James Gilbert

Award: Harrison Award

Year: 2020

Genre: Classical

Instrument/voice type: Clarinet

Location: Royal Academy of Music

James is a London based clarinettist currently studying on the Master of Arts Course at the Royal Academy of Music as an ABRSM Scholar. He studied for his Bachelors also at the Academy and learnt with Mark Van de Wiel, Christopher Richards, Chi-Yu Mo and Laurent Ben Slimane. Whilst at the Academy James participated in masterclasses with internationally acclaimed musicians including Patrick Messina, Andrew Marriner, Robert Cohen and Christoph Zimper.

James enjoys most performing within the orchestra and has regularly performed professionally with such ensembles as the Philharmonia, London Sinfonietta and London Chamber Orchestras including trialling for the Principal Clarinet Chair of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. With these ensembles James has been fortunate enough to perform extensively in London, with venues including the Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall and Cadogan Hall, as well as throughout Europe and Japan. James has also been selected for this year’s ‘Pit Perfect’ Scheme meaning he will be a member of the Glyndebourne Touring Opera Orchestra 2020.

As an Academy student, James has performed in their Symphony Orchestra, both as Principal and Principal Bass Clarinet, working on a wide range of repertoire with the likes of Edward Gardner and the late Oliver Knussen. With the latter, this has included contemporary works, of which James takes particular interest in. Most notably, James has performed the work ‘Trumpets’ by Knussen as a memorial to the composer at the British Composer Awards 2018 and has also performed as Guest Principal with the newly formed ensemble the Knussen Chamber Orchestra led by Ryan Wigglesworth at the BBC Proms 2019.

James has attended several international music festivals including the Santander Academy and Festival, Spain and the Aspen Music Festival, Colorado as part of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. During which, he received lessons and masterclasses from Hansjorg Schellenberger, Joaquin Valdepenas and Michael Ruisinek.

As soloist, James has performed at The Venue, Leeds as part of the Leeds International Concert Season and has been invited to perform as part of a celebratory concert for the composer Gerald Finzi. In the past year he has also performed Weber’s First Clarinet Concerto with St. John’s Chamber Orchestra and Weber’s Second Concerto with the Isca Ensemble.

Unfortunately, like most, James has seen performance and learning opportunities be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. He had been selected as a Britten Pears Young Artist for the Britten Pears Orchestra 2020, been offered professional engagements with the London Symphony Orchestra and expected to perform at Contemporary Music Festivals in both Greece and Lithuania with the new music ensemble, the 4/12 Collective, of which he is a member. He hopes that these events may still happen and looks forward to participating in all future projects whenever is safe and possible.

James is very grateful to the ABRSM and Help Musicians for generously supporting his postgraduate studies with both the Home Postgraduate Scholarship Award and the Harrison Award respectively.
The support that I will receive from Help Musicians will help fund my living expenses through my postgraduate study at the Royal Academy of Music. The award generously provided will enable me to concentrate fully as possible on my studies, reducing my concerns over my personal finances through the degree. It will allow me to spend more time focussing on myself and my education and allow me to take full advantage of the Master of Arts programme that the Academy has to offer.

Although working part-time is a necessary aspect of studentship and an important quality to learn during education, the financial support provided by Help Musicians means that I can reduce the amount of time spent working away from my studies, and instead use this time to further my skills and abilities which are being developed by my Postgraduate Study. The further availability of my time will be spent on my personal practice in order to develop the central aspect of my degree and future career, my proficiency on my instrument. I will also have more time to spend forming connections with my colleagues at the Academy, hopefully allowing for continued collaborations lasting through my career, and be more free to accept engagements to further my professional portfolio.