Bicentenary Scholars are outstanding young musicians selected each year by the Academy. They are offered significant funding as well as artistic development opportunities which are designed to meet their individual needs and ambitions as they prepare for professional careers. Scholars embark on a special year of study (in some cases two). Some are afforded the chance to record for Linn Records while others undertake additional training with world-leading artists or engage in personalised projects connected to their particular career path. Since the scheme’s inception in 2018, each has benefited from a uniquely intensive and productive year at the Academy.
The nine Bicentenary Scholars for the 2023/24 academic year are Georgi Dimitrov (guitar), Jasmin Ghera (trumpet), Ananda Brandão (drums, jazz), Madison Horman (soprano), Xiaowen Shang (piano), Charlotte Spruit (violin, Historical Performance), Samuel Stopford (tenor), Hadewych van Gent (cello) and Binny Yang (soprano). Read more about them below.
Bulgarian classical guitarist Georgi ('Jojo') Dimitrov is in his first year of his Master of Arts at the Royal Academy of Music. He completed his undergraduate degree with Paolo Pegoraro, graduating cum laude from the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (KUG), Austria. As a devotee of historically informed performance, he has also taken classes on the viola da gamba and the Baroque guitar at KUG.
Georgi is the winner of the First prize and the Special prize at the 2021 International Guitar Competition Maurizio Biasini in Bologna. He has recently won the First prize at the European Bach Guitar Award in Darmstadt, 2022, enabling him to tour in Germany and Italy, including a performance at the prestigious Bach Festival in Leipzig. In addition, he recorded a selection of J.S. Bach’s music with NAXOS Records in Toronto.
Ananda Brandão is a Franco-Brazilian artist from Paris. Aged six, she joined a conservatoire in the southern suburbs of Paris where she studied classical piano for 10 years. However, her love of Brazilian popular music led to her beginning drum lessons at the age of 12.
Ananda developed her instrumental abilities, jazz and harmony knowledge at the Conservatory of Versailles where she studied between the ages of 17 and 20. She then joined the CMDL, the leading jazz music school near Paris founded by the legendary French jazz violinist Didier Lockwood, and graduated in 2023. During this time she performed in famous Parisian jazz clubs such as Le Baiser Salé, Le 38 Riv, Le Sunset/Sunside and Le Duc des Lombards.
Last year saw Ananda performing frequently with the legendary organist Rhoda Scott, who has worked with Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald among others. They toured around France with her All Star Band, playing at important European Jazz festivals such as Festival Des 5 Continents. As a substitute for Anne Paceo, she has also shared the stage with leading French musicians such as Sophie Alour and Géraldine Laurent.
Jasmin Ghera is an Italian trumpet player from Sardinia, where she achieved her bachelor’s degree in Trumpet Performance in 2017.
In 2022, she achieved the highest grade, 6/6, in her master’s in Music Interpretation at the Lausanne High School of Music (HEMU) under the guidance of Eric Aubier. Since November 2022, she has been working towards her Professional Diploma with Mark David, Paul Beniston, James Fountain, John Hutchins and Jeroen Berwaerts at the Academy.
New Zealand lyric soprano Madison Horman is currently studying towards an Advanced Diploma in Opera at the Royal Academy of Music under the tutelage of Nuccia Focile and Ingrid Surgenor. Prior to her studies with Royal Academy Opera, she attained both her MMus and Postgraduate Diploma: Advanced Studies in Performance with Distinction from the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) under the tutelage of Eiddwen Harrhy.
Madison performed the role of Countess Almaviva in the Royal Academy Opera production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro in March 2023. Her competition successes have included placing second in the Isabel Jay Memorial Prize at the Academy and winning the Tait Foundation Prize for the most outstanding New Zealand/Australian Musician at the Royal Over-Seas Leagues Final.
Xiaowen Shang is a pianist, harpsichordist and versatile musician, interested in early, classical and contemporary music. She is currently studying with Joanna MacGregor in the second year of her master’s degree. She received her bachelor’s degree with First Class Honours and was awarded the Edwin Samuel Dove Prize for special merit during the studentship of her undergraduate studies at the Academy.
Her recent awards include winning the First Prize of the Beethoven Piano Society Europe Senior Intercollegiate Competition in March 2023, First Prize of Lilian Davis Prize in 2022, First Prize of String and Piano Duo Prize in 2022 and First Prize of the WCOM Harriet Cohen Bach Competition at the Academy in 2019. Xiaowen is also a Young Artist of The Worshipful Musician’s Company.
Charlotte Spruit began her violin studies at the age of four with Coosje Wijzenbeek. She studied at the Guildhall School of Music with David Takeno, and with Ying Xue at the Academy and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the Academy with Rachel Podger, Pavlo Beznosiuk, and Ying Xue.
In 2022, Charlotte won the first prize as well as the audience prize and the Genuin Classics prize at the Leipzig International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition. In 2023, she was a prize-winner at the Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) International Auditions held at Wigmore Hall.
As a soloist, Charlotte has played with orchestras including the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the Pauliner Barockensemble and Ensemble Esperanza.
British tenor Samuel Stopford completed both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Academy, studying under the guidance of Professor Kate Paterson, Janet Haney, and Jonathan Papp and graduating with highest honours. He is now in his first year of the Royal Academy Opera programme.
Samuel won the Second Prize in the 2022 Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks Award. He was also Very Highly Commended in the 2021 Blythe-Buesst Operatic Prize and a prize-winner in the 2019 Kathleen Ferrier Society Bursary for Young Singers.
Samuel was invited to attend the 2023 Internationale Meistersinger Akademie, where he appeared in several concerts of operatic arias with the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, a Lieder recital broadcast on Bavarian Radio and Opera and Cabaret galas.
Dutch cellist Hadewych van Gent did her undergraduate studies at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam with Professor Jelena Očić. Hadewych is now studying for her Advanced Diploma at the Academy with Professor Hannah Roberts.
In September 2022, Hadewych was invited by Sheku Kanneh-Mason to play and sing at his album release. The performance of the piece that she arranged, sung, improvised and played was mentioned in The Times as 'an intoxicating invocation'. Shortly after she received an invitation by music label Decca to record together with Sheku in 2023.
Hadewych has performed in many different concert halls as a soloist and with chamber groups in het Concertgebouw, het Muziekgebouw aan t’IJ, the Dutch national Opera and the Barbican.
Soprano Binny Supin Yang studied for her master’s degree at the Academy under the tutelage of Nuccia Focile and Iain Ledingham as an ABRSM International Postgraduate Scholar. She is now studying on the Royal Academy Opera course under the tutelage of Nuccia Focile and Ingrid Surgenor.
Notable competition successes include winning Special Prize in the 2022 Korea National Concours, the First Prize and the Mayor of Busan Prize in 2017 Glovil National Musical Competition, First Prize in the 2017 Eom Jeong-Haeng Music Competition and First Prize in the 2017 Sung-Jung Music Competition. She is a Kumho Art Hall Yonsei Young Artist and will return in 2024 to give a solo recital.
You can find a full list of previous recipients of the Bicentenary Scholarships here.
Along with our Bicentenary Scholars, many students at the Academy receive financial support of one kind or another. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit and applicants are automatically considered at the audition stage. Other scholarships awarded at the Academy include the ABRSM Scholarships, the Sony Music UK Social Justice Fund Scholarship in partnership with Alexis Ffrench, the Disney Scholarship, the International Students House Scholarship and Hardship Fund and the Hans Keller Scholarship. Find out more here.
Header image: top row, left to right: Ananda Brandão, Georgi Dimitrov, Charlotte Spruit; middle row, left to right: Xiaowen Shang, Hadewych van Gent, Jasmin Ghera; bottom row, left to right: Madison Horman, Samuel Stopford, Binny Yang.