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Masterclass from pioneering black musician

30 November, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

BBC Young Musician 2016 Sheku Kanneh-Mason with pupils at Prior Weston Primary School

THE young cellist who played at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding has visited primary pupils to inspire them to take up classical music.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, 19, visited Prior Weston Primary School in Finsbury, where he played the cello alongside children aged six and seven as part of his role as junior ambassador for charity London Music Masters.

Sheku, who in 2016 was the first black youngster to be named BBC Young Musician, told the Tribune: “It’s difficult to see yourself doing something when no one else who looks like you is doing that.

“One thing I try and do is inspire people like me to see classical music as theirs too.”

Sheku, who is in his second year at the Royal Academy of Music, began playing the cello at age six, having started off by playing the violin.

He said: “I would practice for 15 minutes a day as a child. Now I practice for up to four hours a day.

“It’s difficult to have a proper music education – it can be expensive if it’s not learnt in schools. The interest would start from being exposed to classical music at a young age. I was lucky that my parents listened to classical music.”

He is one of seven siblings who all play a musical instrument. In 2015, they auditioned together for Britain’s Got Talent.

Robert Adediran, chief executive of London Music Masters, which runs workshops and music lessons at Prior Weston Primary, said: “We are rightly concerned that children should learn STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects, but if the focus is solely on this then the risk is to miss out on a huge amount.

“Learning music helps build resilience and the ability to bounce back – the way children learn is from learning that failure is normal and all a part of learning.”

Children quizzed Sheku, with one six-year-old inquiring: “When you play the cello, why does your face look like a duck?”

Sheku said after the event: “You can never predict those kinds of questions. Children just react to what they see.”

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