Students hit the right note at prestigious music colleges 03 April 2024

Talented jazz pianist and Year 13 student Charlie Blades is heading to the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in September to study for a Bachelor of Music (BMus) degree specialising in jazz piano.

For a number of years Charlie has featured regularly in BMS performances, concerts and smaller charity events and has been selected to take part in the National Youth Jazz Collective’s Summer School on several occasions. Most recently, at BMS, he was part of the band providing the music for the senior production of Urinetown and this, together with his involvement in previous shows such as Our House and Made in Dagenham, has further developed his musical ability. He was also the 2021 recipient of the David Ball Scholarship, a legacy established in memory of a former student to support our most promising pianists, which provided a contribution towards the cost of Charlie’s music lessons.

Mrs Perry, Director of Music at BMS said: “Charlie richly deserves his place at Guildhall. He has been a reliable member of our jazz ensembles that play in the local community, often supporting charity events, and has always asked for more opportunities to perform. What’s more, driven by his desire to play with the school orchestra as a soloist, Charlie has transcribed and arranged Wave by Antonio Carlos Jobim for members of the BMS orchestra to perform at the school’s Spring Concert in April. Charlie can often be found in the Music Faculty by a piano and his willingness to take on different challenges through his time with us has broadened his musical experience and widened his repertoire.”

All musicians face rigorous auditions ahead of their offers to study for a degree in Music. As part of Charlie’s application process, he was asked to provide a 24-part orchestral arrangement of a jazz standard, and a transcription of a jazz musician’s solo notated entirely by ear. He explained more about his passion for jazz saying: “Jazz music is like a conversation. There’s no sheet music, you just improvise and that’s exciting. I enjoy the unpredictability of it!”

Charlie is not the only one heading off to prestigious music colleges in September. Former BMS students Freddy Hoare, who plays flute and piano, will study for a Bachelor of Music (BMus) degree at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) in Cardiff while Seren Kapur, a cellist, has chosen a BMus (Hons) with Performance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.

They all spoke warmly of the support and inspiration they received from their teachers at BMS. Freddy said: “Mrs Perry communicates her passion for music in and out of lessons and she encourages everyone to join musical ensembles, which I believe is one of the main reasons the department is as alive and as respected as it is, especially the jazz provision which is taught by world-class musicians.

“All students at BMS are provided with the opportunity to take part in ensembles, no matter the level, and the music faculty are not afraid to push the boundaries in regard to the variety of music being learned.”

Charlie added: “Mrs Perry has been a massively helpful influence on my development as a musician and the many and varied opportunities provided by the music department have been instrumental – pun intended – on my development.

“Finally, the excellent tuition of Nikki Iles – one of the best jazz pianists in the country, as well as Harry Baker, one of Nikki’s former students, has made a massive impact on my progress.”

We will be watching all three accomplished musicians’ careers with interest.