The first thing 15-year-old viola player Bill Ko Tsz Hin did when he heard that he had won the Gloucestershire Young Musician of the Year title was ring his parents in Hong Kong – despite it being 5am their time!
The gifted teenager, who is a boarder at Cheltenham College, wowed the judges with his powerful performance of Bruch’s Romanze for Viola and Walton’s technically challenging second movement of his Viola Concerto on Tuesday evening (March 5).
He was one of five highly talented young musicians from across the county competing in this year’s contest which saw the Audience Prize, sponsored by the Carducci Trust, go to 14-year-old pianist Diff Jia, from Pate’s Grammar School.
The other finalists were Katie Jenner (clarinet) from Birmingham Conservatoire, Stephen Parker (euphonium) from Marling School and Michael Lei (piano) from Dean Close School.
Bill was presented with the Hewitt-Jones Trophy by composer Thomas Hewitt-Jones and received a cash prize of £500 from Brimpsfield Music Society chairman Patrick Daly. He will have the opportunity to perform a concerto with organisers Gloucestershire Symphony Orchestra on November 17 at Pittville Pump Room, play in a further concert with Gloucestershire Youth Orchestra as well as a recital at Cheltenham Music Festival.
Underlining how much he hoped others would follow in his footsteps, Bill said: “I hope more people, no matter what their age, will take up a musical instrument and explore different genres of music.”
Audience Prize winner Jiff Dia, who received a cheque for £200 from Carducci Quartet leader Matt Denton, will perform at the Carducci Festival at Highnam Court on May 18.
The judging panel was chaired by Professor Derek Aviss, who is former principal of London’s Trinity College. He said: “The arts have suffered badly from funding in this country and at last it seems to be there is a parliamentary report due out very shortly, which shows the value of the arts, and music in particular, in terms of supporting young people’s educational development. It’s great that Gloucestershire is at the forefront of some of these new initiatives.”
He was accompanied by Meurig Bowen, head of artistic planning for the BBC National Orchestra and Philip Harper, musical director of the award-winning Cory Band.
While the judges deliberated, gifted blind pianist Ashleigh Turley, from Tuffley entertained the audience with pieces by Bach, Debussy and Rachmaninoff to rapturous applause.
Partners and sponsors of the contest include the Gloucestershire Academy of Music, Cheltenham Music Festival, Gloucestershire Music, The Summerfield Trust and Ann Heron, mother of 2016 winner Adam.