'Tricky' final for BBC Young Musician

Saxophonist Jess Gillam, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Nicola Benedetti and horn player Ben Goldscheider

Image caption

The finalists have been mentored by former winner Nicola Benedetti

The three finalists for the BBC Young Musician contest say they have chosen “tricky” pieces for Sunday’s showdown.

Saxophonist Jess Gillam, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and horn player Ben Goldscheider will each perform a concerto of their choice, accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

All three have been mentored by former winner Nicola Benedetti.

Now in its 38th year, the Young Musician competition is one of the most prestigious awards for amateur players.

The finalists have made it through four stages to play at the Barbican on Sunday night, from regional auditions to last week’s semi-finals.

We caught up with the teenagers as they rehearsed with conductor Mark Wigglesworth at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios on Thursday afternoon.

The grand final will be broadcast from 19:00 BST on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3 this Sunday, 15 May.

JESS GILLAM – Saxophone

Media captionMeet saxophonist Jess Gillam

Seventeen-year-old Jess Gillam has been playing saxophone for 10 years, and was a finalist in the woodwind category at the previous BBC Young Musician competition, in 2014.

Born and raised in Ulverston, Cumbria, she was recently awarded Musician of the Year at the Cumbria Culture Awards, and has played with Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues orchestra.

Currently studying at the Royal Northern College of Music, she runs a music festival in her spare time, bringing international names like Courtney Pine, Snake Davis and Tommy Smith to her home town.

“Music is about taking influences from as many places as you can, then finding the thing that connects with you,” she says.


Media captionMeet cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason

Inspired by Jaqueline du Pre, Sheku Kanneh-Mason first picked up a cello aged six. Three years later, he completed his Grade 8 exam, gaining the highest marks in the country that year.

Now aged 17, he studies at the Royal Academy of Music, while still attending classes at Trinity Catholic Comprehensive School in his hometown, Nottingham.

An in-demand performer, the cellist plays with the Chineke! Professional Orchestra, the Junior Royal Academy Symphony Orchestra and the Ash String Trio.

“It’s always rewarding,” he says. “I love the deep sounds it can make, in contrast with the high, wailing sounds.”


Media captionMeet horn player Ben Goldscheider

As the oldest contestant, 18-year-old Ben Goldscheider is taking a break from his A-level studies to prepare for the Young Musician final.

He began playing nine years ago, and since the age of 11, has been studying with Susan Dent at the Royal College of Music Junior Department.

Currently the principal horn of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, he says his real passion is solo and chamber music – and he is keen to promote and expand his instrument’s repertoire.

“I don’t know what my influences are,” he says. “I’ve always kind of done things myself.”

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