NCYM is the flagship Music School of Norfolk Music Hub and Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London.

Interviews with NCYM Leverhulme Arts Scholars 2017

Last year we announced the first three recipients of Leverhulme Arts Scholarships at NCYM, made possible by the Foundation for Young Musicians (FYM) and the Guildhall School Development Department. The scholarships are awarded to outstanding musicians on the recommendation of the Head of NCYM and are awarded in the form of a financial bursary of £500, to be put towards the cost of tuition and fees.

We caught up with the three scholars of 2016/17 to find out more about them. Read more below.

Leverhulme Arts Scholars

Recipients of the Leverhulme Arts Scholarship 2016/17 [from left – right] Ben Pease Barton, Joanna Asher, Syzmon Lis

Q1: Tell us a bit about you and the instrument you play.

Ben – My name’s Ben Pease Barton, I’m 16 and I go to City of Norwich School. I play the accordion, piano and percussion, and I do composition here too. I started off on percussion from a young age, but now I would probably say my main focus is with piano and composition (with David Stowell at NCYM).

Joanna – My name is Joanna Asher, I’m 14, I go to City of Norwich School and I play bassoon. My teacher is Tom Hickman.

Syzmon – My name is Syzmon Lis and I am 13. I am from Poland and I go to Notre Dame High School. I play violin and my teacher is Paul Warburton.

Q2: How long have you been learning your instrument?

Ben – I come from very much a folk background so from a young age I just played along with the folk music that was going on around me. I used to go along to Irish folk sessions with a djembe as my Dad also played the djembe, and I developed a quite a strong sense of rhythm. Then when I was…I think I was in Year 4 I decided that I wanted to learn to play notes, not just rhythms, so I started having piano lessons around then.

Joanna – I think I’ve been learning about 5 or 6 years now. I was lucky enough to go to a school where everyone had the option to play an instrument. I put my first choice as the clarinet but because I already played the piano my teacher picked me out and said ‘we have a tenoroon [mini-bassoon] ready so why don’t you try that out?’ So I tried it and I didn’t mind it, so I carried on and now it’s brought me such great things that I’ll never stop!

Syzmon – I have been learning the violin for 7 years.

Q3: What is your long-term ambition?

Ben – I am undecided but I’m thinking of potentially pursuing a composition degree or possibly not even going down the music route! I’m not the sort of person that hugely enjoys performance but I like music as a communal thing, to assist making my own music and playing in ensembles. So if I was to do music it would be compositional or possibly a more academic music degree at university.

Joanna – I still don’t really know but I would love to play bassoon for my whole life and I would love to play in orchestras. I think that would be my dream just to play in orchestras, whether I’m doing it for my job or just as a hobby.

Szymon – My ambition in music is to be a professional violinist, either solo or in orchestras.

Q4: What is it like to be recognised at NCYM for your achievements and musical potential?

Ben – I was quite surprised actually! It’s really nice to be recognised in that it can open up opportunities, obviously with the link with the Guildhall…it’s nice to have that connection because I would think about applying there.

Joanna – It’s really nice because I think the bassoon is a difficult instrument, and I’ve find it tough at times…I’ve thought of giving up. So now to be recognised it’s really important to me and I think that will stay with me and keep me going if I ever feel like quitting in the future. A definite confidence boost to know that I’ve been recognised for my achievements, definitely.

Szymon – I feel proud of myself to be recognised for this. I try to practice because it’s not always perfect, but I have the goal of wanting to get better and I like to be at NCYM.

Q5: What does receiving this scholarship mean to you, and how will it benefit you personally or professionally?

Ben – Obviously there’s a financial benefit, and also just the recognition and opportunities it might open. It offers support towards the fees and lessons here too. Being an NCYM member in itself is very beneficial because it gives you that link with the Guildhall and the other CYM centres that are sprouting in various places and so they’re becoming more nationally recognised. Also we get free auditions for the Guildhall, and it’s just a good thing to have on my CV, having been involved with the CYM centres and having that recognition as a recipient of the first Leverhulme Arts Scholarship here.

Joanna – It’s very important because of the costs of hiring the bassoon and the lessons, everything does add up, so I think financially it’s very useful. It’s definitely going to take me places if I ever did want to go to the Guildhall to study…I think it would be a big help having this, and even just to get other jobs, it’ll be useful for people to see that I’ve got this.

Szymon – Having this scholarship is good and I think it will help me with my wish of becoming professional one day. It also helps with the cost of lessons, because my parents ask me to go [to NCYM] every time because I’ve got this scholarship, and it’s better for me to go because [the bursary] has paid for it.

To find out more details on bursaries and scholarships at NCYM, go to