1- At the age of seven you were awarded with a scholarship to join Gloucester Cathedral Choir, directed by Adrian Partington. How do you recall your time in this ensemble?
I recall my years as a chorister to have been some of the most formative in my musical development. The skills which I acquired whilst a member of the choir, I believe, will follow me throughout my career. Not only did Adrian Partington guide the ensemble towards consistent musical excellence with encouragement, enthusiasm, and thus success, but in addition my time in choir provided me with many extra-musical benefits in addition. As choirboys, we learned to appreciate the moral values of humility, respect, and honesty, and although somewhat without a direct connection to music, I am forever grateful for the positive effect that such an upbringing has had on my professional life. The intensive schedule of services, concerts, and recordings was always a joy to be part of.
2- Is your family musical?
I am lucky enough to come from a very musical family indeed, although perhaps not in the classical, conventional sense! Adopted by an Irish mother, traditional Irish music always rang in my ear as a young child. Notwithstanding the fact that my mother learned to play Chopin on the piano as a child herself, it was actually the folk music which made a profound impact on my early years. The first instrument which I held was the violin, and I quickly became enamoured with the countless jigs, reels, and hornpipes which appeared in my mother’s music books. Truth be told, it must still be a great shock to the family in Ireland that I have drifted into becoming a classical pianist..!
3- From 2012 until 2017 you studied at the Wells Cathedral School with Richard Ormrod and Hilary Coates. How did these masters influence and guide you?
My two piano teachers at Wells Cathedral School were crucial influences along my journey to being a professional musician. Richard Ormrod always ensured that I was a well-disciplined student, and from him I learned the importance of thorough practice, and detailed preparation. Hilary Coates instilled in me a real sense of passion and flare for what I do, and through her careful support I became significantly more confident in myself as a pianist, and indeed as a person.
4- You are currently a scholar at the Royal Academy of Music in the class of Christopher Elton. How is this progressing?
The Royal Academy of Music is fantastic place for any young, aspiring musician. Filled with plenty of exciting performances, and world-class academic tuition, my schedule is certainly one which I am grateful to have! Christopher Elton is a very generous teacher indeed, and I am always delighted to receive his expert guidance on such a frequent basis. His outlandishly impressive track record of famous students certainly gives me plenty of inspiration to excel in what I strive for.
5- You have won an impressive number of competitions and have held Young Musician titles. Does any one of these particularly stand out for you?
I am grateful, without hesitation in saying so, for each and every prize which I win. It is often overlooked just how much work goes into winning a competition; not only for the performer, but of course for their teachers. Therefore, it is almost impossible to single out one competition win which has benefitted me any more than the others, however something for which I am very proud is to have been named as the recipient of the Irish heritage Music Award 2017. Whilst participating for this award, each competitor was given the chance to play in London’s Wigmore Hall before an audience, and a panel of adjudicators. What a fantastic place to perform!
6- You also toured Hong Kong, your birth country, with the acclaimed cellist Jamie Walton. How was this received by the audience over there?
Culture and diversity have always played an important role in my life, and from having been adopted into an Irish family with Nigerian-Filipino roots, I often find myself struggling with the ‘identity’ problem. Whilst living in Hong Kong as an infant, Cantonese become my native language until leaving the country aged three, after which I regrettably forgot how to speak it. On returning so many years later, I was so pleasantly struck by just how positively our performances were received by the local audiences. The odd relearned phrase of the Cantonese certainly helped to impress, I admit, but of course it was a sheer thrill and a pleasure to perform alongside such a respected musician as Jamie Walton!
7- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?
Naughtily, my fondest musical memories return to the tender age of seven, when I secretly discovered how to open my mother’s old violin case, which of course was irrevocably forbidden to me! The result was a rather ghastly scraping sound, but thankfully some proper violin lessons quickly appeared too.
More recent, I was fortunate enough to have been selected as the piano soloist in Mozart Piano Concerto No. 9 in a collaboration with the Chineke! Orchestra for the Cheltenham Music Festival. Founded by Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, this esteemed ensemble is Europe’s first professional orchestra to be comprised of black and minority ethnic musicians. I have never felt greater pride than that which I experienced on entering the stage in Cheltenham that evening. Chi-chi Nwanoku’s work in promoting diversity is not only ground-breaking for classical music, but indeed it is a nationwide success story.
8- How often do your practice?
I like to practise daily, and exactly how much each day will depend on my workload and schedule. I am confident in my belief that each musician should carefully consider the time which they spend away from the practice room with as much seriousness as the practice-time itself.
9- Would you consider teaching in the future?
I love to teach, and I currently have several lovely students of my own! I would assert that every young musician should have a go at teaching, as the benefits are simply abundant; learning from one’s students is as frequent an occurrence, dare I say it, as learning from one’s own teacher, which is most often!
10- Who would your dream accompanist be, from the present or past?
This one is a difficult question, but on reflection I would simply be searching for somebody who I think shares the same values, musical styles, and passions as I do. An individual who does stand out to me as far as this is concerned is Daniel Barenboim. His formidable artistry, mastery of musical collaboration, and extraordinary charitable work resonate deeply with all that I seek for in a true, and respectable idol.
11- What advice would you give to young musicians at the start of their journey?
I would consistently encourage any young musician to remember that although making music is always a real privilege, it is necessary to work very hard in order to reap the benefits. In addition to being an assiduous student, each young musician must regularly seek to find performance opportunities, make contacts, and be resilient as much as is viably possible in their own right. Regrettably, the music business is often not a kind environment for young musicians, and chances to perform for newcomers to the scene are often scarce. Therefore it is vital that the young musician learns to market themselves well; confidently and assuredly, but always with the utmost politeness and kindness to their colleagues. Finally, I would recommend joining a choir and having fun making music with friends just like I always used to do!