About this event

  • Date and time Mon 7 Dec 2020 from 5:00pm to 6:05pm
  • Location Online
  • Organised by Medical Genetics

The fourth webinar in The genetics of… series. In this webinar, specialists will be exploring the role that genetics plays in musical and sporting ability and whether there is evidence to suggest that intelligence could be inherited. We will also be joined by the incredibly talented musical guest Sheku Kanneh-Mason and his mother Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason.

During this webinar you will:

  • Find out if genetics is important in making us musical, sporty and clever.
  • Ascertain the way genetic studies can give us insights into the heritable factors behind these traits

The genetics of…… series has been developed following feedback from delegates attending the Genetics of COVID-19 webinars over the last few weeks. Presented by the Medical Genetics section of the Royal Society of Medicine, this series of talks will focus on the role of genetics in different areas of health and well-being.

A CPD certificate with 1 CPD credit will be issued to those joining each webinar live and will be automatically issued after 7 days  to those who watched the webinar live in its entirety. Those who watch the webinar on-demand will receive a CPD certificate 30 days after the webinar has gone live.  

Join in the conversation online using #RSMLive
Follow us on Twitter: @RoySocMed 

Key speakers

Sheku Kanneh-Mason

Award winning Cellist

Speaker's biography

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.

Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason

Former lecturer at Birmingham University, Mother of seven children

Speaker's biography

Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason is a former lecturer at Birmingham University and the mother of seven children. Sheku Kanneh-Mason, her third eldest was the first black musician to win BBC Young Musician in 2016 and performed at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Two of his siblings are also former BBC Young Musician category finalists and the eldest, pianist Isata, has also presented for the Proms.

Collectively, the Kanneh-Masons have performed at the 2018 BAFTA Ceremony and concert halls across the world and, during the lockdown months, garnered huge audiences for their popular Facebook live performances from their family home in Nottingham. These precious moments of family life and music were beautifully captured in the BBC’s recent Imagine documentary. Her first book, a memoir entitled House of Music, Raising the Kanneh-Masonswas published in September 2020 by Oneworld.

Professor Yannis Pitsiladis

Professor of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Brighton

Speaker's biography

Professor Yannis Pitsiladis has an established history of research into the importance of lifestyle and genetics for human health and performance. Following 15 years at the University of Glasgow, Scotland where he created the largest known DNA biobank from world-class athletes, he was appointed (in 2013) Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Brighton. Current research priority is the application of “omics” (i.e. genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics and proteomics) to the detection of drugs in sport with particular reference to recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEpo), blood doping and testosterone. His most recent research is funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), he is currently a member of the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission, a member of the Executive Committee and Chair of the Scientific Commission of the International Sports Medicine Federation (FIMS), a member of the Scientific and Education Commission of the European Federation of Sports Medicine Associations (EFSMA), a member of WADA’s Health Medical Research Committee (HMRC), past member a WADA’s List Expert Group and is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). He has published over 185 peer-reviewed papers, written and edited a number of books and has featured in numerous research documentaries (e.g. ESPN, BBC, NHK Japan, CNBC) and popular books (e.g. Bounce, The Sports Gene).

Professor Robert Plomin

MRC Research Professor, Social, Genetics and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London

Dr Melita Irving

President, Medical Genetics Section, Royal Society of Medicine


View the programme

Welcome and introduction
Direct to consumer genetic testing: Helpful, harmful or pure fun?

Professor Yannis Pitsiladis, Professor of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Brighton

The genetics of intelligence

Professor Robert Plomin, MRC Research Professor, Social, Genetics and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London

The genetics of musicality

Dr Melita Irving, President, Medical Genetics Section, Royal Society of Medicine

Panel discussion

Professor Yannis Pitsiladis, Professor Robert Plomin, Mrs Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason and Sheku Kanneh-Mason MBE

Close of meeting



More from this series:

MGP50 Promo
Webinar CPD

The genetics of longevity

This webinar will give you fascinating insights into the role that genes play in living a long life. Join experts to explore whether there is sufficient evidence to support genetic determination of mortality, a journey that will take us round the epigenetic clock via the impact of environment on health.

MGP51 Promo
Webinar CPD

The genetics of obesity: Episode 3

The third webinar in The genetics of… series. This webinar will explore the role of genetics in obesity. Join us to find out from leaders in the field about the role our genes play in contributing to the battle of the bulge. 

*Registration for this webinar will close 2 hours prior to the start time. You will receive the webinar link 2 hours before the meeting. Late registrations will not be accepted. 

Webinar recordings will be available for registered delegates up to 30 days after the live webinar, via Zoom. The link will be sent 24 hours after the webinar takes place. 

This webinar will be recorded and stored by the Royal Society of Medicine and may be distributed in future on various internet channels.  

Man searching computer

Join the RSM and get free access to digital learning resources

The RSM has an extensive digital learning and online e-resources platform. As a member you'll enjoy free access to a wealth of online  resources, including 5,000 subscription and open access e-journals, 2,000 e-books and 5 key medical databases, to support your clinical decision-making and research.

Become a member