Amalia is a young clarinetist from London, she’s written a blog post for us about being a member of Chineke! Junior Orchestra, which introduced her to black composers such as Joseph Boulogne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
My name is Amalia and I have been a junior at the Royal College of Music and a member of the Chineke! Junior Orchestra since I was in primary school. I was relatively new to being in an orchestra when I joined Chineke! Juniors and was a little nervous; I need not have been though. Despite being one of the youngest members at the time and the youngest clarinettist, I was received with warmth and the two older clarinettists immediately took me under their wings and I haven’t looked back since. As part of the orchestra, I have played in some prestigious concert venues such as Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre and most recently in 2020, performed for Britain’s Got Talent, where I am proud to say we got as far as the semi-finals.
During Lockdown, the Chineke! Juniors have been taking part in an Inter-generational Music Making (IMM) project called #Musicalconversations. Older residents in care homes have been requesting their favourite songs for us to record and send back via social media. It has been wonderful to learn and play songs I had previously never heard of and see the joy music has brought to the residents who have been so isolated.
One of the best things about being in the orchestra, is how it has widened my knowledge of the music of black composers such as Joseph Boulogne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Great composers that Chineke! Founder Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE enabled us to play, whose music was not being performed or celebrated in major circles. Over time this has made me wonder, if I compose, will I be heard? Sometimes there is a feeling that certain types of music are for certain types of people. This does musicians and composers around the world and Music itself a huge disservice.
My family heritage is from West Africa (though my mum and maternal grandparents were born in London). The African beats influence my music as does the music of Stevie Wonder and classical composers. I have recently heard music written by the African American composer Valerie Coleman and am learning a piece by her named ‘Sonatine for Clarinet and Piano‘, thanks to my RCM clarinet teacher, Jessie Grimes. Coleman received her first Grammy nomination in 2005 (the year I was born). I feel an affinity with her music. Coleman composes for Wind Quintet and I am hoping that my quintet will be given the opportunity to play her music as well as pieces from a widening range of composers.