The Principal's Blog

Congratulations, Sheku

Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood CBE, Principal - Posted on 16.05.2016

All of us at the Academy join in congratulating Sheku Kanneh-Mason on his BBC Young Musician win.

It has been a great pleasure to watch Sheku’s progress over the past few years at Junior Academy. I remember seeing him perform at the Junior Academy’s 80th Birthday Concert at St John’s Smith Square last year, and you could see the direction of travel! Sheku started at Primary Academy at the age of nine, and at the same age he got the highest mark of the year for Grade 8 cello across the whole of the UK. So right from the start of his time here it has been clear that he has immense natural musicianship, a tremendous capacity for hard work, and the potential to become an important artist.

Sheku deserves all of the plaudits he has received over the past 24 hours, and more. But I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone else at the Academy who has contributed to his success. So many people here have given him advice and encouragement since he started at Junior Academy seven and a half years ago:
– Ben Davies, Sheku’s outstanding cello teacher at Junior Academy.
– Sheku’s wonderfully supportive family, and in particular his sister Isata, who appeared in the Piano Semi-Final two years ago and is now a full-time Academy student, who accompanied Sheku in the earlier rounds.
– Guy Johnston, Academy professor of cello, has been coaching Sheku on Shostakovich’s First Concerto, sixteen years after winning the competition with the same work.
– Howard Ionascu, Director of Junior Academy, and his predecessor in the role, Ben Parry.
– Krystyna Budzynska, Associate Director of Junior Academy, who as Director of Primary Academy oversaw Sheku’s early musical developments.
– Druvi de Saram, who taught Sheku piano.
– All the many other Junior Academy staff who have worked with Sheku as he has taken part in the full curriculum at Junior Academy, including playing in the orchestra and winning the Dame Ruth Railton Chamber Music Prize.
– Academy alumna and professor Chi-chi Nwanoku and her Chineke Foundation, where Sheku currently leads the cellos in the Chineke Junior Orchestra, which in a short time has done a great deal of valuable work to promote diversity in classical music. Sheku has also worked with the Advance Network to promote diversity, and has recently been named as Junior Ambassador for London Music Masters.
– The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, who have supported Sheku’s studies with their ABRSM scholarship. Sheku’s studies have also been supported by the Wolfson Foundation and the Academy Alumni Network’s R.A.M. Club.
– And, last but by no means least, Sheku’s day-to-day teachers at Trinity Catholic Comprehensive School in Nottingham, who clearly have done so much to support his personal development as well as his extraordinary musicianship.

Sheku’s many hours of dedication have taken him a such a long way already, only a few weeks past his seventeenth birthday. I, along with countless others, look forward to enjoying his performances in the years ahead.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason at BBC Young Musician

Photograph: BBC