"I didn't anticipate getting this far" - The teenage tuba player from Sheffield competing to win BBC Young Musician 2020

A teenage tuba player from Sheffield will appear in the Category Finals of the BBC Young Musician of the Year this weekend.

Saturday, 16th May 2020, 4:43 pm
Updated Saturday, 16th May 2020, 4:44 pm

William Burton, from Lodge Moor, performed in the preliminary round of the biennial competition last October and was delighted to gain a place in the televised final which he filmed at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff shortly before social distancing measures were introduced.

The 18-year-old went head-to-head with four other UK musicians in the brass category, watched on by an expert panel of judges.

His pre-recorded performance will be aired on BBC4 on Sunday, May 17, with viewers able to see if he makes it through to the next round.

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Brass Finalist BBC Young Musician 2020 William Burton - (Photo: BBC - Photographer: Kirsten McTernan)

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Speaking of his performance, William said: “I didn’t really anticipate getting this far, I was quietly confident and knew I was playing well but just remember going in thinking I’d enjoy it and see what comes of it – if I was enjoying it I knew I’d be playing my best anyway. I enjoyed the performance so we’ll have to wait and see.”

William discovered his musical talents as a student at Lydgate Junior School after attending a concert by Tapton Youth Brass Band.

He initially began playing the tenor horn aged nine before switching to the tuba three years later when he moved to Tapton School.

“I knew I wanted to play some sort of musical instrument by the time I got to junior school and then it was by chance I got into brass playing,” William said.

“Some friends of ours, the Maltby family they’re called, told us about this wacky brass-teacher called Pat Phillips so when I was seven I went to my first brass band concert,” William said.

“A few years later, when I was nine, I decided that was something I wanted to do so that’s where it all started. I always wanted to play something a bit bigger with a deeper sound and that’s why I chose the tuba.”

William comes from a family of musicians – his father opting for the guitar, his mother for the piano, and his brother for the tenor horn, which he plays with Tapton Youth Brass Band.

Determined to challenge himself, the Tapton School pupil says he took his music ‘one step further’ when he joined the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain, before deciding to audition for the BBC Young Musician competition.

He added: “I’ve never got bored with it, some weeks I’m more inspired than others to pick up the tuba. It’s always been a nice way to unwind especially at the moment. It’s relaxing especially when I play a piece that I’ve been playing for months or years and it’s just something I can play without having to think about it, I can just enjoy the music.

“I’d seen past performances of the BBC Young Musician competition and it looked a really exciting thing to be part of. I’d done all my formal grade exams by that point so wondered what was next.

“Two years ago, I just thought I’d leave it this time but enter when it next came around – when it reached October last year that’s what I did.”

In terms of the future, William said he is keeping his options open and has applied to study history at the University of Manchester next year, where he will have access to the Royal Northern College of Music.

The BBC Young Musician Semi-Final and Grand Final are currently scheduled to broadcast in the autumn.

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