

In the first lesson I set my goals for the week with Finlay MacDonald, head of piping studies at the National Piping Centre. These included: –
• Expanding my musical repertoire and learning new styles of tunes.
• Learning the correct technique to tune my bagpipes myself, by ear (Usually someone else tunes my pipes for me using an electronic tuner.)
• Developing my embellishment techniques and overall piping technique.
Each further lesson was different and tailored to my needs, and depending on what instructor I had depended on what we worked on in the lessons.

I usually play marching tunes as I play with a marching band, however I wanted to expand my solo music repertoire. During the course, I was introduced to and started learning music in four different styles, including a jig, a reel, a strathspey and a four-part 2/4 march.

Eloise in full dress uniform to perform in the Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital during Summer Music Week at the University of Kent.

Tuning my pipes by ear was something that I was very keen to learn, as I normally have to rely on someone else to tune them for me. It is a difficult technique to master because you have to keep a steady pressure whilst trying to tune the drones so that the reeds in the drones and in the chanter vibrate steadily.

In completing this course, I managed to achieve all the goals I initially set. I also completed some much-needed maintenance on my pipes which was an unexpected expense, but the results in terms of the sound I can now achieve made it well worth it. They not only sound better when played, but the adjustments make it easier for me to practice tuning as make it easier to hear when they are in tune.

I really enjoyed the course. Being able to focus on just bagpiping really helped and I would definitely attend another intensive course in the future so that I can continue to develop my overall technique and repertoire.

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.