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National Youth Choirs of Great BritainABRSM is one of the two principal supporters of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain’s (NYCGB) Fellowship Programme.

What is the Fellowship Programme?

Launched in 2015, the Fellowship is a professional training platform for outstanding young choral musicians to help develop skills in performance, teaching and leadership.

Eight singers are chosen annually following an intensive three-round audition process, and receive 50 days of training over the course of a single year, including concerts, tours, recording sessions, broadcasts, workshops, masterclasses, and teaching experience.

Jack's story

Jack Holton won a place on the 2015-16 Fellowship programme. Here’s his story.

The early years

Jack’s adoptive parents were keen to find out what things interested him. They didn’t have to wait long.

Aged two, he discovered Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells II video and would insist on watching it over and over again. Using a number of his toy instruments, including drums and tuned percussion, he turned his living room floor into an orchestra pit and started playing along to the video trying to imitate Oldfield’s classic number.

Jack Holton as a child

Jack moved on to more conventional instruments at the age of eight when he started learning the trombone, which was donated to him by a local church, and then at school he also took up the guitar, bass and the drums.

His interest in singing came later on.

"Having non-musical parents and going to my local comprehensive, I had never seen an opera – but I really wanted to as I was interested in the combination of music and drama.

"After seeing Peter Grimes at the Royal Opera House, I knew this was what I wanted to do."

Jack turned down his place at music college in order to spend a year as a choral scholar at Chelmsford Cathedral and St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Through social media he noticed adverts about the NYCGB Fellowship and one of his friends, who was also interested in becoming a Fellow, encouraged him to apply.

Becoming a Fellow

After three rounds of auditions, Jack was accepted onto the programme, aged 23.

Over the course of his year on the NYCGB Fellowship Programme, Jack has sung solos at the Aldeburgh Christmas Festival, performed alongside the National Youth Jazz Orchestra at the Cheltenham and Petworth Festivals, and received coaching from Royal Opera House principal artist and baritone Rolo Wood and BBC New Generation Artist and mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately.

Jack and the NYCGB Fellows perform at the Royal Albert Hall (April 2016). Credit: Belinda Lawley

Sharing the benefits with young musicians

For Jack, one of the main highlights of the Fellowship programme has been the opportunity to teach.

"I was an early years practitioner in a nursery and am still passionate about teaching music to children", he explains.

"Through the Fellowship, I’ve had the opportunity to work with children from a range of age groups on everything from vocal warm-ups to composition and have learnt a huge amount from the contributions, skills and needs of each of them."

Jack leads a composition workshop for schoolchildren at the Royal Hospital School, November 2015 / Credit: Julian Forbess

A life-enhancing experience

Reflecting on the one-year Fellowship, Jack believes it has been a life-enhancing experience on several fronts.

"Working with the NYCGB has been a great introduction to life as a young professional singer.

"It’s given me the chance to learn about effectively working with other singers, conductors and musicians, as well as juggling teaching and working as an educator in tandem with being a performer.

"I’d like to thank ABRSM for providing the funding to support my Fellowship place and the many opportunities that it’s led to and which I wouldn’t have otherwise received as a young singer."

 

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