To study at a prestigious institution like the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London was a dream that I had held since childhood, and one that admittedly I sometimes never thought that I had the ability to achieve. However, I successfully auditioned to study on the Advanced Instrumental Studies (MMus) course there in 2019 and subsequently progressed onto the renowned Orchestral Artistry pathway (in collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra) for the second half of my Masters’ degree (MPerf) in 2020.
Despite the mammoth implications of the pandemic, this degree has seen me perform symphonic works by Rachmaninov and Mahler at the Barbican Centre, work closely with members of the LSO and conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle and Thomas Søndergård, and gain the tools to progress onto a career as a freelance orchestral musician. I owe so much of my development to the incredible GSMD flute department, in particular my tutors Ian Clarke, Sarah Newbold, Philippa Davies and Christopher Green, to whom I will be forever grateful.
I feel privileged to have received the opportunity to not only learn an instrument in the first place, but to have been encouraged by teachers, family and county tutors to pursue a career that I truly love. My home county of Carmarthenshire - with whom I have travelled to Paris, Belgium and New York - was one of the last to offer free instrumental tuition and it is heart-breaking to see the musical opportunities given to children become more and more inaccessible.
I was lucky to be involved with the National Youth Orchestra of Wales from the age of 18 and went on to become the principal flautist. With NYOW I have worked with acclaimed conductors Carlo Rizzi and Andrew Litton and performed works by Shostakovich, Strauss and Debussy across Wales, as well as being invited to perform alongside the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and members of the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne on BBC Radio and perform world premieres of new chamber and orchestral works.
I am therefore incredibly grateful to the organisations that have supported my journey thus far and enabled me to study my Masters of Performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, in particular the James Pantyfedwen Foundation, who were an absolute life-line in such difficult times. I am also indebted to the Split Infinitive Trust and Cardiff University, from whom I received an Academic Scholarship and the Elizabeth Griffiths Prize for solo and orchestral performance during my undergraduate degree.
Whilst music is systematically unsupported in state education, I remain a fierce advocate for the industry, if not only for the belief that every child deserves the opportunity to pursue a career that they are passionate about. Life is not only about survival and practicalities, but it is about emotion and experiences, which is why artistic degrees deserve to be supported by organisations like James Pantyfedwen.