Young cellist calls for more diversity in classical music

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, a 17-year-old cellist who came to prominence in the UK after winning the BBC Young Musician award earlier this year, has announced a long-term deal with Decca Classics.

Kanneh-Mason became the first black musician to win the BBC award in its 38-year history and wants to raise awareness about diversity issues in classical music.

“When a lot of people imagine classical music they don’t picture much diversity so I think giving people the opportunity to see those role models would be great. I hope to inspire young black children to see classical music as something that they could possibly go into,” he told the Guardian this week.

He is set to perform Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto for the label next year. The performance of this piece in May secured Kanneh-Mason the Young Musician award.

Since winning the prize, Kanneh-Mason has debuted with the Chineke! Orchestra, when he performed Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C in September. Chineke! is an orchestra for black and ethnic minority musicians set up by Chi-chi Nwanoku with the aim of increasing their representation in classical music.

Later this month, Kanneh-Mason will appear in a BBC documentary entitled “Young, Gifted and Classical.” The 60-minute programme will explore issues related to diversity in and access to classical music.

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