An interview with: Hannah Brooks-Hughes, Two Moors Festival Competition contestant

The first round of the Two Moors Festival of the Young Musicians Platform Competition is due to take place between 8th and 9th March, with school pupils of grade seven level and above on a range of instruments all coming down to Festival HQ in Devon to take part. We caught up with one hopeful, 10-year-old violinist Hannah Brooks-Hughes (HBH) , to find out how she’s been readying herself for the competition.

2MF: What instrument do you play?

HBH: I play the violin and piano. I have entered the competition playing the violin because I am a little further on in my studies with that instrument.

2MF: How long have you been playing?

HBH: I started playing the violin when I was four and a half, and the piano a year later. I was very lucky at school because the violin teacher was called Robert Bishop, and he had been with the Halle Orchestra, and then co-leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He really got me going! When Mr Bishop decided to return to performing I was lucky again because my school brought in the Carducci Quartet and now Matthew Denton teaches me regularly, and his old professor from the Royal College of Music (professor Andrievsky) sees me once every 6-8 weeks. My piano teacher is called Sara Harris, and she is my regular accompanist.

2MF: Do you come from a musical background?

HBH: Not really. Neither of my parents play now, but my dad used to play the piano when he was my age, and my mum played the flute and saxophone when she was younger.

2MF: What’s the music education like at your school?

HBH: I am at Dean Close School in Cheltenham and I am very supported there. I play with the Senior School pupils mostly, and we are very lucky to have the Carducci Quartet in residence! I am lucky because I get asked to perform lots of concerts outside of school, but it would be nice to have a few more opportunities to perform at school.

2MF: Why did you choose your particular instrument and what do you like most about playing it?

HBH: I chose the violin because I saw older children playing at school and I knew that I wanted to do that too. And one day when I was four my dad was playing a CD of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto played by Anne Sophie Mutter and I knew I wanted to play like that!

2MF: How have you been preparing for the first round auditions?

HBH: Lots and lots and lots of practice! I have also publicly performed one of the pieces I will play so that is very helpful for getting it right.

2MF: Why did you decide to enter?

HBH: My teacher Mr Denton mentioned it (I think he took part in the past). He said it would be a good opportunity to compete at a higher level. I enjoy competitions and want to do more than I have been able to do in the past.

2MF: How many other competitions have you done in the past?Ever won any?

HBH: I’ve entered the Rotary Young Musician competition in my area and won my class twice. I’ve also entered the Cheltenham Festival of Performing Arts and done well (I won four classes last year). I do quite well in my school music competitions as well. I know it isn’t exactly a competition, but I have been a member of the National Children’s Orchestra for four years now, and I’ve done well in the auditions for that too. This year I was named the Principal Music Directors Scholar, and for the past two years I’ve won their Leverhulme Scholarships.

2MF: Got any advice to help other young musicians entering competitions?

HBH: Practice hard and enjoy the competition!

2MF: What do you like most about classical music?

HBH: I like the purity of the instrumentation and the intellectual pursuit. I like the fact that you have to really engage with the composer and try to understand what s/he has to say, and wants us to feel. (My dad helped me write this answer by the way – but it is what I think, I just couldn’t quite say it – I am only ten!)

2MF: Do you hope to have a classical music career one day? What do you want to be?

HBH: Yes I do. I want to play both instruments professionally, but mostly I want to be a violin soloist. I admire Nicola Benedetti very much – I love the beautiful sound she makes. I would like to follow in her footsteps.


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