Music in the Round


Our first ever chamber music residential for young musicians of BME backgrounds

8th Aug 2018 14:43
Our first ever chamber music residential for young musicians of BME backgrounds

Music in the Round’s first ever chamber music residential for young musicians of BME backgrounds has been hailed as “positive action” by Patron Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE and a “thoroughly enjoyable experience” by participants.

Four talented young musicians, Elliott Bailey, Ken Fairbrother, Jesse Francis and Raye Harvey, were joined by leading violinist Rakhi Singh and violist Ruth Gibson for five intensive days of coaching, rehearsals, filming and photography in Sheffield with Music in the Round, last month.

For the players, all of whom are aged between 18 and 22, it was just the start of their journey with Music in the Round, as the first participants in a new Bridge scheme coaching young musicians of BME backgrounds in the performance of chamber music.

The scheme, run by Sheffield-based chamber music promoter Music in the Round, is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, offering unique opportunities for young musicians of exclusively BME backgrounds to develop and build their musical skills.

Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, a professional double-bass player and founder of Europe’s first majority black and ethnic minority orchestra Chineke! is Patron of the Bridge scheme. She said:

“I am delighted to be patron of a scheme that has taken positive action to improve access to all in an industry that can often feel frustratingly immune to change.

The difference we seek to make in the Bridge project is to encourage young musicians to feel confident in themselves and to know that they truly belong in the classical music industry.”

The musicians were based at the University of Sheffield’s music department for the duration of their residential. They had two intensive coaching sessions with violinist Rakhi Singh, Music Director of the Manchester Collective, and Ruth Gibson, violist with Sheffield’s world-class resident chamber group Ensemble 360. They spent time being filmed in session at Sheffield’s iconic recording location, Yellow Arch Studios, and had a photo shoot with Sheffield photographer Chris Saunders, who has previously worked with musicians such as Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley.

Violinist coach Rakhi Singh said:

“Bridge is filling a gap in the chamber music education of this country… There’s nothing like it as far as I know, there’s nothing like this that exists. So I think it’s amazing that Music in the Round has taken the plunge and given this opportunity to this group of people of this age. And I’m really excited to be part of it during its first year.”

The musicians who were also sharing a house together for the duration of the experience, expressed their enthusiasm for the unique opportunity that they’d been given.

Ken Fairbrother (18, from Falkirk, Scotland) said:

“Working with amazing student musicians has made me see and be part of a more motivating and creative learning experience. [It has] …made me change how I felt about chamber music for the better! …[It was] one of - if not the best - chamber music courses we've been on. In bringing together BME musicians I feel it's been a success.”

Elliott Bailey (22, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire) said:

“The excitement of working with new people and playing new music together for longer periods of time made it easier to stay focussed and work to really make a difference to the way we played the music.”

“I think it has completely achieved what was desired because it has given us the opportunity to not only work with other BME musicians, but the filming and the recordings have served as a stepping stone to something greater that will send the message that people who look like we do have a place in classical music.”

Elliott, Jesse, Ken and Raye will return to Sheffield later in the year for further rehearsal and coaching sessions. As part of the scheme they are also recipients of a bursary to help support them in their studies this year.

Music in the Round plans to give the musicians a number of opportunities to perform together in 2019 as part of Classical Sheffield’s Classical Weekend, and in Music in the Round’s annual Sheffield Chamber Music Festival. There are plans for the Bridge residential scheme to evolve and include many more young musicians of BME backgrounds in summer 2019.

Music in the Round’s Learning & Participation Manager, Fraser Wilson said:

"Classical music is for everyone, not just the privileged few, and taking one measure of diversity - the ethnic make-up of most performing groups or audiences - shows that it's not yet representative of wider society. We're in a great position at Music in the Round to bring about positive change, opening up chamber music to more people, and we're glad to be doing it.  Most importantly, our four Bridge musicians are talented and energetic, and we're excited about what can be achieved through Bridge. What excites us is nurturing capable players and working towards a more inclusive and welcoming music industry."

Bridge 2018 is a follow-up from an initial coaching and mentoring scheme Bridge I, which ran for three years from 2015-2018. The beneficiaries of Music in the Round’s first Bridge scheme were the Marmen Quartet, a young quartet that has gone on to win the Ensemble Prize in the 2018 Royal Over-Seas League Annual Music Competition, the Royal Philharmonic Society Albert and Eugenie Frost Prize, and was a semi-finalist in the 2018 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet competition.

Anyone interested in getting involved with Music in the Round’s current Bridge scheme, and the planned residential for young musicians of BME backgrounds in 2019 is encouraged to contact or call 0114 281 4660 for more information.


For all press requests and information, please contact Jenny Davies on / 0114 281 4660.

About Bridge 2018

Bridge 2018 is generously funded by the Eva & Peter Wilkinson Fund, Fidelio Charitable Trust, Garrick Charitable Trust, Mayfield Valley Arts Trust, Myrtle Charitable Trust, Scilla Thornton Fund, Friends of Music in the Round, individual donors to the Bridge Fund and Arts Council England.

Music in the Round is grateful to all our Bridge 2018 partners including The Chineke! Foundation, The University of Sheffield, Ensemble 360, Sheffield Music Hub, and other Music Hubs around the country, Sheffield Music Academy and Orchestras for All.

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