THE youngest entrant came out victorious in the Kirklees Young Musician of the Year contest at this year’s Mrs Sunderland Music Festival.
At just 16, flute player Sarah Jane Bennett took the coveted title after beating off competition from 10 other musicians in the contest at St Paul’s Hall on the Huddersfield University campus.
It was the first time Sarah, from Birkenshaw, had entered the festival’s biggest contest, although she had competed in piano classes at the Mrs Sunderland when she was younger.
She said: “I was really shocked to win, I didn’t expect it at all. It was the first time I had entered, because I’m only 16. I just heard about it and thought it seemed like a good opportunity.”
Each competitor had to perform a programme of music of up to 15 minutes.
Sarah wowed adjudicator Jeffrey Wynn Davies with her performance of Hue: Fantasie and Telemann: Fantasie No 12.
Mr Wynn Davies said all 11 competitors were ‘artistically superb’ but chose Sarah as the winner because of her ‘ability to communicate her personality through the music’.
Runner-up in the competition was soprano Laura Denise Crowther, of Linthwaite. She took second prize by performing five songs from musicals – I Hate Music by Leonard Bernstein, That Old Black Magic by Harold Arlen, Maybe I Like It This Way by Andrew Lippa, La Chiusa: Torn by Michael John and The Girl in 14G by Jeanine Teson.
This year, for the first time, the winner’s prize money went up to £1,000 and the runner-up prize money increased to £400, thanks to Huddersfield University’s music department supporting the competition.
Kirklees Cultural and Recreational Services also sponsored the contest.
Dr John Bryan, head of the university’s music department, said the contest had been a fantastic showcase of young talent.
“It was a brilliant evening of quality across the whole range of performers.”
As winner of the contest, Sarah also received the coveted JW Pearce trophy and was required to perform at Saturday’s gala concert finale of the festival at Huddersfield Town Hall.
She said: “The gala performance went really well, it was nice to play in the hall. My family were there to support me and were really proud.”
Sarah has been studying the flute for six years at Cheetham School of Music in Manchester, where she is also studying for her GCSEs.
She later hopes to attend music college in a bid to carve a career as a professional instrumentalist.
She said: “You don’t have to study anywhere particular but I want to go to music college. It would be good to go to London. My ambition is to make a career out of it – I would like to play in a really big orchestra, something like principal flute.”
Winners of Kirklees Young Musician of the Year are meant to use their prize money to further their musical career or education. Sarah is considering spending her cash on new parts for her flute.
The Kirklees Young Musician of the Year contest is open to students aged 16 to 25 who want to take up music as a professional career, as either singers or instrumentalists. Competitors must be up to grade 8 and have to be born in Kirklees, or lived in the area for five years. Alternatively, they have to have been on college or higher education music course in Kirklees for at least a year.