Competition history

Humphrey Burton in 1978

Last updated: 07 April 2010

In 2008 BBC Young Musician celebrated its 30th anniversary. Following a dramatic and hard fought final, 12-year-old trombonist Peter Moore was named as the competition's youngest ever winner.

BBC producers Humphrey Burton and Walter Todds conceived the Young Musician of the Year competition as a response to the lack of home-grown finalists in the Leeds Piano Competition of 1975. The competition has since become a national institution.

The first programme was broadcast in 1978 and since then thousands of young people from all over Great Britain have entered the competition. There is no lower age limit for entering, but competitors must have achieved a Grade 8 in their instrument and be under 18 when they apply.

Since its launch on BBC TWO in 1978, BBC Young Musician has become one of the highlights in the UK's musical calendar. From the outset the competition attracted the UK's outstanding young musical talent. Initially there were four categories - keyboard, strings, brass and woodwind. In 1994 percussion was added, broadening the event's reach and attracting a new group of players.

For audiences, one of the most exciting aspects of BBC Young Musician is watching these talented young performers as they progress through the competition and beyond. Many of the winners and finalists have gone on to major international careers - among them Barry Douglas, Michael Collins, Tasmin Little, Freddy Kempf and Natalie Clein.

Thomas Adès, a former piano finalist, is now one of the leading composers of his generation. Recent winners such as Adrian Spillett and Guy Johnston are now emerging as recognised soloists. The 2004 winner, Nicola Benedetti, is enjoying phenomenal success, not only as a soloist, but also as a recording artist.

BBC Young Musician continues to evolve and there are some changes to the competition format for 2010. This includes the introduction of a new Semi-Final stage which will see the five category winners competing for just three places in the Final. The three finalists will then perform a concerto of their choice with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Vasily Petrenko at the Donald Gordon Theatre, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff on 16 May.


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