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Maestro (photo: Chris Capstick/Ariel)

Eight passionate amateurs bid to become BBC Two's Maestro

Eight famous amateurs with a passion for classical music will do battle this summer for the chance to conduct the BBC Concert Orchestra in front of a live audience of 30,000 in BBC Two's Maestro.


The show sees a diverse range of personalities – including drum and bass star Goldie, Blur bassist Alex James and actress Jane Asher – competing to perform at BBC Proms In The Park, held in London's Hyde Park, as part of the BBC Proms' world-famous Last Night celebrations on 13 September 2008.


Others striving to command the respect of one of the country's leading orchestras include newsreader Katie Derham, broadcaster Peter Snow, actor David Soul, comedian Sue Perkins and actor and comedian Bradley Walsh.


The eight students face a gruelling summer as they attempt to prove that they are worthy of taking to the stage in front of tens of thousands of people.


In the first stage of preparation the celebrity students will enter into a week-long Baton Camp in the final week of May, where they will each be assigned their own mentor.


Each mentor – all of whom are established professional conductors – will work intensively with their student in helping them to master the disciplines of orchestral, choral and operatic music.


Rehearsals will continue throughout the summer as the celebrity students learn how to inspire and engage with the orchestra and the music.


Grasping the baton, the students will then take to the conductor's podium in August, where, in front of a studio audience and an international judging panel made up of leading musicians, they will conduct the BBC Concert Orchestra in a weekly show broadcast on BBC Two.


Maestro will be presented by Clive Anderson.


The panel is led by Sir Roger Norrington – who will be conducting the Last Night Of The BBC Proms 2008 at the Royal Albert Hall – and also includes composer and cellist Zoë Martlew, conductor Simone Young and double bassist Dominic Seldis.


At the end of each show the judging panel and members of the BBC Concert Orchestra will decide which student will be voted off.


Under constant scrutiny, from both the judges and the orchestra they are conducting, the students will have to show beyond any doubt that they have the talent, passion and nerves of steel necessary to conduct a full orchestra as part of one of the most famous events in the classical music calendar: BBC Proms In The Park, part of the Last Night Of The Proms.


Peter Maniura, Head of BBC Classical Music Television, says: "Maestro will take the audience on a fascinating, surprising, thrilling and informative journey into the heart of music-making. It will delve into the practicalities, magic and mystery of what a conductor actually does to make great music happen."


Maestro is a BBC Classical Music Department production made by the team behind BBC ground-breaking shows including The Liverpool Nativity, Sacred Music and Classic Britannia.


Series editor is Oliver Macfarlane, executive producer is Celina Parker and series producer is Chris Brogden.


Maestro starts on BBC Two in August 2008.


The students


Jane Asher: Jane is an actress, writer and businesswoman. As well as her work in theatre, film, radio and television, she has written over a dozen books and runs her own business in Chelsea.


Jane has been working professionally in film, theatre and radio since she was five years old – her first appearance was in the film Mandy. Her many television appearances include Brideshead Revisited, Wish Me Luck, The Mistress, The Choir, Closing Numbers, Crossroads, New Tricks and Miss Marple.


Jane was recently seen as Queen Charlotte in The Palace, an eight-part drama series for ITV, and she is Lady Byrne, a semi-regular character, in BBC's Holby City.


Katie Derham: Katie co-presents the ITV Lunchtime News with Alastair Stewart and is also co-presenter of ITV's London Tonight. Katie is heavily involved in all of ITV News' coverage of the big news stories, including recent reports ranging from the Budget, UK floods, Her Majesty The Queen's birthday and the last General Election. 


Katie also played a key role in ITV's coverage of the Gulf War, anchoring the ITV Evening News.


Katie has hosted the ITV Classical Brits a number of times at the Royal Albert Hall.


Katie has a BA (Hons) in Economics from Magdalene College, Cambridge, and lives with her husband and two children in west London.  


Goldie: Goldie became famous for his best-selling album Timeless. He is also a graffiti and album cover artist.


Goldie has had several big-budget film roles, most famously as Bullion in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough in 1999. He also starred in Snatch (2000) and The Ninth Gate (1999) with Johnny Depp. In 2001 Goldie played Angel in BBC One's EastEnders.  


Alex James: writer, farmer and rock star, Alex was born in Bournemouth in 1968.


After meeting Graham Coxon at Goldsmiths College, Alex became the bass player in Blur with Dave Rowntree and Damon Albarn when the band formed in 1989. Blur became one of the most successful and influential bands of the Nineties. The band's seven studio albums to date have spawned hits throughout the world and garnered numerous international awards.


A prolific writer, Alex has regular columns in The Independent, The Observer and The Spectator and has also contributed to a number of daily papers and magazines. Alex's first book, Bit Of A Blur, was published in 2007.


Alex is married with three children and lives on an organic farm in Oxfordshire, where he produces cheese.


Sue Perkins: Sue began her career as one quarter of double-act Mel and Sue. They first found fame on Channel 4's daytime show, Light Lunch, which ran for five series before transferring to an evening slot as the imaginatively titled Late Lunch. Mel and Sue have appeared in five national tours and six Edinburgh Festivals.


Currently, Sue and Giles Coren reunite in the BBC Two series The Supersizers Go. Sue is also writing a novel, which she began a decade ago and expects to finish sometime in 2035.


Peter Snow: Peter studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he read a degree in Classics, Ancient History and Philosophy.


In 1962 he joined ITN as a scriptwriter and reporter and began newscasting the same year. He was appointed Diplomatic and Defence Correspondent in 1966, and for the next decade reported from all round the world.


He also covered elections and other live political programmes for ITN until he left in 1979 to join the BBC. There he was one of the first presenters of Newsnight when it began in 1980, and went on to cover elections and other live political events for the BBC until 2005. He left Newsnight to present Tomorrow's World in 1997.


In 2002 he made a programme for BBC Two with his historian son, Dan, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Alamein.


David Soul: Born David Richard Solberg in 1943 in Chicago, David's first appearance on television was a guest-starring role in a two-part episode of Flipper in 1966.


Producer Aaron Spelling spotted David and cast him as Hutch in the television series Starsky & Hutch (1974-79) where he was reunited with his old friend from his New York days, Paul Michael Glaser.


David also appeared in Jerry Springer: The Opera (West End, 2004-05). He has appeared on a number of popular British television shows, ranging from Holby City and Dalziel And Pascoe to Little Britain and Top Gear and has performed in many BBC Radio 4 dramas and book readings.


He is currently writing his autobiography.   


Bradley Walsh: Bradley became a household name playing the lovable rogue Danny Baldwin in Coronation Street. He joined the street in 2004 as Mike Baldwin's long-lost nephew and has since had affairs with Sunita and Leanne Battersby.


Since leaving the street Bradley has filmed an emotional three-part ITV drama entitled Torn.


Bradley has recently fulfilled one of his own ambitions: acting in a Dickens costume drama alongside Sir Derek Jacobi; Old Curiosity Shop was screened on ITV last Christmas.




Brad Cohen


Jason Lai


Natalia Luis-Bassa


Matthew Rowe


Ivor Setterfield


Peter Stark


Sarah Tennant-Flowers


Christopher Warren-Green






Category: Factual & Arts TV; BBC Two; Proms & Orchestras
Date: 23.05.2008
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