BBC Young Musician alumni: a short history

About the author: Mar Umbert Kimura (Somerville College, 2020) is a first-year music student from Spain. She is a pianist who enjoys chamber music and accompanying. Mar is a Margaret Irene Seymour Music Award holder and is also part of the Somerville Music Society committee.

Since 1978, many Music Faculty alumni have competed, presented, and hosted in one of the leading classical music competitions for young performers in the UK, the BBC Young Musician of the Year.

In 1982, Anna Markland (Worcester College, 1984) was the first woman to win the competition, performing Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Markland studied at Chetham’s School of Music before gaining a performance scholarship to study music at Oxford. In 2010 she adjudicated for the competition, and she continues her musical career as a pianist, singer, accompanist, adjudicator, and teacher.

Mark Simpson (St Catherine’s College, 2008) is a clarinettist who won the award in 2006. He read Music at Oxford and went on to study composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. As a performer, Simpson has been as a soloist with many orchestras around the globe and he regularly performs with chamber music ensembles. He is a Visiting Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

In 2002, Jennifer Pike (Lady Margaret Hall, 2009) performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto at the young age of 12 and was the youngest person to win the competition at that time. Aged 16, Pike was awarded a postgraduate scholarship from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama created specifically for her. She studied at Chetham’s School of Music, and then went on to study Music at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, graduating in 2012 with First Class Honours. Pike has performed with leading orchestras from around the world and is pursuing an active life as a violinist. Last year, she was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her classical music career.

Making it to the semi-finals or final of the BBC Young Musician is already a huge achievement. Some alumni from the Faculty of Music have been finalists or have been in the final of their instrumental categories. The most recent finalist is oboist Ewan Millar (St Hilda’s College, 2019), winner of the woodwind category of 2020. Flautist Daniel Shao (St Catherine’s College, 2013) reached the final of the woodwind category in 2016. He attended the Royal Academy of Music and has performed with leading British orchestras such as the LSO and the CBSO.

Music alumni have also hosted the competition. Dame Jane Glover (St Hugh’s, 1968) presented the competition in 1986 and 1988. After graduating from Oxford, she went on to pursue a career as a conductor. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music, an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, and she was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) this year for services to music. This year’s competition was hosted by Anna Lapwood (Magdalen College, 2013). Aged just 21, she became Director of Music of Pembroke College, Cambridge, being the youngest person ever to hold the position in an Oxbridge College. She is also a broadcaster, organist, and conductor.

We hope that Faculty of Music students and alumni will keep participating in many ways in one of the UK’s most important classical music competition for young performers.