One of my earliest memories at primary school was hearing a Year Six student play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the flute in assembly. It must have been an outstanding performance, because from that moment on I was desperate to learn the flute – I went to the school flute teacher every term to see if I was big enough to hold the instrument and was eventually allowed to start lessons a year later. I was incredibly lucky that both my local primary and secondary school had thriving music departments, with teachers that encouraged me to think of music as a career from an early age. At 14, I auditioned for Chetham’s School of Music as well as the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and National Youth Orchestra of Wales. The next four years of my life were a blur of music-making fun during both term time and the school holidays!
I have so many highlights from my time studying at the Royal College of Music (RCM), but high up the list have to be performing in the RCM Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink, playing in the BBC Symphony Orchestra as part of their Student Pathway Scheme and performing a recital at the Elgar Room at Royal Albert Hall. While at RCM, I also became heavily involved in the Learning & Participation department, RCM Sparks. Through Sparks, I learned to create and present workshops for schools, and even ended up presenting concerts for hundreds of school children.
Since graduating from RCM in 2018, my musical career has been extremely varied. In addition to my more standard chamber music and orchestral gigs, I have also performed to a packed crowd on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and made my flute-playing (and singing!) debut in the West End, on 45 minutes notice. I love that as a freelance musician, no two weeks are ever the same - there are always new projects and exciting opportunities on the horizon.
As well as performing in concert halls, I also regularly perform in much more intimate settings as part of the organisation Live Music Now, which aims to bring live music to those who couldn’t otherwise access it. My ensemble Campana Duo are currently in residence at a care home, where we lead weekly interactive workshops with people living with dementia. This residency is designed to train care staff to use music in everyday life at the home, and it is incredible to see the positive impact an hour of listening to singing, dancing and listening to live music can have on the residents’ mood and wellbeing.
Royal College of Music
Where’s your favourite place to listen to music and why?
For me, no recording ever compares to live music and I am so lucky to live in London amidst so many diverse venues. However, when I’m not able to make it out to a concert, I really love putting on something new while I’m cooking dinner. Recently I’ve been through symphonies, Top 40 and even some Welsh-language contemporary folk while chopping vegetables.
What do you do with your time when you’re not playing music?
I decided to take up rowing in Putney a few years ago, as a way to meet new people. This started up an interest in sports and exercise for me, and while I no longer row, I am now an avid CrossFit fan. Having been a bit of a diva at school, I refused to take part in sport in case I hurt my fingers. I now realise that being strong and fit is incredibly important as a musician. We put our bodies through a lot with the hours of practice and rehearsal we do!
Cathy is a member of the 2020-2021 fellowship.