Gifted student wins top music college place

Fifth former James Kitchingman will be working with internationally acclaimed musicians to help develop his potential after winning a place at a top music college

A GIFTED Ripon Grammar School musician has won a coveted place at the highly competitive Junior Royal Northern College of Music after a challenging day-long audition.

James Kitchingman, from Burton Leonard, almost missed out after only finding out about the prestigious course in Manchester – a joint study of piano and voice – more than three months after the closing date for applications.

The 16-year-old, who has been playing the piano and singing since he was five years old, said: “They tested me quite a lot throughout the day, I had to sing and join in ensemble work. And there was no clear indication of whether I would get in or not.

“But I got such a good feel of the environment and the people and the very high standards of musicianship, I just knew immediately I definitely wanted to go there. When I got the letter offering me the place I was delighted.”

He is now looking forward to working with internationally acclaimed musicians every week to help him develop his musical potential: “I feel very privileged and I am really excited about it,” he said.

RGS director of music Edward Seymour congratulated James on his significant achievement: “There are only six music colleges which offer a small number of places throughout the UK and to be offered a place as a pianist – one of the most hotly contested instrument places – is a big deal.”

James, who has achieved his Grade 8 in both treble voice and piano and more recently Grade 6 in tenor voice, enjoys singing in various choirs including the York Chapter House Youth Choir and Ripon Grammar Chamber Choir.

He has also performed with the National Youth Choir and Opera North Youth Choir and was a chorister at Ripon Cathedral, where he performed many solos, for seven years. As well as playing the trumpet in school brass ensembles and Jazz Trio, he frequently accompanies other students and groups on the piano.

James, who has enrolled on this summer’s renowned Eton Choral Course – where one of his tutors will be the famous composer and conductor John Rutter - confesses the two-year Northern College of Music course, which involves travelling to Manchester every Saturday from September, will be demanding.

Setting off from home at 6.30am, he won’t get back until about 7.30pm each day: “I will be giving up my free time and will have to find more time to work for my A-levels, which will be difficult. But I am extremely happy to do it. It’s worth it,” he said.

Planning to study English literature, music, history and French at A-level, he comes from a musical family, with mum Cathy, a fundraiser, also singing and playing piano and dad Andrew, a company chairman, playing piano and organ.

“We are very proud and extremely excited for him because we knew how much it meant to him to get the place,” said Cathy, who recalled how James always had perfect pitch and could pick out a tune from a young age.

“I was brought up with music,” said James. “It wasn’t my choice to start but I have really embraced it and music is a central part of my life now.”

RGS director of music Edward Seymour added: “This is a natural progression and an amazing opportunity for James. The acclaimed musicians he will be working with every week will be an incredible source of knowledge and inspiration for him. I know he will be eager to use and share his newly acquired skills at RGS via the many groups in which he performs.”