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Highgate’s annual Young Musician of the Year competition took place last week, showcasing an exhilarating array of instrumental and vocal talent from Senior School pupils at both Highgate and London Academy of Excellence, Tottenham (LAET).

Renowned composer and conductor, John Rutter, who was a pupil at Highgate between 1958 – 1964, returned to judge the final alongside opera singer Kitty Whately and violinist Shlomy Dobrinsky. John Rutter also presented this year’s Young Singer of the Year Award, which was named in his honour.

Judges: Shlomy Dobrinsky, John Rutter and Kitty Whately

13 pupils from across the two schools stepped up to present a thrilling selection of performances, from contemporary musical theatre to classical scores, with pupils choosing songs from John Legend to Johannes Brahms. Following the introduction of Music A Level at LAET this year, we were delighted to partner with them on the event.

John Rutter and his fellow judges commended all the performances, saying: “We have been gobsmacked by this galaxy of giftedness tonight. I’m quite amazed by what I’ve heard.

Highgate Young Instrumentalist of the Year Award went to Aki, Y11, for his performance of Henri Büsser’s Allegro Appassionato on the Viola.

Highgate Young Singer of the Year – The John Rutter Prize – went to Mimi, Y13, who performed I’ll Never Love Again by Lady Gaga and By the Sea from Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.

Runner up awards were presented to Sadie, Y12 (vocals), Amelia, Y13 (Piano) and Fernando Y13 (Cello), along with a selection of Highly Commended performances from the heats.

John Rutter was a pupil at Highgate between 1958 – 1964

Prolific choral composer, John Rutter, spent his formative years at Highgate, where he immersed himself in the school’s rich music programme. He sang in the school’s two “remarkable choirs”: a large concert chorus and a smaller chapel choir, giving him a wide breadth of choral experience from an early age.

John also took part in occasional outside engagements with the school choir, including the original 1963 recording of Britten’s War Requiem. Among his contemporaries at Highgate was revered composer Sir John Tavener, who enlisted Rutter and other school friends to perform his early works.

John Rutter went on to study music at Clare College, Cambridge, before building an extensive portfolio of work – from church music and other choral pieces including Christmas carols, to concert-length works which are performed around the world.

The Young Musician of the Year event is always a highlight of the school’s musical calendar, and this year we had more pupils entering the competition than ever before. It is designed to encourage the skills of high-level performance and support the pupils with classes in performance practice, stagecraft and combating stage-fright. A total of 80 pupils auditioned across both schools, some auditioning in 2 or even 3 disciplines, meaning there were close to 100 performances during the heats.

Stuart King, Head of Woodwind and Percussion, who coordinated the event alongside James Way, concluded: “It’s a cliché to say the standard gets higher year on year, but it was definitely evidenced in this year’s competition.

“The Finalists all comprise the crème de la crême of our musicians, but it was exciting to have so many Y7 & Y8 pupils entering at the higher grade level. This is the fruit of projects in the Pre-Prep and Junior Schools to start children off on their musical journeys earlier. 

“It was a delightful full-circle moment to welcome John Rutter to help adjudicate the next generation. I think we have a lot to look forward to as the combined musical forces of LAET and Highgate prosper into the future.”