A 10-year-old Brentwood Preparatory School cellist has become one of the youngest musicians in the country to achieve a Grade 8 cello with distinction.
Alex, who first started to play the cello at the tender age of 6, practices the instrument for 30 minutes every morning before he goes off to school. He is also working towards Grade 7 in piano, Grade 4 Singing and Grade 1 in the trumpet.
The multi-talented Year Six pupil, who puts his success down to being able to ‘feel the notes’, is now working towards the new ARSM Diploma. He plays in the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain (NCO) and various School orchestras.
Asked what his favourite piece of music is, a modest Alex said: “When I start a new piece that is always my favourite….. and that’s because of the challenge.”
Alex’s mum, Dr Sally Lockyer, who plays the violin and piano, accompanied Alex on the piano when he sat his Grade 8 exam. “It’s nice to be in there with him,” she said. “It helps that I have a background in music and can support Alex when he’s practicing.
I think the secret is to touch the instrument every day because if you miss a day you really do notice.”
Alex has weekly lessons with professional cellist and Old Brentwood Christopher Gascoine in Upminster. Christopher, a Music Scholar who left Brentwood in 2006, passed his Grade 8 well before his contemporaries at the age of 15.
He described Alex as a ‘very, very rare talent.’ He said he had not encountered such a musician before and doubted he would see it again for a very long time. “To get to Grade 8 in four years is unreal and to score 138 points (out of a maximum 150) is amazing.”
Teaching Alex for the past two years had been both rewarding and exciting. “It is a joy to teach him,” he said.
Prep Headmaster Jason Whiskerd said he would be amazed if there were any other children of Alex’s age who had achieved such a milestone. “It has been an absolute joy to be able to listen to Alex play his cello during his time at Brentwood. His musicality and love of the cello shine through every time he performs. Alex is a gifted musician but his talents are boosted by hours of hard work which is a lesson to us all. He has a very bright future and I look forward to hearing him play for many years to come.”
Brentwood School has a reputation for nurturing young musicians and it is not the first time the School has been able to celebrate such exceptional talent. In May 2014, pianist and Old Brentwood Martin Bartlett was crowned the BBC Young Musician of the Year.