King’s alumna and top musician Alex Clarke has been announced as one of five finalists for the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year Award.
The former King's School high flyer, who finished her A Levels in 2018, is hoping to make it a double of top awards, having won the British Jazz Awards Rising Star Award last year. She is now preparing her 15-minute set for the judging panel of jazz aficionados for the BBC competition to be broadcast on BBC Four on Sunday November 22.
Hard-working Alex, 20, will be familiar not just to the local jazz fans as a regular performer at the Congleton Jazz and Blues Festival and at Wilmslow Jazz Club but also to thousands of local shoppers as she spent many years honing her talent on the streets. "I loved busking in Congleton and Macclesfield town-centres and how warmly I was received and it really helped me develop my initial confidence and musical skills," remembered Alex.
After leaving King’s, Alex joined the prestigious Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, but "I left because I wanted to play what I wanted to play and not necessarily what they wanted me to learn," so Alex is now working as Music Assistant at the world-renowned Warwick School. "I work with some wonderful musicians in the Music Department who are so supportive in allowing me the freedom to go and do gigs and practise, and I spend a lot of the working day at my instrument, playing with the pupils as well," said Alex, who was born and raised in Mossley, Congleton but now lives in Warwick.
However, when asked if she would be working hard for the BBC competition she added, "It has been a case of fitting in what I can around my school commitments.” She added: "For me, I don’t ever see music as being a competitive thing. Playing music - particularly improvised music - should be about being collaborative and inclusive, so I am just really looking forward to the experience of meeting other like-minded young players, and playing with a really top-class rhythm section. But at the end of the day, it is obviously excellent publicity and if winning means getting more opportunities and a wider audience then that is great.”
The five outstanding young musicians will each perform a 15-minute set in front of a panel which includes some of the mostcelebrated British instrumentalists on the current international jazz scene: trailblazing saxophonist Nubya Garcia; vibraphonist, multi-instrumentalist and music educator Orphy Robinson; and trumpeter and composer Guy Barker.
Alex has chosen one of her own original tunes, "In Her Own Sweet Way" by Dave Brubeck and “Lullaby of Leaves” from Hello Dolly. She said: "I just love a good tune. I first got into music playing the piano and flute in the King's School's wind band, but then I heard the King's jazz band and I was hooked.
"I spent most of my school days ‘living’ in the King's music block playing and listening to jazz and am really grateful to Kevin Dearden and Dan Whieldon at King's, and also Andy Scott at the Royal Northern College of Music, for all of their wonderful teaching and support at this time."
Alex who got an A*, an A and a B in her A Levels, added "In fact, if it hadn't been for the strength and quality of the King’s Music Department, I would have probably never even got into music in the first place. It’s strange to imagine my life if I hadn’t pursued music; it is awful to think I might have ended up stuck doing something I didn’t really enjoy, instead of doing something I am truly passionate about."
Jan Younghusband, Head of BBC Music TV Commissioning, said: “We are once again delighted to shine a light on some exceptional new jazz talent. We wish the young stars all the best for theirperformances. We are also grateful to our discerning judging panel and glad of the chance to bring live music to our audiences.”
King's Head of Music, Ian Crawford!, said: " Alex continues to go from strength to strength and her success in the BBC Young Musician is well deserved. The King's swing band will all be cheering her on at full blast."