Introducing The Dunev Quartet|Formation of a String Quartet

Hristo Dunev. Mahaliah Edwards. Eleanor Chapman. Alice Cheer. We are the Dunev Quartet, a string quartet formed in October 2017 at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Formation

Although we were “put” together by the head of chamber music, from early on, it was clear that as musicians, we were completely on the same wavelength. All four of us immediately shared interest and excitement to play great chamber music and share it. What’s great is that individually, we all have quite different personalities which somehow manage to compliment each other. The unique situation of a string quartet is that it we spend a LOT of time together practising and then scheduling rehearsals as well as general planning and strategising and so we have become very close colleagues.

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The quartet

Hristo – our very talented first violinist from Bulgaria. He has won a plethora of awards and is an avid photographer.

Me – I’m the second violinist of the quartet and…well if want to know more about me you can read my about me page on my blog!

Eleanor – is the viola player of the quartet. She’s from Lancashire, she’s a fab musician and also has the best fashion sense.

Alice – is from Cardiff and is without doubt the most organised student in the country. She keeps us all in check!

Since our formation, we have been fortunate to have regular coaching with Rose Redgrave and Robin Ireland. In addition, we have received coaching from Sini Simonen and Christopher Roberts of the Castalian Quartet; Jana Kuss and William Coleman of the Kuss Quartet, Oliver Heath and Krysia Osostowicz.

 

 

Repertoire

Our current repertoire consists of Beethoven’s quartet no.10 op.74 aka “The Harp” and Haydn’s op.20 no. 5. Soon to come is Shostakovich’s 8th quartet. Past performances include November 2017 in the Recital hall at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, January 2018 at the Birmingham Central Library. Upcoming events include a performance of Beethoven op.18 No.5 in the Beethoven Marathon June 12th at the Royal Birmingham and Sunday Classics at the Spotted Dog on June 17th.

28695046_1314228572010676_982958423_oTo find out more about each member’s individual music journey, head over to our Instagram page @Dunevquartet, where you’ll find our interview sessions. We are also on Facebook so be sure to follow our page for the latest news, concert info and general shenanigans of the quartet. Our website is on its way and will be launching in June so in the meantime, for any enquiries for gigs and events, send us a message on facebook, direct message on Instagram or email mail@dunevquartet.com

 

 

 

 

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Introducing: Romarna Campbell

From Birmingham to Boston, MA, Romarna Campbell is a 21 year-old  drummer heading to the Berklee College of Music in the Autumn 2017.18870951_10155335113442418_1795933551_n
  When, how and why did you get involved in music?

I got into music mostly through the massive CD and music collection that was in our house when I was growing up. There was always music around, although I am the only musician in the family. When I was about 8, my Mum bought my Dad a drum kit for Christmas. I remember this massive brown box and being beyond excited about unpacking it and setting up this red drum kit, much to my Dad’s inconvenience. It wasn’t even my gift, but my parents couldn’t tear me away from it. From there my Mum actively sought out workshops for me to take part in. I joined a local music school that was every Saturday and took it from there. In fact, the music workshops that I first attended became particularly poignant. I actually busked in the sign-in area to the raise the money for my first drum kit, which was an Arbiter Flat Pack! Absolutely immense! As I got a little older and started to receive more regular tuition, I was introduced to The Notebenders by Andy Hamilton, CBE. It was there that I really discovered my love for jazz and big band music, amongst a really legendary group of people.

How important is it for you to see more people of colour in the industry?

Until recently, I hadn’t realised how important it really was. I think it’s bigger than seeing more people of colour in the industry, I think it’s more about connecting and interacting with them. Something that’s made so much easier with modern technology and social media. That connection reminds you that there are other people in the industry that you have similarities with, whether that be culturally, musically, etc. By the sheer nature of what a musician does, you’re always open to meeting to new people and what they have to express with their instrument through music. I also think that it’s particularly of importance for younger musicians. When you’ve been sat in a practice room for hours on end, it can be easy to feel isolated. So it’s great to be able to refer to or contact musicians that are of influence to you. Sometimes just to remember there are other musicians out there like you, that have probably gone through some of the same stuff that you’re going through. I have had the fortune of attending a conservatoire in the UK for two years, but one of the things I really struggled with when I first started was the lack of diversity, therefore the lack of understanding that can come with that occasionally.

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How are you affected as a black person in music? Any advantages/disadvantages?

There are definitely a number of advantages and disadvantages to being a black person in music, which I assume to be the case for anyone of any ethnicity and identity. I am for lucky enough to grown up in a culture that heavily revolves around music and having a broad taste in music. Going up, I was exposed to a lot of really awesome music. Anything from super underground hiphop, to old big band records, to Soca music. There was never any differentiation, as long as it was good music then we would listen and enjoy it. Consequently, my listening ranges from Prince to Lenny Kravitz to Count Basie and everything in-between.

I try not to think about being disadvantaged in any way or even using the word, it puts you in a negative space and mindset. I would much rather think about it as hurdles; these issues are there but can be overcome with hard work, effort and drive. I put a lot of time, effort, work and care into what I do because I love it. So, to have all of that undermined by racist and sexist comments is always really difficult. I fail to understand what my race, ethnic background or gender has to do with me being a musician; the two are not mutually exclusive. I draw influence from those things because they make me the person that I am, but I don’t understand what that has to do with my musical and technical ability and why anyone thinks it’s acceptable to use it against my in any way. Instead these should be things that they also want to learn about and draw influence from in the same way that I do. Everyone has their own trials and tribulations, again, there’s no need for the negativity.

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Any exciting projects that you’re working on at the moment and any upcoming performances?

There’s a lot going on at the moment that I’m super excited about!

Firstly, I have been accepting into Berklee College of Music in Boston for Fall 2017! So I’ll be moving to Boston in about 2 months, to finish my undergraduate studies! I can’t wait, it’s literally been a dream of mine since I was 17! In keeping with my imminent move, I am still fundraising to cover the rest of my tuition fees. I have a number of fundraising events coming up over the next couple of months and have set up a GoFundMe page for anyone that its kind enough to make a donation! Details for my fundraiser in June and my GoFundMe page are below:

SAT, 24 JUNE
Berkley’s Club,
258 Broad Street
B1 2HF
https://www.gofundme.com/JourneyToBerklee

I am also super psyched about my new band, B L A N (C) A N V A S. We debuted our first project ‘Limitations of Our Imaginations’ in March to a sold out show in Birmingham. ‘Limitations of Our Imaginations’ features original compositions and arrangements by me. It’s an exploration of how music can push and break down barriers, what it’s like to navigate modern life as a young musician and an insight into me as a bandleader, composer and arranger.
Our latest performance was playing support for Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic project, which is now up on my YouTube channel! It’s my first time being a combination of band leader, composer, arranger and drummer all in equal measures. I also whole-heartedly believe in my bandmates’ skill and power as musicians, both individually and collectively. We’re working on a few more performances and hopefully record and releasing music before I move to the States.

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To find out further information about Romarna, you can follow her social media and visit her website as listed below.

Facebook: http://facebook.com/rocampbellmusic/
Tumblr: http://romarnacampbellmusic.tumblr.com
Instagram: http://instagram.com/romarnacampbelldrums
YouTube: http://youtube.com/channel/UCPixA9ET_h-OUDShAGYinYA

Awards for Young Musicians

#givingtalentachance

Awards for Young Musicians is an arts charity which aims to help talented young people to further their musical development. Whether you need help with music lessons, instrument purchase, orchestra fees, course fees or travel, AYM endeavours to help gifted musicians between the ages 5-18 in the UK.

For me, applying to AYM was one of the best things I ever did to further my musical development. The financial help which they provided was absolutely key in helping me to buy my violin. What was even better is that they kept in touch with me and have helped me in furthering my personal development as a mentor in their recent mentoring programme:  Talent to Talent. I feel so fortunate to have been involved with such a wonderful organisation run by phenomenal people.

My experience as an award winner

It was actually my sister who drew my attention to AYM. At the time, I was 16 and looking to buy a new violin. At the time, the violin I owned was a Stentor Conservatoire model which was a good instrument for a committed student of maybe grade 4 or 5 standard. For me, I had simply outgrown the instrument – musically speaking. I was working at grade 8 standard at the time. I wasn’t able to achieve all that I wanted to and frankly, it was holding my playing back. The year before, I’d had a taste of what it was like to play on a great instrument – I was playing on a Benjamin Banks violin that had been bequeathed to the Nottingham Youth Orchestra and I was leading the intermediate orchestra at the time. Fortunately, I was able to play that violin for the time that I was the leader but after that year I had to give the violin back as I moved on to the senior orchestra. Going back to the Stentor… it just felt wrong. I knew I had to get a better violin.  So I went and tried various violins from different violin workshops and stores in the East Midlands. I finally found “the one” the only problem was the price tag and I knew that it would be impossible for my mum to buy. I didn’t want to give up on buying a new instrument and I didn’t have to…

Enter AYM

I applied to AYM twice and fortunately they gave me a substantial sum of money to go towards the purchase of my new violin. Their contribution meant that I secured the violin with the dealer. It took me over two years to finally make the full payment for the violin but I did it.  It was a very uplifting experience knowing that there was a charitable organisation that was willing to support someone like me who needed an new instrument but didn’t have the funds. It meant that I didn’t have to give up on any of my aspirations or settle for an inferior instrument. My violin really elevated my playing and boosted my confidence as a musician. Having a new instrument truly help me along to develop my skills and grow. I didn’t have to try as hard on my new instrument as I did on my old violin.

Mentoring on the Talent to Talent programme

AYM is amazing at keeping in contact with their award winners to see how they’ve progressed. They reached out to past awards winners now alumni to give them an opportunity to take part as mentors in Talent to Talent. A completely new project, Talent to Talent was peer-led mentoring from AYM alumni to current award winners. The programme was actually three-tiered so I was an alumna who was mentoring a current award winner who then went on to mentor a furthering talent student. The alumni included musicians who were at music college; some at the end of BMus going into masters or work; some like me at the start of a degree and some who were actually working and living as freelance musicians. The award-winners were as it suggests –  current or recent recipients of an award from AYM. The furthering talent students were young musicians at the beginnings of their musical  journeys and had been identified as those with emerging potential and high aptitude learners. The whole point was to get 45 young musicians at different musical stages to encourage, mentor and support each other. I couldn’t pass the opportunity to gain training and experience in something that would benefit me and someone else.

One of the mains reasons why I applied to be a mentor in the project is because I wish I had a mentor when I was younger. I came from a background of not really knowing much about going in to music or even the dos and don’ts of applying to a music school etc. I really would’ve benefitted from an older more experienced musician who could offer me advice and encouragement. With Talent to Talent, peer-led mentoring was really effective because it meant that being closer in age we could be easily relatable and we were the bridge between being a student and their teacher. Also, I believe that I share similar views to AYM  on encouraging and supporting young musicians and I wanted to give back even the smallest portion of support to someone else in the same way that AYM has supported me.

The process was unique and unlike anything I’d ever done or heard of before. In retrospect, it seems a little obvious that musicians should be receiving regular mentoring but thanks to AYM, they’ve pioneered a fantastic project.  For me it was great to meet more like-minded musicians who were in different stages. We had a training day which included safe-guarding and all the important practical information about working with young people. We had excellent people who provided the training  and advice on  mentoring, so we learned from the best! The training day was vital because it really caused us to think and understand the difference between mentoring and teaching.  What was great was that my mentee was a cellist so I wasn’t tempted to try and talk about technical issues like bowing and fingerings!

For me, the beauty of mentoring was in the fact that it was definitely a two-way process and even though I was the adult in the situation, I learned an awful lot from my mentee and I also learned a lot about myself.  Sometimes, I didn’t always have the answers but that was ok. I just had to do some more research and broaden my knowledge in order to help my mentee and we could even learn together. Mentoring definitely benefitted me in numerous ways including: helping someone else in their musical journey; developing people skills and emotional intelligence skills; taking time out of my schedule to help someone else. The programme ended with a final group day at Richmix in London where we all composed our own performances to illustrate the mentoring process and journey. There, we also had the chance to interview and be audience to a performance by singer-songwriter-cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson.

Finally, I was invited to make a speech to the AYM Angels at Clementi House in Notting Hill on 26th April.

The house was amazing and transported me back to 18th century, as if Clementi himself were still living there. The AYM Angels are the phenomenal people who donate and support AYM. I’m so grateful to have been a part of such a lovely evening. It was a rare opportunity for me to meet and talk to people who truly enjoy helping and supporting young musicians. I came away feeling really high in spirits about the future of classical music and it’s young musicians. Speaking to the AYM Angels also gave me so much confidence with public speaking and sharing my enthusiasm with others.

 

I can’t say thank you enough to Hester, Hannah and the rest of the amazing team at AYM for their fantastic work.

If you are a young musician, parent/carer of one or you simply know of a young musician please check out AYM and be sure to make use of their services if you’re eligible.

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Female Inspiration – International Women’s Day 2016

It’s International Women’s Day 2017. It is vital that globally we take a day to acknowledge and be aware of the wonderful women who are positively contributing to the improvement of our world (past, present and future). As a young, black female, I’m constantly reminded boy the media and society that I’m in the minority in most aspects of life. The following women have been sources of inspiration for me. It’s fantastic to see strong  black females especially in the arts and the music industry – long may it continue.

Ayanna Witter-Johnson

This cellist-singer-songwritter-composer has been an inspiration of mine every since I started learning the violin. I went on a mission to seek out black string players and I came across Ayanna. At the beginning 2017, I wanted to go to one of her gigs at Kings Place in London and I couldn’t make it and the tickets had sold out. I was so disappointed and that was that… Fast-forward two weeks and I actually got to meet her when on a mentoring day with AYM. She performed one of her songs, did a short Q&A and shared her music journey. I asked her what advice she’d give to young musicians like myself. She said “Be the best version of You”

Laura Mvula

Ever since I first discovered Laura Mvula (I think it was when she’d released her album Sing to the Moon) I’ve been in love with her song, her style and her vibe. Then, to my absolute delight, I found out that Birmingham Conservatoire was her alma mater and then I became obsessed. To know that someone so multi-talented (she plays/played the violin too) had come from my place of study gives such a boost. I’m an avid Instagram follower and I love her transparency. When I went to see Snarky Puppy on their tour in November 2015, Laura did an impromptu performance of her song Sing to the Moon with Snarky Puppy and it was mind-blowing. Not only is she a singer-songwriter but she’s now composing for the Royal Shakespeare company.

Pretty Yende

It was only recently that I’d become aware of  Pretty Yende. She’s a South African  soprano and she seems to be taking the world by storm after her breakthrough at the New York Metropolitan Opera . Like a typical young person, I scroll through Instagram  many times a day and I’d constantly see Pretty Yende pop up and I just had to find out more about her. A graduate of the young artist’s programme at La Scala Milan, she actually was first inspired to take up classical voice after hearing music on a British Airways advert!

Ingrid Silva

The short film above is what first made me aware of who Ingrid Silva was. I found the video so inspiring. In some ways her story is not unusual in the sense of many people start from humble beginnings and work hard to achieve their dreams. I genuinely connected with and was affected by the short film. It made me think about my own personal journey with my craft. However, again scrolling through Ingrid’s Instagram, seeing the amount of works she does just to give back to her community it’s really inspirational and confirms the importance of arts in society.

Millicent Stephenson

Saxophonist Millicent Stephenson has been another musician who has been on my radar since I was very young. I remember seeing her either on the tv or on a leaflet or poster, thinking “it’s the lady the with the gold sax”. A few years ago now, she won an award and that really symbolised progress and success for me. I believe she also runs workshops and conferences in Birmingham particularly for young women – I missed that last one but I’m definitely keeping my eyes and ears peeled for the next workshop. Also, Millicent Stephenson really synthesized many genres  that aren’t necessarily directly linked to the saxophone into her playing. She inspired me to do the same with the violin and integrate gospel songs, reggae etc. into my repertoire.

Tai Murray

Tai Murray was another internet based find for me. I think I was searchig some YouTube videos on the Ysayë solo violin sonatas and Tai Murray came up. Before her, I had never seen  or heard a black virtuoso. I had heard many great black violinists in other genres but never a black violinist with such dexterity in the classical industry. She is a huge inspiration because as a black violinist, she has helped to paved the way for people like me to follow.

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