Recently we received the wonderful news that one of our 2012-16 Scholars, Charles Campbell Peek, has been offered a place in the double bass section of the National Youth Orchestra. At just 13 years old Charles will be one of the youngest members of the UK’s top youth orchestra. We are incredibly proud that Charles is the first London Music Fund graduate to receive a place in this prestigious ensemble.
Charles was first nominated for a Scholarship in the summer of 2012 by his school, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, though Havering Music Service. Even at that very early stage he was already showing huge promise on not just the double bass, but also the violin, piano and subsequently trombone!
His music teacher, Karen Tweddle, told us in his nomination: “Charles works very hard and always learns keys and scales. His musical ability is excellent, and he learns everything from memory.”
His Head Teacher agreed: “Charles is a very musical student; he plays the double bass, the violin and is also learning the piano at home. I believe he has the potential to make substantial progress in music and would benefit from all the activities a Scholarship can offer.”
During his time as a London Music Fund Scholar, where he was generously supported by the Albert & Eugenie Frost Music Trust, Charles embraced every opportunity that came his way. His musical CV at just aged 13 would put some professional musicians to shame! Alongside playing in ensembles and orchestras at Havering Music Service, he was accepted to the Junior Department the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, he took part in the London Symphony Orchestra’s “On Track” Programme (including performing at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games to an audience of millions!), performing with Chineke! Juniors at the Royal Festival Hall and taking part in Sir Simon Rattle’s “Young Orchestra for London” at the Barbican Centre.
He enjoyed exploring a wide range of genres during his lessons, playing anything from baroque to jazz. He was working towards his Grade 8 exam when he graduated in 2016 and has since passed it with distinction. A keen multi-instrumentalist, Charles also achieved distinctions in Grade 6 violin and Grade 5 trombone which led to him receiving our “Scholar of The Year” award in 2015. His reports were always outstanding and emphasised the dedication that showed in developing his skills as a musician.
At Charles’ first Playing Day here at City Hall, back in 2012, we were pleased to be able to introduce him to international double bassist and founder of Chineke!, Chi-chi Nwanoku, OBE, also a London Music Fund Ambassador and Trustee. Chi-chi has been mentoring and supporting Charles ever since and told us: “It has been the most enormous privilege to watch Charles grow and develop as a musician over the last 6 years, performing with Chineke! Juniors and other top ensembles, and we are all delighted that he has been awarded a place in the National Youth Orchestra. I am so pleased that Charles will continue to be a part of the Chineke! family and mission, and that he will act as a young ambassador and mentor to those Chineke! Juniors coming after him. I am sure he has a great future ahead of him and look forward to seeing where his career takes him!”
In Charles’s final London Music Fund report in 2016 his double bass teacher said that:
“Charles has displayed a continued commitment to his bass lessons with me, not least as he and his parents have been prepared to venture to the Havering Music School for a 7:40am lesson on a Saturday morning before travelling further onto the Guildhall School of Music & Drama!”
We feel that this reflects how Charles approached his entire Scholarship: with commitment, passion and true dedication.
We managed to grab five minutes with Charles to talk to him about his time as a London Music Fund Scholar, and how he feels about being in the National Youth Orchestra.
Why did you decide to play the double bass?
I decided on the double bass when watching a jazz documentary with my dad. I thought “wow what a wonderful instrument, you can spin it around and carry on playing it!” Amazing for such a large instrument.
What is your favourite memory of being a London Music Fund Scholar?
There are many, so I have listed two. The first one being awarded “Scholar of the Year" and meeting the Mayor of London at the Roundhouse in 2015, the second one was playing at a Breakfast event with Mayor at Mansion House. The building is so grand, and I was playing alongside Tom Goodman of the London Symphony Orchestra, my Olympic Mentor.
What have you been up to since your London Music Fund Scholarship ended in 2016?
I have been very busy since graduating. I was invited to play in France with the Essex Wind Orchestra, I have played at Kensington Palace, the Royal Festival Hall with Chineke! Junior Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Birmingham Music Festival with my school and Windsor Castle with Future Talent. I was also invited to play with Yorkshire Youth Symphony Orchestra with Ray Chen, where all the music score was on iPads, no page turning just a foot peddle.
How did your London Music Fund Scholarship help you get to where you are today?
With this funding I was able to attend Havering Music School where I was taught by Mr Mike Speed who showed me the best way to get around the double bass. He laid the ground work on the instrument and brought out the beautiful sound, guided me to Grade 8 ABRSM for which I achieved distinction. The Scholarship also gave me the chance to attend workshops and other opportunities.
Who is your biggest musical inspiration?
I should say my teachers Mr Speed or Mr Houghham but it is Rinat Ibragimov (Principal Double Bass of the LSO). I have chosen Rinat as he can make the most wonderful sound from the bass.
Where is the most exciting place you have played?
The London Olympic Games 2012. It was very hard work but also very enjoyable; there was lots and lots of practice visiting Abbey Road where The Beatles recorded. I also got to see Mo Farah and Usain Bolt which topped the evening!
What are you most looking forward to now you have joined the National Youth Orchestra?
I am looking forward to playing in a large double bass section and better repertoire. Also, improving leadership skills and communication within the section. It will also be a great for me to experience new venues.
What advice would you give to Scholars who will be graduating from their Scholarships next year?
Practise, practise, practise, this does really pay off. Work hard, enjoy playing your instrument, play different types of music, go out of your comfort zone and push yourself. Join an orchestra and take all opportunities offered by the London Music Fund.
What would you like to do with your music in the future?
I would like to be a professional double bass player in a world-famous orchestra and also to help young musicians with playing the double bass.
Finally, I would just like to thank the London Music Fund for giving me these opportunities. All I can say is that if the funding had not been there in the first place, I don’t think I would have achieved what I have today. Thank you!
Thank you for being such a fantastic Scholar, Charles! Huge congratulations to you on this superb achievement. We can’t wait to see what you do next!