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28th May, 2019

Chi-chi Nwanoku: Changing Perceptions: A Glimpse of Tomorrow’s Orchestras

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Event Details

28th May, 2019
18:00 -
University Building
City, University of London
Northampton Square

The Department of Music is delighted to welcome Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE to the university for the second in the Department’s Distinguished Lecture Series, following Michael Nyman’s lecture in 2018. Chi-chi’s lecture will focus on the theme of diversity in music, both within academia and in the wider sphere of professional music making.

The lecture will be followed by refreshments for all guests. Please book a place in advance.

A double bass player with an international career as soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player, a broadcaster, teacher, board member and trustee of numerous organisations, and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, Chi-chi has made an inspiring and outstanding contribution to music and culture in Britain. She launched the Chineke! Foundation in 2015, which supports, inspires and encourages black and minority ethnic (BME) classical musicians working in the UK and Europe, under the motto ‘championing change and celebrating diversity in classical music’.

The eldest of five children from Nigerian and Irish parents, Chi-chi was seven years old when she discovered the piano at a neighbour’s house. She returned daily to play, until the exasperated neighbours wheeled the piano up the road and gave it to her. Meanwhile, she was spotted by an athletics coach and trained as a 100-metre sprinter, eventually competing at national level. This career ended abruptly due to a knee injury aged 18, at which point she actively pursued a career in music. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music and with Franco Petracchi in Rome, and soon found herself in demand internationally, going on to gain a reputation as one of the finest exponents of her instrument today.

Chi-chi is the Founder, Artistic and Executive Director of the Chineke! Foundation, which celebrates diversity in the classical music industry through its two orchestras, the Chineke! Orchestra and Chineke! Junior Orchestra, as well as its educational and outreach work. The Foundation aims to give classical BME musicians a platform on which to excel, and increase the representation of BME musicians in British and European orchestras.

As a broadcaster, Chi-chi presented BBC Radio 3 Requests for four years, besides televised BBC Proms. She presented a two-part series for BBC Radio 4 in 2015 which brought to life the stories and music of black composers and musicians from the 18th century, whose vivid presence on the classical music scene has slipped through the net. Chi-chi was the mentor for the 2016 BBC 4 series All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge and a jury member on BBC 2’s Classical Star. She has been featured in the BBC Radio 4 series Only Artists and was Kirsty Young’s guest on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in February 2018.

Chi-chi is a trustee of the London Music Fund and Tertis Foundation, and a Council Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society. Past Boards include the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) and National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. She created the ABO/RPS Salomon Prize, which celebrates the “unsung heroes” working in the ranks of British orchestras.

Chi-chi was awarded the OBE in 2017 and the MBE in 2001 for Services to Music in the Queen’s Birthday honours. In 2016 she was appointed as an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Laban Conservatoire in recognition of her “pioneering contribution to music, in particular the inspiration she provides, the commitment she has shown, and the contribution she has made to addressing inequalities within classical music in the UK, most recently through the Chineke! Foundation”.

Chi-chi was awarded the Black British Business Awards’ Person of the Year in 2016 and was the recipient of the ABO Award in 2017, which is awarded for “the most important contribution to the orchestral life of the UK”. In 2018 she was named in the Top 10 of BBC Woman’s Hour, Women in Music Power List, won the inaugural Commonwealth Cultural Enterprise Award for Women in the Arts at the Commonwealth Business Women’s Awards, won the Creative Industries Award at the Variety Catherine Awards and made an Honorary Doctor of Music at the University of Chichester.

Chi-chi’s life and career were the subject of Barrie Gavin’s 2012 documentary Tales from the Bass Line and she is featured in the Royal Academy of Music’s 2018-2019 exhibition Hitting the Right Note: Amazing Women of the Academy.

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