Player Spotlight: Ella Henry

Welcome back to the latest installment of our 'Player of the Month' feature!

Each month we feature one of our fantastic Chineke! or Chineke! Junior artists, and discuss with them their experiences, what Chineke! means to them, and any advice they might give to aspiring musicians.

This month we are showcasing the wonderful Chineke! Junior Orchestra violinist Ella Henry!

Ella began playing the violin aged 6 and progressed through Redbridge Music School's various ensembles. She lead the Junior String Orchestra at 12 years old and is now a member of the Symphony Orchestra.

Attending the performing arts school Wanstead High, she gained confidence through being a member of the School Choir, String Club, Orchestra and also the band which accompanied the various musical school productions.

Aged 13, she successfully auditioned for the LSO Next Generation programme and developed hugely in the three years of playing from memory and learning to approach music creatively. Each year ended with a finale on the Barbican stage with the LSO themselves. She also got to play 'Lieutenant Kijé' at Trafalgar square with the orchestra to a crowd of thousands. Through the programme, she was selected for mentoring on the Sir Clive Gillison String Scheme to receive a series of lessons from Sarah Quinn which were extremely valuable.

Although focusing on sciences as she moved to sixth form college, Ella is the founder of the first Music Society at the London Academy of Excellence, who have since formed a separate choir and enjoy performing at many school events during the year.

Ella hopes to study sciences at university and has had a busy summer on a work placement at Imperial College as well as attending a Marine Biology summer school at Southampton University.

In her spare time, Ella is a competitive swimmer and holds many Essex County qualifying times. She is also a keen cross county runner, running at county level and hopes to start competing in triathlons.

Q&A with Ella:

How did you become a musician/become involved in music?

I distinctly remember being taken to see an orchestra play with my primary school, and being stunned at the sound they produced. How did moving that stick over the instrument make such a noise? What was that instrument called? How do they know what to play? How do they play? These were all questions that crossed my six=year-old mind as I had my first orchestral experience, which meant I had to pick up the violin and try it myself.

What do you wish someone had told you when you first considering becoming a musician?

How much time it takes to actually be able to play the violin decently! Too many practices to recall ended with frustration and anger at the pieces I couldn’t play and scales I couldn't remember. Even today, I need to learn that things take a long time and hard work to become perfect. I wish I had known I wouldn’t be like those violin players I saw in that first concert within a year or two, or even ten!

How did you first hear about Chineke! Foundation? What did you initially think of the idea and has that changed since you have been involved?

I heard of Chineke! through my father and attending a concert at the Royal Festival Hall. I later got to play with the Chineke! Junior Orchestra. The level of expectation and professionalism was very high. Looking back I think this was because of the overall high standard and limited rehearsal time since everyone had to travel from all around the country. 

Have you found that there are specific challenges associated with being a BME musician. If so, what are they?

I have not encountered any specific challenges but I believe that everybody deserves to have the equal chance to opportunities in order to enjoy what they love. Organisations like Chineke! are necessary. They need to be available in all areas to encourage the progression of all into music.

What is the musical accomplishment you are most proud of?

Being able to play in Trafalgar square with the LSO was an incredible opportunity. To be able blend in with the sounds they were making and be a part of the orchestra was not only exhilarating but a great learning experience too. It was so fun, notwithstanding the nerves that came from performing in front of a massive number of people!

How has Chineke helped you/your personal development as a musician?

The fast, high level learning environment has helped me to increase my speed of improvement in the initial stages of preparing a piece for a concert. I have also developed confidence through being faced with challenging parts of music and being helped by mentors from the senior orchestra, which has not only helped me as a musician but has taught me the importance of focus and persevering as an individual.

What advice would you give to an aspiring young BME musician?

Definitely the most important advice is to join an orchestra. You will not only meet likeminded individuals who spending time with will improve your playing, but friends and connections for life. Also, nothing matches the feeling of performing in that environment and feeling completely in unison with the people around you.