Maidstone Young Musician 2023 Competition Winner: Alma-Constance Denis-Smith
Alma-Constance, 11, loves playing the piano. She was awarded the Wibaut cup at the Aldershot and Farnborough Festival, the Herschel Hanchette memorial cup at the Ealing Music Festival, and the Chopin prize at an international piano competition Music Phenomena 2020.
She is fluent in three languages and enjoys fencing.
Alma has involved herself in the celebration of women in law. She led a 2018 charity appeal, raising over £12,000 for the publication of the book First: 100 Years of Women in Law.
She also hosts a podcast, Kids Law, about how laws affect children, inviting guests such as Baroness Hale, the Lord Chief Justice, and the former Met Commissioner, In 2022, it was named by the BBC as one of the UK’s top 10 podcasts for children.
Runner Up: Oscar Mi
Oscar is 9 years old and attends Bickley Park School.
He started studying music at the age of five, and now plays both piano and cello.
Oscar has won numerous awards at festivals such as Bromley, Blackheath and Beckenham.
Oscar Mi is very passionate about music and as well as playing on his own, he often helps his sister with her accompaniment and has won many competitions.
Third place: Jessica Powell
Jessica is a 14-year-old music scholar at Walthamstow Hall where she takes part in a variety of ensembles. She also attends Junior Trinity Laban Conservatoire where she is studying for GCSE music and working towards her saxophone diploma.
She has played the saxophone for five years and has achieved grade 8 in classical saxophone and grade 7 in jazz saxophone. She also has grade 5 on the piano and plays the clarinet.
Jessica enjoys arranging, composing, and performing music. She has a place in the National Youth Concert Band, plays in the Kent Youth Jazz Orchestra, and hopes to be a professional musician when she is older.
Maidstone Young Musician 2023 Other Finalists
Elizabeth is a 15-year-old music scholar at Valley Park School, and in her GCSE year. She particularly enjoys studying music, drama, food, and English.
She is under the vocal tutelage of mezzo-soprano Tabitha Reynolds and Dr. James Meaders and is a piano student of Mrs Elaine Ford.
She has been a member of the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain for six years. She sings in the concert choir, chamber choir & senior choir and is the lead soprano at St Mary’s church in West Malling.
When not singing, Elizabeth loves going to the theatre, watching musicals, song writing, and journalling. She also enjoys travelling the country supporting Maidstone United in the National League.
Gaia, 15, was born in South Korea, starting violin at age 8. She arrived in the UK in 2018.
She studies with Jennifer Walland, and recently passed grade 7 violin with Distinction.
She has been a member of MYMS (Maidstone Youth Music Society) for four years and has played in the Kent Youth Orchestra since 2020.
She is learning piano as her second instrument and is working hard for her GCSEs.
Gaia is bilingual, speaking fluent Korean and English; she also studies French and enjoys painting landscapes. Her plan is to study music at university with a view to a career in music; playing in an orchestra is high on the list. She loves to watch live performance; her highlight of the year was seeing Hilary Hahn play at the Wigmore Hall.
Meilinda is a Steinway Scholar at Bromley High School and is currently in year 10, studying for GCSEs.
Since 2019 she has been working with Natalie Tsaldarakis (member of the Ivory Duo piano ensemble, Convivium artist and doctoral researcher at City, University of London).
Meilinda performed in a masterclass given by Steinway artist Vanessa Benelli Mosell and took part in further masterclasses and performances at the Summer International Piano School (Bromley Youth Music Trust, 2022).
She recently passed ABRSM grade 7 in piano with Distinction. She won first place in the Maidstone Music Festival 2022 solo advanced class. In her spare time, Meilinda likes to read and play badminton.
Cora, 15, started the recorder at 7 with Debbie Porro, and is now a student at Faversham’s Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School.
She has passed grade 8 recorder with Distinction and will be taking grade 6 oboe this spring.
She is the current Hastings Festival Young Instrumentalist of the Year and last year was a finalist in Young Musician of the Year competitions in both Hastings and Canterbury. Recently she took part in a masterclass at the Royal Academy of Music with recorder professor Barbara Law.
As a member of Whitstable’s recorder ensemble, Cora plays the full range from sopranino to great bass! She is oboist in her school orchestra and wind band and sings in the chamber choir. She also swims and coaches for her local swimming club, is a member of her local youth theatre group and recently completed her Duke of Edinburgh bronze award.
Maria, 18, is in year 13, studying at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham, where she takes biology, chemistry, mathematics, and Spanish.
Her music teacher, Debbie Porro, teaches her oboe and recorder. In the latter, she has achieved a Distinction at grade 8, was awarded a special prize at the Track Record Competition in 2018 and was a junior finalist in the Bursary Competition in 2019, both part of the Canterbury Music Festival. In 2021, she was awarded first place in the under 16s section of the Hastings Music Festival.
Every Saturday, Maria plays with the Whitstable recorder ensemble, with which she has competed and performed numerous times. She also enjoys learning languages, speaking German, English and Spanish.
Maidstone Young Musician 2023 Adjudicators
- Phil Horley, head of music at Sutton Valence School: pianist, organist and choral director
- Trevor Brearley, previously head of music at the Maths School, Rochester, pianist, organist and choral trainer
- Emma Cornet, cellist