We speak to LSO Principal Percussion, Neil Percy, and Co-Principal Timpani, Antoine Bedewi, who will be mentoring some of the best young talent from across the UK in this year's LSO Timpani & Percussion Academy, culminating in a showcase on Wednesday 19 July.
Every summer the LSO welcomes the best young talent as they take part in our LSO Academy schemes, where students are put through their paces in an intensive week of coaching with the Orchestra's Principal Players.
The scheme works in rotation with different sections of the Orchestra, with academies alternating every four years between Brass, Strings and Woodwind – and this year it's the Percussion Section's turn, culiminating in a one-off showcase performance on Wednesday 19 July.
We talk to two of this year's mentors to find out more: LSO Principal Percussion Neil Percy, who has been involved in the LSO Academy for over 15 years; and Co-Principal Timpani Antoine Bedewi, who took part in the very first LSO Percussion Academy as a student in 2005.
How would you sum up the LSO Percussion Academy?
The LSO Academy is an intensive week of playing, learning and discussion and, above all, meeting new people. We aim to take the 25 best young players from around the country and provide them with a glimpse of professional life in the LSO, with a view to boosting their own prospects of entering the profession when the time comes. The young players will work closely with the LSO, timpani and percussion section, picking up new ideas and tricks of the trade. Above all, we hope it’s a week of fun, inspiration and camaraderie.
I have been involved with the LSO Academy from the very beginning since the Shell/LSO Scholarships, which were a perfect pre-cursor for what we now know as the ‘LSO Academy’. This year it is the turn of our Percussion Section to host the Academy, and we have a group of some of the finest young timpani and percussion players in the country, with whom we can work intensively on every aspect of orchestral playing.
What have been some of your highlights of working as a mentor?
It has been an immense pleasure and privilege to work with these amazingly talented young playes over the years. So keen, so dedicated and so intent on playing their best at all times. We’ve also been fortunate in the past to have been able to commission large-scale percussion pieces for the final evening’s concert, from such great composers as Sir Karl Jenkins, Charlie Piper and Tim Garland.
A question for Antoine – how did the Academy help you as a student?
Taking part in the LSO Percussion Academy when I was a student helped me enormously. There’s no better way to lift your playing to the next level than for a professional to sit next to you and demonstrate what it’s all about; how they do it, what to avoid and what to aim for in the years to come.
What are you looking forward to about this year’s Academy?
This year will see more of a focus on the skills of playing in a section rather than the individual skills of performing tricky passages from the symphonic repertoire on their own. It means we can involve many more players at a time and really get the participants to think about the collective sound they make while playing in a section.
Why is working with the Academy as a mentor important to you?
At the LSO we’re always on the lookout for the next batch of young players who may one day join our ranks. It’s about equipping young players with the requisite skills needed for them to branch out all over the world and make an impact musically. A healthy music scene both at home and abroad can only be a good thing, which is why as an orchestra we believe it’s our duty to nuture the next generation of players as best we can.
Yamaha and the LSO Percussion Academy
Yamaha and the Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe have been working alongside the LSO Percussion Academy from the beginning, as the world’s most successful manufacturer of musical instruments for professional musicians, educators and amateur musicians alike. Working in partnership with prominent institutions forms relationships that inspires innovation and new creative design ideas. Yamaha also offers scholarships to outstanding young musicians all over Europe – giving music students a chance that could be the starting point to a promising career.
Yamaha are delighted to be supporting this year’s LSO Percussion Academy through Yamaha Percussion Artist Neil Percy, and by providing a wide range of professional Percussion instruments for the workshops and performances.
Click here to find out more.
The LSO Academy is also generously supported by:
Help Musicians UK
Angus Allnatt Charitable Foundation
David HS Hobbs
FTSE Russell in memory of David Hobbs
Derek Hill Foundation
You can see the newest generation of musicians in action on Wednesday 19 July at 7pm at LSO St Luke's, where they'll be showcasing the results of their week of study with the LSO.