It’s easy to think of Sheku Kanneh-Mason as the teenage cellist who knocked the wind out of billions of people watching his performance at Meghan and Harry’s wedding. But by that point in 2018, he’d already chalked up a remarkable list of achievements. He was six when he first lifted a cello. At 16 he was named 2016’s BBC Young Musician of the Year – the first black musician to take the title in the competition’s history. Now he’s kicking off 2020 with an album recorded alongside his hero Sir Simon Rattle. With his background as a state-educated kid from Nottingham Kanneh-Mason, who is still only 20, knows that even a talent like his could have gone undiscovered. He’s dismayed that other kids who lack funds or an early exposure to classical music will be lost. He explains why opportunity and education are paramount and how even he is still learning.
See it to be it
It’s difficult when you don’t see someone like you doing it. It’s a big thing that I’m hoping to change of course. Everyone can get so much from having music lessons, so to not have the opportunity is a real shame.
Of course, you need the initial inspiration and desire to do it, which comes from being exposed to music. But it’s now very rare for someone, unless you have a lot of money, to have music lessons from a young age. I think what needs to change is having high-quality lessons in schools and for that to be seen as important.
All the things I’ve learned from my teachers over the years will always stick with me and if I’m ever working with young children I very often remember how things were explained to me. And working with young people and them asking me questions makes me ask questions as well. I hope that because I’m not so much older than them they can be inspired by me. I was very lucky in the teacher I had and the things I saw, the people I was able to be inspired by. It’s exciting to be that person for others.