Jackie Campbell wins BBC Young Musician 2016 Keyboard Category Final

15-year-old pianist Jackie Campbell from Salford has won the Keyboard Category Final and secured a place in the Semi-Final of BBC Young Musician 2016.

The other category finalists were Yuanfan Yang (19), Tomoka Kan (17), Jackie Campbell (15), Julian Trevelyan (17) and Harvey Lin (13).

The five Category Finals were staged at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. The Semi-Final of BBC Young Musician will be broadcast on Saturday 7 May on BBC Four followed by the Final on Sunday 15 May from the Barbican, London and will be broadcast on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3.



BBC Young Musician 2014: Martin James Bartlett

Martin James Bartlett lifted the BBC’s Young Musician trophy yesterday at Usher Hall, and tonight he was on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row talking to presenter and journalist John Wilson about the competition.

Bartlett speaks with stunning maturity belying his 17 years and in the process reminding me just how little I’ve achieved in comparison since he was born. “I still – like all of us – have lots of insecurities about things and lots of stuff to work on,” he said, responding to Wilson’s question about whether or not the tutors at college will have anything to teach him now that he’s won the competition. That someone that age knows not only knows that, but can say it so convincingly is quite something.

Martin James Bartlett, 17 years old.

I enjoyed the performances in the final. I found the work for recorder played by Sophie Westbrooke surprisingly ‘light’ in style (no, it’s not a criticism) which left me wondering whether there might be a revival in its reputation amongst non-devotees.

But, Elliot Gaston-Ross was the one I had my (imaginary) money on for the competition. I found his energy as compelling as it was infectious, as I have done throughout the competition. There were moments during his performance where I completely forgot he was 15 years old. (Watching him perform Land again in the semi-final broadcast the night before brought a tear to my eye.)

Whether or not they pursue performance as a career either as soloists or ensemble players (none of us lesser-mortals should assume they will just because they’ve participated in BBCYM or going on to music college), they will undoubtedly achieve something just as important, if not more so. Just as Emma Johnson for a whole wave of clarinetists in the mid-80s – they will inspire the next generation to pick up an instrument.

The BBC Young Musician Final 2014 was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (with commentary featuring former winner oboist Nicholas Daniel). It’s available until Sunday 18 May 2014. 

Martin James Bartlett was on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and features at 9’35”. 

BBC Young Musician 2014: Percussion Category Final

It would be no exaggeration to say that the comments I posted after the String Final didn’t go down terribly well. In fact, I think they might have gone down like a bucket of cold sick. Shame really, as they reflect a genuine interest in TV production. I’m not a meany. Really, I’m not.

No problem though. Because this week following the Percussion Final – and in no way a sign that I’m trying to tone down my views – I note an improvement. Alison Balsom as a presenter works well backstage. She is the kind of reassuring presence I’d hope to see backstage after I’d had to prove my mettle on stage in front of an audience, a panel of judges, and a collection of TV cameras. Not only that, guitarist Milos’ delivery in voice-over maintains the pace of the programme. Also, things got underway after 8 minutes. And, I’m sure I saw more of what the judges thought. So, you know, that’s all good. *

I hope I haven’t dug myself a bigger hole by saying all of that first, because the big point to make about this category final is that it makes for cracking TV. No disrespect to last week’s string players, but the percussion pieces offer guaranteed driving rhythms and something a little more varied visually. This was perhaps down to the size of the instruments each were playing and the scale of their stage environment they had to reach across. All of the performers had the chance to swing around just a little more, and that translates well on screen.

Elliot Gaston-Ross. Stupidly talented. Sickeningly young.

But more than that, the music all the competitors offered was – by virtue of the fact it was largely new to me – fresh. Elliot Gaston-Ross secured his place in the semi-final with a breathtaking performance of the first movement from Dave Maric’s brilliant Reich-infused Trilogy (watch out for Elliott’s smile at around 4.39 – its almost as though he knows he’s allowed to show us he’s enjoying himself).

For all the spectacle of Elliot’s performance of Maric’s music, it is his rendition of Takatsugu Muramatsu’s Land which really tugs at the heart-strings. I can’t wait to see what he plays in the semi-final and (again, sorry everyone else) I really hope we see him in the final.

Jess Wood‘s performance of Asventuras should be watched closely and applauded loudly. Not only does she demonstrate a stunning memory of complex rhythmic patterns, but her confidence and poise should do wonders for selling music studies to the next generation of musicians.

As it happens, I backed Elliot from the very beginning – sorry everyone else – but spare a moment to watch Stefan Beckett (who dons a smashing jumper in the publicity photographs) in his own arrangement of Rachmaninov’s C# Minor Prelude for Marimba. Utterly gorgeous stuff.

Expect to see all of these musicians go far. Winning is obviously a goal, but the reality is that the talent these category finalists have already demonstrated means their careers are secured and that we will see more of them. Not only that, parents of a certain age can expect their own kids demand they get the chance to learn percussion. Bloody good job.


* I’m sure this had absolutely nothing to do with me. Nobody reads this blog.


The Woodwind Category Final is on BBC Four at 7.30pm, Friday 2 May 2014

BBC Young Musician 2014: String Final

William Dutton – BBC Young Musician String Final winner – won £1000 and a place in the BBC Young Musician 2014 semi-final. A former BBC Radio 2 Chorister of the Year, William Dutton’s performance of Bloch’s Baal Shem, Nigun was stunning.

Clips from the performances of the other finalists performances also appear on the BBC’s Young Music website.

The full (and at times flabby) 88 minute programme is available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days. It’s use of overly dramatic incidental music, X-Factor-style sound effects does get in the way of the end product. Such obvious talent and breathtaking hard work deserves more: sometimes the need to create an entertainment TV programme distracts from the core of the offering, the talent of the performers and leaves me wondering whether I’m not really the target audience – maybe I’m not, in all fairness. Alison Balsom’s status as a former competitor explains her involvement as presenter, but both she and her on-screen colleague guitarist Milos might have been better pundits. Miloš’ backstage ‘interviews’ with performers are nauseating at best.

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There’s a Menuhin test?

In an article written for The Spectator We’re failing the Menuhin test, Damian Johnson highlights how the ‘worlds toughest violin competition is jam-packed with Asians – and there’s not a single Brit’. The article is based on an interview with the Menuhin Competition artistic director Gordon Back:

‘The truth is,’ says Gordon Back, lowering his voice, ‘that if the violin finalists from the BBC Young Musician of the Year were to enter the Menuhin Competition, they wouldn’t make it to the first round.’ Not through the first round, note, but to the first round: they wouldn’t be good enough to compete.

An odd thing to say because the natural response to that comment would be, “Well no, did anyone really expect the finalists in the Young Musician to make it to the first round of the Menuhin anyway?”

The two competitions are very different. One look at the rules around eligibility, the way in which the competition is run and the prize on offer makes that quite clear.

The Menuhin competition has two competition streams: Junior (for under 16s) and Senior (for under 22s); the repertoire requirements are fixed; and the prize fund is considerable – $10,000 for the Senior first prize and $7,500 for the Junior first prize, with prizes award for second to fifth place.

The BBC Young Musician competition rules invite applicants from a variety of instruments; applicants need to have attained Grade 8 and be under 18; the competition is split into various rounds in which competitors play their own programme of music which can’t exceed more than 8, 12 and 16 minutes for the regional, category audition rounds and category finals respectively; the final sees the soloist performing a concerto between 15 and 30 minutes long, on a stage in front of a massive audience .. oh .. and in front of TV cameras at nearly every stage. The prize is £3,000 plus a trophy and ongoing relationship with YCAT to help develop the individual’s future career.