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29 October 2014
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Classical Star judges: Steven Abbott, Jason Lai, Chi-Chi Nwanoku, Charles Hazlewood and Academy Music Director Matthew Barley

Classical Star

The judges

Academy Music Director – Matthew Barley


Cellist Matthew Barley trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Moscow Conservatoire, and his activities in performance, improvisation, cross-disciplinary projects, composition and pioneering community programmes soon developed to form a unique international career.


Matthew's musical world has virtually no geographical, social or stylistic boundaries and he lives and breathes music education, making him the ideal choice as Music Director for the academy.


Matthew is a top soloist who has performed with some of the world's biggest orchestras on some of the world's greatest stages. His passion for new music has led him to première works, many of them his commissions, and many non-classical collaborations with artists including Django Bates and Julian Joseph.


Matthew has frequently worked with the BBC Proms, and has led major projects all around the world with enormous success – working very closely with the British Council.


In 1997, Matthew founded Between The Notes (BTN), a performance and education group which works with music and other arts.


BTN has been involved in major projects at the Sydney Opera House, London's Royal Opera House (with the Royal Ballet), the International Symposium of Contemporary Music in Hong Kong, and on tour in Bangladesh, Greece, Spain, Germany, Norway, Croatia, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Belgium.


In the academy, Matthew will nurture and guide the contestants – spending each day with them as they attend masterclasses and undertake challenges. For Matthew, this role is a natural extension of his life's work, and is his first role on prime-time television.


Charles Hazlewood


One of the most prolific and dynamic musicians of his generation, Charles Hazlewood is Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra and conducts many of the great orchestras in the UK and around the world.


He has authored and conducted the music in several groundbreaking films including Vivaldi Unmasked (BBC One), The Genius Of Mozart (BBC Two and BBC Four), Beethoven (BBC Two and BBC Four) and Tchaikovsky (BBC Two and BBC Four). Charles also presents a weekly show on BBC Radio 3, Charles Hazlewood Discovering Music.


Charles's passion to explore music of all varieties with the widest possible audience has led him to work with some of the most celebrated contemporary composers, with the rawest new South African vocal talent and at the cutting-edge of the pop music scene.


Charles has conducted over 50 world premières, and worked on projects as diverse as the recent Urban Classics – fusing five Grime MCs with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Hackney Empire.


As one of the academy judges, Charles brings an encyclopaedic knowledge of the music industry, knowing both what it takes to succeed and how to bring music to a wider audience. He will be looking out for this potential in the contestants, as well as an exceptional musical talent.


Chi-chi Nwanoku MBE


At the age of seven, Chi-chi Nwanoku discovered music on a neighbour's piano and was so inspired by its sounds and possibilities that she began her education as a classical musician. She played piano and took up double bass at 18, after an injury ruled out her other passion – athletics.


Chi-chi studied at the Royal Academy of Music, in London, and has become one of England's most sought-after double bassists – developing a worldwide reputation as one of the finest exponents on her instrument today.


She is currently Principal double bass with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – of which she is also a founder member – and Endymion Ensemble and Professor of Double Bass Historical Studies at The Royal Academy of Music, Professor of Double Bass at Trinity College of Music in London and a visiting Professor for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.


She was awarded an MBE for Services to Music in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2001 and frequently works for BBC Radio.


Chi-chi has a wide range of musical interests, resulting in her involvement in the cutting-edge of diverse styles of performance practice and her wide repertoire of recordings.


To the judging panel, she brings a consummate knowledge of the skills and personality needed to become both a solo performer and recording artist.


Steve Abbott


Steve is MD of Bedlam Artist Management, originally formed in 1988 to represent artists' recording, performing and business careers and then reformed in 2003.


He manages young New Zealand soprano Hayley Westenra, violinist Nicola Benedetti and pianist Lang Lang and produces top-selling albums – recent successes of note include The Choirboys (320,000 UK sales) and All Angels (250,000 UK sales).


Steve began his career as a singer in a punk band with which he toured the world, released two albums, five singles and achieved three No. 1 records in the UK and two in the US. He then changed track to classical guitar and made a name for himself composing music for theatre and television.


In 1988, Steve formed Big Cat Records Ltd, a diverse label including alternative rock, jazz and experimental and classical and produced albums with artists including Emma Kirkby and Ian Bostridge.


In 1997, the company was bought by the Virgin Group and became known as V2 records. Steve worked as Head of International, setting up the company around the world, and became head of A&R and General Manager V2 /Virgin Records North America – signing, amongst others, Moby, The White Stripes, RZA and the Alvin Ailey Ballet Company.


Steve returned to London in 2003 to reform Bedlam Artist Management.


Other credits include producing the music programme of Princess Diana's funeral service, working with Master of Choristers Martin Neary and personally introducing Sir Elton John into the proceedings.


Jason Lai


Thirty-three-year-old conductor Jason Lai won the BBC's Young Conductors Workshop in February 2002 and has conducted some of the world's top orchestras including the BBC Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, English Touring Opera, London Sinfonietta and the BBC Singers.


Jason started his musical studies at the age of 12 when he took cello, piano and composition lessons, which continued with the help of a scholarship at Chetham's School of Music in Manchester.


He studied at Worcester College, Oxford, where he became music director of the Oxford University Philharmonia, and then went on to achieve a Masters in composition and a Diploma in cello at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.


As a young star prodigy himself, Jason has first-hand experience of the pressure of competitions, the qualities needed to emerge as a winner and the determination and dedication it takes to carve out a successful career in the classical music industry.







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