Talented musicians excel at music festival

Winners: the students pictured with teacher Katie Bell

FIVE talented young Ripon Grammar School pianists and a singer are among those who excelled at a major competitive music festival.

William Renton and Sam Stead won the Year 10 piano class and Year 10/11 classical song category while Keanu Wong won the Year 13 piano class category, with Eliza Polito coming in second, at Harrogate’s Competitive Music Festival.

Ares Wong, Keanu’s brother, and Ray Cho came in second in their categories, Year 10 piano and open romantic class.

Piano and singing teacher Katie Bell praised all the RGS students who took part in the popular competition: “All pupils represented themselves confidently and did a fantastic job of performing.’

Francesca Kirkman, Nehka Abrahams, Sophia Konfortov, Sam Stead, Olga Sonta and Ruby Dilworth entered the debut non-competitive performance class, for those who have never entered the festival before.

Alice Beesley also entered the Year 8 piano class and Sam Stead entered the Year 10/11 musical/show song.

Ms Bell added: “Some of the students have never entered the festival before and showed real resilience under pressure.

“I was particularly impressed with my debut class pupils as they were very nervous about the whole situation but gave each other great support and performed brilliantly. It's a real pleasure to teach such lovely young people who always give me one hundred per cent in everything they do.”

Grade 8 student Keanu, 16, from Ripon, who enjoys badminton outside school and hopes to work in computer technology one day, said his ambition was to play more pieces to impress people: “One day, I’d like to be able to play music just by sight-reading or improvising.”

Grade 5 student William, 15, from Kirkby Malzeard, who plans to study medicine after RGS and is a keen member of many of the school’s instrumental groups, including the wind band and brass ensemble, said he hopes to learn to play piano to a good enough standard to perform interesting pieces at private and other events one day.

Boarding student Eliza, who has achieved grade 8 in piano and is working towards grade 5 in cello, sings with the school's senior girls' choir and plays in the chamber orchestra: "This has helped me develop my musical skills beyond piano," she said.

The 16-year-old, from Green Hammerton, who is embarking on her gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and plans to study biochemistry at university, praised her music teacher Helen Johnson of Prima Musica: “I am keen to keep progressing musically and hope to do a diploma in piano performance."

Sam, 14, from Littlethorpe, who has ambitions to become an optician, is a member of RGS Chamber and Man choirs in addition to playing piano.

He plays music mainly for enjoyment and the freedom of expression, he says: “I am very grateful RGS allows musicians to have the opportunities to have lessons, choirs and extracurricular music activities within school.”

Ares, who aims to work in AI technology, is working towards his grade 5 piano exam and his ambition is to achieve grade 8. The 14-year-old, who also enjoys badminton, plans to take music at GCSE.

Boarding student Ray, who plans to study economics at university and has gained his Associate of the Royal Schools of Music (ARSM) diploma in piano, said he was keen to maintain his level of playing: “I’d like to expand my repertoire of music so I can always enjoy a good piece or two.”

The 15-year-old, from China, who also enjoys debating and badminton, used to play in bands in Shanghai and has taken part in national competitions there.