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A Winner's Story

We caught up with the current holder of the title, cellist Laura van der Heijden, and asked her what the whole BBC Young Musician experience was like for her...

Here’s an easy one to start with .. describe the whole BBCYM experience in three words!

Am. Az. Ing!

Why did you enter?

Well mainly as a ‘why not’, and also as a slight test to see whether all the effort ‘Team van der Heijden’ were putting into me, was worth it. My aim was to get through the first round, my dream was to get to play Rimsky Korsakov’s ‘The Golden Cockerel’, which meant I would have to get to the category final.

Bearing in mind that there can only be one winner, what is there to gain for everyone else?

A competition gives very clear goals and it motivates me to be thorough and focused, and the whole process is very exciting! You get to meet new people, experience new situations, and focus wholly on music, which is fantastic.

How hard is the whole experience? Would you describe it as fun?

Of course, the competition had its challenges, many in fact, that I, and everyone supporting me had to face. But all the thrilling situations more than made up for it!

Did it require a lot of time? Was it difficult to fit it into your life?

The preparation for BBCYM required effort and commitment, lots of practising, many lessons with Leonid Gorokhov, Patricia Calnan and Alison Rhind - and many others too, performance practice, many rehearsals, lots of research about the music I played and countless other things! I am very lucky to have had so much support from so many people, and a wonderfully organised mum who managed to juggle everything to make it work. Schedules, schedules, schedules!

What was it like, dealing with TV cameras and interviews?

It was really interesting seeing how everything is done, it makes me look at other TV broadcasts in a very different way now. Of course it was all very exciting and, if I may say so, felt rather glamorous!

When you finished playing the Walton, were you happy with your performance? Did you think you had a chance of winning the competition?

After I finished the Walton I just felt incredible, I utterly enjoyed playing with the Northern Sinfonia and Kirill, they supported me, lifted me, and pushed me to another level! Another bonus was playing in the amazing hall at the Sage Gateshead. I didn’t really think about how I had actually played, even less whether I would win or not, I just really really enjoyed myself.

What was it like, that moment when you heard your name announced as the winner?

When I realised that my name was announced, I mainly felt shocked, it didn’t sink in for quite a while- perhaps it still hasn’t!

What was the atmosphere like amongst the competitors through the competition?

I felt the atmosphere was very supportive, encouraging and well wishing - mainly in the string final and in the semi-final - for the final we were all so busy with rehearsals and filming that we didn’t have much time for contact! I enjoyed the company of Juliette, Julia, Joel and Christian very much, I hope they felt mutually!

Do you feel that BBCYM changed you as a musician? How?

I think that BBCYM has changed my life, me as a musician and as a person. Immediately after the final I started to have new expectations of myself, I now am no longer content with playing that may be good for my age. To become the best musician I can be will of course take a lifetime and more.

What difference has it made to your career?

It has given me the most unbelievable start to my career!

How has winning BBCYM changed you as a person?

I have had to learn how to deal with situations I had never been in before, and I have had to decide what my priorities in life are. Taking part in the competition has encouraged me to become more confident and to take more risks.

What would you say to someone who couldn’t decide whether or not to enter BBCYM? Would you recommend it?

I think BBCYM was so well organised, everyone was so supportive and kind, it was such an exciting experience. I believe every young musician should give it a go, just the experience is worth it.

And what advice would you give to those who do enter BBCYM 2014?

Plan plan plan! Even if you think you won’t go far, plan the repertoire you would play in every round, and try to start learning it as soon as possible.

Laura will be back to perform at the BBC Young Musician 2014 Final on 18th May 2014.