Obituary Autumn 2022

In memory

The Royal College of Music was saddened to learn of the deaths of a number of former students, staff and supporters.

Andrew Ball FRCM

Described as ‘the Thinker Pianist’ by his contemporaries, Andrew Ball was Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music from 1999 to 2005.

Born in Southampton in 1950, Andrew studied at The Queen’s College, Oxford. He went on to study at the RCM from 1968 to 1973, with Kendall Taylor, Maurice Cole and David Wilde. Andrew made a successful professional debut at Wigmore Hall in 1974, with a programme that included Clementi and Schumann.

He later built a reputation for championing contemporary music, always seeking to challenge his audiences. Notable performances include Messiaen’s Couleurs de la cité céleste at the BBC Proms in 1995, and regular explorations of Michael Tippett’s piano sonatas, having studied them with the composer.

Andrew was also a sought-after accompanist, forming many longstanding musical partnerships, including with RCM piano professor Julian Jacobson and RCM professor of violin Madeleine Mitchell.

Professor Vanessa Latarche, Head of Keyboard at the RCM, she says: ‘Our dear colleague Andrew Ball possessed an incredible intellect, humility and a keen wit. He was a phenomenal musician, and he was generous with his time for everyone, especially his students. He instilled in them his love for music of all kinds, particularly contemporary music.

‘As RCM Head of Keyboard for six years prior to my arrival he was a hard act to follow, and he remained in the faculty as an inspirational piano professor until a year before his passing.’

In July 2022, Andrew passed away at the age of 72 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. A full obituary can be read in The Telegraph.

A celebratory concert in memory of Andrew will be held at the RCM in spring 2023. Details will be available from 7 December at


Marianne Barker

Marianne Barker (née Jory) studied at the Royal College of Music from 1950 to 1953.

Marianne maintained a close relationship with the RCM as a long-standing supporter, and very generously left a gift to the RCM in her Will. She enjoyed attending concerts at the College, inviting friends and family until she was no longer mobile. Her brother Clive remembers how ‘classical music on the radio began her daily life from the moment she rose in the morning and filled her bedroom in her final days.’

Her family is kindly collecting donations for the RCM in Marianne’s memory. If you would like to contribute, please visit our donations page, and mention Marianne’s name alongside your gift.

Stephen Brown

Royal College of Music alumnus Stephen Brown worked with Metropolitan Opera in New York for nearly 40 years. He passed away in July 2022 after a recent illness.

Stephen was born in 1950 and grew up in London. He studied at the RCM from 1970 to 1971 with Frederick Sharp (singing) and Peter Element (piano). After graduating, he pursued a diploma in stage management at the London Opera Centre, before becoming a stage manager at the National Theatre under Sir Peter Hall.

Opera was Stephen’s passion, and in 1979, he became stage manager at the Met, a position he held until 1997. He was stage manager for many productions, including the historic Otto Schenk Ring Cycle in the 1980s. He was appointed General Manager until his retirement in 2017, responsible for an $85 million-dollar budget and the scheduling of the Artistic Department.

Colleagues remember Stephen’s impressive abilities as a leader, his encyclopaedic knowledge of opera – on which he frequently lectured and wrote – and lively anecdotes that made him a vibrant presence at the company.

A full obituary and details of a memorial service in London in spring 2023 can be found here.

Benedict Cruft FRCM

Former London Symphony Orchestra violinist and Dean of Music at the Hong Kong Academy, Benedict Cruft, died in August this year.

Benedict was born in 1949 to a family of celebrated professional musicians; his great grandfather, John, his grandfather, Eugene, and father, John, all held positions at the LSO. He studied at the RCM from 1966 to 1970 with Orrea Pernel and Carlo Pini (violin) and Joan Trimble (piano). In the 1970s, Benedict went on to play first violin at the LSO and other ensembles in London.

In 1980, Benedict moved to Hong Kong with his wife, Katia, and took up positions as associate concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic and a teacher at the Hong Kong Conservatory. They returned to London in 1984, and Benedict worked as a freelance violinist; during this time, he explored his passion for JS Bach’s unaccompanied sonatas and partitas, performing them in the UK and abroad.

Benedict was later Dean of Music at the Hong Kong Academy from 2003 to 2013, through which he continued his relationship with the RCM in a professional capacity. In 2012, Benedict was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Music.

Benedict generously left the College an early piano in his Will, in memory of his wife, Katia.

John Cullen

Royal College of Music alumnus John Cullen was a respected organist, choirmaster and director of music at several schools.

Born in 1936 near Dundee, John entered the RCM in 1954, after an interview with Herbert Howells, and studied under Ralph Downes (organ) and Henry Bronkhurst (piano). He went on to gain an organ scholarship at Christ’s College, Cambridge, studying for his Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists with David Willcocks.

After training to become a teacher in Edinburgh, John held positions at several schools, including at Aberdeen Grammar School, as Director of Music at Abingdon School in Oxfordshire from 1964 (where he met his wife, Mary), and as Director of Music at Tonbridge School from 1967.

John was also director of the Tonbridge Philharmonic Society from 1972 to 1993 and an ABRSM examiner for many years. In later life, Mary and John settled in Oxfordshire, where he was in demand locally as an organist before retiring in 2017. John's health became affected by arthritis and dementia, but he continued to enjoy listening to music. He died peacefully at home on 1 July 2022.

A full obituary can be read on the Tonbridge Philharmonic Society website.

Robin Hambro

Robin Hambro, an influential fashion editor, philanthropist and artist, passed away peacefully at home on 14 June 2022.

American by birth, Robin started her career as a model before she began working in PR for Dior America. She later moved to London as Editor for American Vogue.

Robin was approached to set up the corporate sponsorship fundraising for the Royal Opera House, a role which she held for 10 years. Later, she moved to Christie's Fine Art, after which she became a painter. Between 1994 and 2000 she supported the Hambro Chair for Opera Studies, a position held by Sir Thomas Allen. Robin was married to the banker Rupert Hambro, who passed away in 2021.

We are very grateful to Robin for her support of the RCM as a patron through the British Schools and Universities Foundation.

John Ludlow

Violinist John Ludlow, leader of several British orchestras and Royal College of Music professor for 25 years, passed away at the age of 91 in September.

Born in Birmingham in 1931, John’s father was leader and conductor of the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra, and his mother a viola player. In 1948, he became the founding leader of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and continued to support the organisation throughout his life.

John was a scholar at the RCM from 1952 to 1955, studying violin with Henry Holst and Manoug Parikian, and horn with Frank Probyn. He progressed to an esteemed career with many orchestras, including as leader of the Sadler’s Wells Opera Orchestra in 1957, and a member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and co-leader of the Royal Opera House Orchestra in the 1960s.

As a freelancer in the late 1960s, he led many orchestras including the London Concert Orchestra and English National Orchestra, and was co-leader of the London Mozart Players. In 1970, he returned to the RCM as violin professor, a position he held until 1995.

A full obituary for John can be read in The Strad.


Valentin Schiedermair

Royal College of Music alumnus Valentin Schiedermair, a German pianist based in London, died in October at the age of 58.

After studying at the Heidelberg Academy, Valentin was chosen to continue his studies in New York with scholarships from the Annette Kade Foundation and the Fulbright Commission. He later studied at the Vienna Music Academy, and at the RCM from 1987 to 1989 with Peter Wallfisch.

Valentin made his professional debut at the Berliner Philharmonie, and was a frequent guest at international festivals, regularly touring to Asia. Over his career he performed the complete sonatas of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, as well as his own compositions.

A respected teacher, Valentin also gave masterclasses internationally, including at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore, the Mannheim Music Academy in Germany and the Guildhall School of Music in London.

Dr Michael Shipley

Michael (Mike) Shipley, a generous donor to the RCM and keen supporter of the arts, sadly passed away in July.

After studying medicine at Peterhouse, Cambridge, Michael went on to specialise in rheumatology. Over his long and successful career, he held many consultant positions, including at King’s College Hospital and Middlesex Hospital. He later began treating patients with chronic pain and chronic disease, publishing over 50 peer reviewed articles on the subject. He retired from clinical practice in 2020.

Mike had a great passion for the arts, as well as being a talented skier, keen traveller and linguist. He was actively involved with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine for many years, and a was a supporter and committee member at English National Opera. The RCM is grateful to Mike and his fellow Trustee Philip, for their support of the RCM as Friends from 2012 and more recently via the Rudge Shipley Trust.


Barbara Thompson

Trailblazing saxophonist and composer Barbara Thompson, one of the UK’s great jazz musicians, died in July after a 25-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Barbara attended the RCM from 1962 to 1965, studying flute, clarinet, piano and composition. She also studied the saxophone privately, at a time when women rarely played the instrument. Shortly after graduating she joined the New Jazz Orchestra (NJO), through which she met her husband, jazz drummer John Hiseman.

Barbara founded several genre-bending ensembles, including Paraphernalia in 1972 and the big band Moving Parts in the 1980s. She regularly played in John's band, Colosseum, with which she collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber on his classical crossover album Variations. A prolific composer across all genres from jazz to choral music, Barbara’s notable works include the theme to television series A Touch of Frost. She was awarded an MBE in 1996.

In 1997, Barbara was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, but with medication continued to perform and tour. A 2011 BBC documentary, Playing Against Time, followed Barbara’s life as she navigated the disease alongside John, who passed away in 2018.

Barbara died in July 2022 at the age of 77. A full obituary can be read in The Guardian.

Alex Wu

Talented cellist Alex Wu studied at the Royal College of Music Junior Department from 2019 to 2021.

Alex was also a music scholar at Cardinal Vaughan School and a keen composer and arranger. Alex sadly passed away whilst on an orchestral tour. He gave his last performance with two of his closest friends playing a piece that he arranged from a film.

The Royal College of Music would also like to remember RCM Friends who have recently passed away:

David Norris
Diana Thornhill
John Wilson


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