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Updates Spring 2024

Student updates

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Our students have had a busy start to 2024, with success stories across the Royal College of Music. Here is just a small selection of their achievements.

Performances, events and recordings

Postgraduate composer Johanna Burnheart self-released her second album Bär in December. Described by Mojo magazine as ‘a quiet triumph’, the jazz violin album explores the areas that have influenced Johanna’s life and her identity in Berlin.

As part of an innovative Knowledge Exchange partnership, six RCM composers have written new music for the Kew Gardens Sounds of Blossom experience. These newly commissioned soundscapes have been composed by Louis Enright, Delyth Field, Lucy Holmes, Jasmine Morris, Daniel Musashi and Tymon Zgorzelski, and can be heard at Kew Gardens between 23 March and 14 April.

Rianna Henriques performed with RAYE in front of a star-studded audience at the BRIT Awards 2024.


Thomas Kelly will be playing the solo piano part in the RCM Symphony Orchestra‘s performance of Messiaen‘s Turangalîla-symphonie at the Royal Festival Hall on 1 May.

Composition student Jack Ledger-Dowse’s new fanfare and anthem were recently premiered at the 75th anniversary of the Commonwealth in Parliament. The anthem A Celebratory Piece was performed by RCM trumpeters Elizabeth Foxley, Eoin O’Gorman, Edward Smith, Rebecca Strentz and Stone Tung to welcome Speakers and Presidents from Commonwealth countries to a special dinner in the Central Lobby, which was also attended by Professor Colin Lawson and Kevin Porter, the Director and Deputy Director of the Royal College of Music. 

Michal Oren, an RCM postgraduate conductor, was selected to participate in the Gateshead Women Conductors Programme, gaining valuable support and mentoring from renowned conductor and founder of the programme Alice Farnham.


Pianist Changyu Yin performed at the Trafalgar Square Lunar New Year celebrations in February.

Awards, competitions and appointments

Madeline Boreham, Richard Decker and Charlotte Kennedy have been awarded places in the semi-final of The Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2024. The three pianists in the semi-final are all RCM musicians: Frasier Hickland, Francesca Lauri and Firoze Madon.

Double bassist Will Duerden and violinist Deniz Sensoy have been named among Classic FM’s Rising Stars 2024.

Delyth Field and Jasmine Morris and 2022 Masters graduate Luke Mombrea have been selected as members of LSO Soundhub, a prestigious scheme providing an environment in which composers can collaborate and experiment whilst accessing vital resources and support.

Baritone Sam Hird received First Place and the Audience Prize at the annual Clonter Opera Prize on 3 February 2024.


Magdalene Ho won the Chappell Medal and the Esther Fisher Prize in the Chappell Piano Competition, with Misha Kaploukhii taking the Hopkinson Gold Medal and Cyril Smith Prize, and Diana Cooper earning the Hopkinson Silver Medal and Peter Wallfisch Prize.

Jelena Horvat was awarded First Prize at the Jenő Hubay Violin Competition in Budapest, Hungary, as well as Third Prize at the Zhuhai International Mozart Competition for Young Musicians in China.

Five RCM musicians were selected for the prestigious LSO String Experience Scheme, gaining experience by playing in rehearsals and in concert with the London Symphony Orchestra. RCM musicians filled all the viola and double bass seats: congratulations to Vanessa Hristova and Harriet Quick (viola), Will Duerden and Ruohua Li (double bass), and Polina Makhina (violin).


RCM Junior Department musicians Damian and Dorcas Kok won multiple prizes in the recent Sutton Music Festival. Damian won First Prize in six classes including the Instrumental Recital Class and the Instrumental Concerto Class while Dorcas won First Prize in the under-13 category and the pair won three prizes as a duo.

Tenor Dafydd Jones and violinist Jordan Brooks won the solo rounds of the Royal Over-Seas League Annual Music Competition and pianist Francesca Lauri was awarded the ROSL Collaborative Piano prize. Dafydd also won the Lies Askonas competition held at the Royal College of Music.

Violist Rebecca Marr and violinist Catherine Alsey were appointed as this year’s LEYMN’s Emerging Music Leaders, with the chance to shadow experienced early years music practitioners in all areas of music making in nurseries.

Pianist Paul Mnatsakanov won First Prize at the 39th Valsesia Musica International Piano Competition in Italy.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera announced soprano Henna Mun as one of their 2024 Jerwood Young Artists, with the opportunity to work with leading conductors, directors, singers and specialists.

Among many performances and public speaking engagements, pianist Yang Wang was awarded First Prize at the World Piano Teachers Association International Piano Competition 2023.


RCM Junior Department musician Aidan Siqi Zhao has been selected by the Lang Lang Foundation to be a Lang Lang Young Scholar for 2024–26.

Harpsichordist Yihan Zhao was awarded Second Prize at the Prix Annelie de Man, an international contemporary harpsichord competition held in the Netherlands.

The RCM Trombone Ensemble received an honourable mention in the International Trombone Festival Trombone Choir Competition.

Research and travel

Louis De Nil appeared at the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften’s third annual conference of the Schubert Research Centre with the presentation ‘Singing Schubert’s Erlkönig Dramatically in Vienna’s Vormärz Period’.

Rebecca Herman has had a theoretical literature review published in Frontiers in Psychology journal: ‘It’s not a virus! Reconceptualizing and de-pathologizing music performance anxiety’ (co-authored with Dr Terry Clark).

Pianist and PhD student Ugne Peištaraite has been investigating the role of emotional intelligence in practice and performance quality for Western classical musicians. The preliminary findings have already been presented at the International Symposium for Performance Science 2023 in the Medical University of Warsaw, and the final results will be published in the scientific journal Frontiers Psychology.


Sureshkumar P Sekar’s peer-reviewed publication ‘Insincere Inclusion? Ignorant Appropriation? – A Symphony Orchestra Plays South Indian Film Music’ was shortlisted for Best Video Essay at the Adelio Ferrero Awards 2023.

Tal Walker has published the chapter ‘Monsieur Croche: Concerts at Eye Level’ in Classical Music Futures: Practices of Innovation edited by Neil Thomas Smith, Peter Peters and Karoly Molina (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2024).

Will Kidner, Bruce Parris and Eva Serksnaite travelled with RCM bassoon professor Joost Bosdijk to the Faroe Islands for an intensive and educational bassoon trip where they spent time and performed with the islander bassoon students. Eva described the experience: ‘My time in the Faroe Islands viscerally changed me. The company as well as the scenery was so unbelievably unique and spending eight days developing as a person and musician has made me come back into my third year with lots of energy and excitement.’


Composition for Screen success

Sobhan Afsarian was given an honourable mention at the 2023 Sempre Musick competition, and his composition for the animation D4 or E4 contributed to the film winning the award for Best Student Animation at the Animators Guild India competition.

Tom Harrison, a doctoral composition student, is currently working as the arranger for season three of CBS television series CSI: Vegas under Emmy-nominated composer John M Keane.

Send your updates for the Summer 2024 printed edition of Upbeat to news@rcm.ac.uk by Friday 10 May.


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