Polly Bartlett, BBC Young Musician: “An experience I will relish forever”
The Bournemouthian was recently lucky enough to spend some time talking to Polly Bartlett, esteemed Deputy School Captain, who has been extremely busy over the last year in pursuing her musical ambitions. Not only has Polly been granted a Scholarship to The Royal College of Music in London, but in March she performed in the category final of this year’s BBC Young Musician competition. On top of this, Miss Bartlett also received The David Ruffer prize for her performance in the school’s House Music competition.
Music has been a part of Polly’s life since she was very young. Encouraged to take up an instrument by her father, a percussionist, she started off with the recorder and since then her passion for music has only grown, achieving proficiency in a number of other instruments including oboe and piano. Polly spoke of her commitment to music and the sacrifices she has made, stating: “You start to doubt yourself. I do fewer A levels and I did fewer GCSEs than other people – when you’re 14 that’s quite a big thing to decide to do because you’re risking your future. So, yes it is a leap of faith but hopefully it’s one that’s paid off and will pay off in the future”.
Music colleges are the equivalent of University for students wishing to enter the Classical Music industry with the application process running alongside UCAS. The sole difference is that placement offers are dispersed as and when the College wishes. As well as an interview, music college applicants must also audition which in Polly’s case meant playing pieces set by the colleges at three auditions in the space of two weeks. Fortunately, despite the competitive nature of the selection process which she describes as, “a bit brutal,” she received a scholarship offer from all three. Polly has chosen to attend The Royal College of Music in South Kensington, London where she will study with the principals of both The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Sinfonietta.
Miss Bartlett knew about the BBC Young Musician competition from having watched the final on television in previous years. As she was turning 18, this was the final year she would be eligible to participate so she decided she would “give it a shot”. From the very beginning, the standard of competitors is extremely high as one has to have achieved grade 8 to even apply. Describing her first audition in October as very formal, she hastened to add: “From audition one, there was a camera there so it was very television-orientated and it wasn’t just about what you played – you had to look good on stage as well”. The first audition required Polly to play a nine-minute programme on both recorder and oboe and she found out she had reached the final 25 in both disciplines a week later.
The second round of auditions took place in Cardiff in December. This time, Polly played a 12-minute programme in front of a panel of judges including a distinguished composer, the producer of the programme and a clarinettist from The Welsh National Opera. The second round also included a practise TV interview so the BBC could see how competitors behaved in front of a camera. When Polly found out she had reached the final five on recorder and was therefore invited to the woodwind category final, everything started to get “a bit mad”. The BBC required a rather large amount of information such as programmes, TV licenses and even what Miss Bartlett intended to wear. A camera crew came to her house and students may remember seeing them when they filmed at school.
The final, which took place in March in Cardiff, was a live concert to an audience and a panel of judges and was also filmed and recorded for TV and Radio 3 broadcast. In preparation for the final, Polly was delighted to meet a number of people who have worked on popular BBC shows such as Pointless and Only Connect and took particular enjoyment from having her make-up done by Ed Sheeran’s make-up artist. Polly played a 16-minute programme for which she stood alone on stage save for piano accompaniment, which she described by stating: “I did enjoy it. It was the first time I’ve got really properly nervous but it was an experience I will never forget. There was a camera waiting for us as we came off stage and Rhys the cameraman shoved a camera in my face but I was so overwhelmed by everything that was happening that I kind of went weueueurgh”. Humble as ever, she adds “everyone else in this final was ridiculously good – they were phenomenal”. The results of the competition will not be available until it airs on TV on the 15th of April.