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Cheadle Hulme teenager Jack Sheen is the new BBC Young Composer of the Year

PUBLISHED: 01:16 11 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:07 20 February 2013

Jack was recently named the winner of BBC Young Composer of the Year

Jack was recently named the winner of BBC Young Composer of the Year

Cheadle Hulme teenager Jack Sheen is the new BBC Young Composer of the Year. This talented musician may become accustomed to earning prestigious titles ... WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

A phone call on a train changed everything for Jack Sheen. The 18-year-old musician was on his way back home to Cheadle Hulme from Manchester city centre when a voice on the other end of the line told him hed won BBC Young Composer of the Year.


I couldnt quite believe it, said Jack, a former pupil at Cheadle Hulme School. Id sent my composition off and didnt think any more of it. Then I got a call saying Id won. I was absolutely over the moon, it was amazing.

There was a lady sitting near me on the train who I told first. I think she could tell Id had some good news, so she asked me. Then I rang my mum of course. I didnt hear anything else from the BBC for a while and I kept wondering if it was actually true. I still cant quite believe its happened even now.

As part of his prize, Jacks winning composition, Aviaries for string quartet, was played by the renowned London music ensemble, Aurora Orchestra, as part of Proms Plus at the citys Royal College of Music. He will also produce a BBC commission over the coming months.

Music has been a lifelong passion for Jack, who is now simultaneously studying music degrees at both the Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester University. As a youngster he played several instruments including the guitar, double bass and cello. The Pink Floyd and Pet Shop Boys tunes he was brought up on they were bands his dad Roger loved are a far cry from the contemporary classical music he now adores.

Jack, who lives with mum Katie and brother, Freddie, in Cheadle Hulme, said: I still love the music I listened to when I was younger. It was always having music around me when I was little that started it.

After a while I found my own way and listened to rock and pop music and then moved on to world music and jazz. After that came classical and I just loved it. I always used to borrow manuscripts and CDs from school so I could listen to them and understand as much of it as I could. I had great music teachers who helped me and supported me a lot too.

I love music that has lots of different layers and is difficult to figure out. I think thats why I love classical music so much.

What Jack has already achieved is remarkable - and all this while excelling in his regular studies. This summer, Jack achieved 2A*s at A Level and a D1 Distinction in the Cambridge Pre-U. But what makes Jack exceptional is that until he had formal tuition in recent years, his musical skills were self-taught.

He said: It was when I was doing GCSE music when I was 15 that I really started to take things more seriously. I got a teacher, Katherine Dewhurst, and it was her help that was a real turning point for me.

I decided to go for the audition for the National Youth Orchestra. It was pretty terrifying when I walked into my interview and they said oh, youre the self-taught one. I didnt really know what to think but it turned out they liked what I did.

There are 120 musicians but just seven composers and Im one of them, its unbelievable. Writing compositions and directing orchestras like this is pretty intimidating but you just have to get up there and get on with it.

As well as attending sessions at The Music Place in Altrincham, where he has now been doing some tutoring, Jack also played with the Stockport Youth Orchestra for 18 months. But it is the composing he loves most.

He said: It has been an exciting year for me and, although it has been hard work, it has been very exciting. Getting a place at the National Youth Orchestra and the BBC Young Composer of the Year are prestigious things to get and there are only a few people who get both in the same year.

Now Id love to travel and perform with amazing orchestras and to teach other people who love music. Hopefully I can do it all. n


A phone call on a train changed everything for Jack Sheen. The 18-year-old musician was on his way back home to Cheadle Hulme from Manchester city centre when a voice on the other end of the line told him hed won BBC Young Composer of the Year.

I couldnt quite believe it, said Jack, a former pupil at Cheadle Hulme School. Id sent my composition off and didnt think any more of it. Then I got a call saying Id won. I was absolutely over the moon, it was amazing.

There was a lady sitting near me on the train who I told first. I think she could tell Id had some good news, so she asked me. Then I rang my mum of course. I didnt hear anything else from the BBC for a while and I kept wondering if it was actually true. I still cant quite believe its happened even now.

As part of his prize, Jacks winning composition, Aviaries for string quartet, was played by the renowned London music ensemble, Aurora Orchestra, as part of Proms Plus at the citys Royal College of Music. He will also produce a BBC commission over the coming months.

Music has been a lifelong passion for Jack, who is now simultaneously studying music degrees at both the Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester University. As a youngster he played several instruments including the guitar, double bass and cello. The Pink Floyd and Pet Shop Boys tunes he was brought up on they were bands his dad Roger loved are a far cry from the contemporary classical music he now adores.

Jack, who lives with mum Katie and brother, Freddie, in Cheadle Hulme, said: I still love the music I listened to when I was younger. It was always having music around me when I was little that started it.

After a while I found my own way and listened to rock and pop music and then moved on to world music and jazz. After that came classical and I just loved it. I always used to borrow manuscripts and CDs from school so I could listen to them and understand as much of it as I could. I had great music teachers who helped me and supported me a lot too.




I love music that has lots of different layers and is difficult to figure out. I think thats why I love classical music so much.

What Jack has already achieved is remarkable - and all this while excelling in his regular studies. This summer, Jack achieved 2A*s at A Level and a D1 Distinction in the Cambridge Pre-U. But what makes Jack exceptional is that until he had formal tuition in recent years, his musical skills were self-taught.

He said: It was when I was doing GCSE music when I was 15 that I really started to take things more seriously. I got a teacher, Katherine Dewhurst, and it was her help that was a real turning point for me.

I decided to go for the audition for the National Youth Orchestra. It was pretty terrifying when I walked into my interview and they said oh, youre the self-taught one. I didnt really know what to think but it turned out they liked what I did.

There are 120 musicians but just seven composers and Im one of them, its unbelievable. Writing compositions and directing orchestras like this is pretty intimidating but you just have to get up there and get on with it.

As well as attending sessions at The Music Place in Altrincham, where he has now been doing some tutoring, Jack also played with the Stockport Youth Orchestra for 18 months. But it is the composing he loves most.

He said: It has been an exciting year for me and, although it has been hard work, it has been very exciting. Getting a place at the National Youth Orchestra and the BBC Young Composer of the Year are prestigious things to get and there are only a few people who get both in the same year.

Now Id love to travel and perform with amazing orchestras and to teach other people who love music. Hopefully I can do it all.



The print version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Cheshire Life

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