Award winning Cellist
The winner of the 2016 BBC young musician competition, Sheku Kanneh-Mason is already in great demand from major orchestras and concert halls worldwide. He became a household name worldwide in May 2018 after performing at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Windsor Castle. His performance was greeted with universal excitement after being watched by nearly two billion people globally. In June 2018, Sheku received the male artist of the year and the critics’ choice awards at the re-launched classic Brit Awards, and in July 2018 became the first artist to receive the new Brit certified breakthrough award, having sold over 30,000 copies of his debut album in the UK and surpassing 100,000 album sales worldwide. In January 2020, Sheku released his second album, Elgar, featuring the cello concerto, which he recorded at abbey road studios with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra. On its release, it reached no. 8 in the UK official album chart, making Sheku the youngest classical instrumentalist and the first cellist in history to reach the UK top 10.
Sheku has made debuts with orchestras such as the Seattle symphony, the Orchestre Philharmonique de radio France, Netherlands chamber orchestra at the Concertgebouw, the Atlanta Symphony, Japan Philharmonic, BBC symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Frankfurt radio symphony, and Baltimore symphony orchestras. Forthcoming highlights include performances with the city of Birmingham symphony, Toronto symphony, BBC Scottish Symphony, and Stockholm philharmonic orchestras.
Recent recital performances include Wigmore Hall, Zurich Tonhalle, Lucerne festival, festival de Saint-denis, Théâtre des Champs Elysées Paris, Teatro della pergola Florence, and a critically acclaimed tour of North America that took in Los Angeles, Berkeley, St Paul, Vancouver, Ann Arbor, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Sheku’s recital debut at Carnegie hall New York. Upcoming recital debuts include London’s Barbican Hall, L’Auditori Barcelona, Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional, and the chamber hall of the Berlin Philharmonie.
In 2017, Sheku made his BBC proms debut at the Royal Albert Hall as soloist with the Chineke! Orchestra, an ensemble with which he enjoys a special relationship, having taken part in their debut concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 2015. He returned to the proms twice more as part of the 40th anniversary of BBC Young Musician in 2018, and to perform the Elgar concerto with the city of Birmingham Symphony and Mirga Gražinytė-tyla in 2019. Sheku is passionate about the importance of making classical music accessible to all and is an ambassador for music education charities music masters and future talent. During the Covid-19 lockdown in spring 2020, Sheku and his siblings performed in twice-weekly live streams from their family home in Nottingham to audiences of hundreds of thousands around the globe.
In February 2018, Sheku performed ‘evening of roses’ at the Baftas awards show at the Royal Albert Hall. He was joined on stage by four of his six siblings, all of whom perform classical music to an exceptional standard. This was the first time any artist has been invited to perform during the ceremony two years running and followed his memorable performance of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ at the 2017 Baftas, the subsequent recording going viral on YouTube.
In July 2019, Sheku was awarded the prestigious 2019 PPL classical award at the o2 silver clef ceremony in support of independent music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins. In 2017, he was awarded the south bank sky arts breakthrough award, given by the judges to the most promising young artist across all genres, following recent winners Billie Piper and Stormzy. He has performed alongside Hollywood A-listers in ‘the children’s monologues’ directed by Danny Boyle at Carnegie hall New York and has played at no. 10 Downing Street in front of an illustrious guest list for black history month.
Sheku is currently a full-time ABRSM scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music, studying with Hannah Roberts. He began learning the cello at the age of six with Sarah Huson-Whyte and then studied with Ben Davies at the junior department of the Royal Academy of Music where he held the ABRSM junior scholarship. He has received masterclass tuition from Guy Johnston, Ralph Kirshbaum, Robert Max, Alexander Baillie, Steven Doane, Rafael Wallfisch, Jo Cole, Melissa Phelps, and Julian Lloyd Webber and, in July 2017, participated in the Verbier festival academy in masterclasses with Frans Helmerson and Miklos Perenyi. A keen chamber musician, Sheku performs with his sister, Isata and brother, Braimah, as a member of the Kanneh-mason trio.
Sheku was appointed a member of the most excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2020 New Year’s Honours list. He plays an Antonius and Hieronymus Amati cello c.1610, kindly on loan from a private collection.