A taster lesson on the bassoon has led to an enduring love of music for Sixth Form student Helen. A listening music teacher spotted her talent when she tried the instrument for the first time aged nine and persuaded her that she should take it up. Now Helen is a Licentiate of Trinity College London, a qualification she gained with Distinction and which entailed her devising and performing a 50 minute recital on bassoon and providing suitable programme notes.

Achieving this third year degree-level qualification alongside straight A* grades at GCSE has been no easy task and Helen has had to work hard to balance her music practice with her studies. “When rehearsing for concerts I can be practising for anything between 30 and 50 hours per week, so I’ll often be bringing some school work with me to get on with.” She notes that with music you can get carried away with practising: “I might decide to practise for half an hour and end up spending three hours working on a piece. It’s different from a sport, for example, where you are limited by coach availability, or physical stamina, for example. You have to discipline yourself which can be hard when you are trying to perfect a performance.”

Helen is principal bassoonist with the Berkshire Youth Symphony Orchestra and was a member of the National Youth Orchestra for two years, orchestral music being her true passion. She also achieved grade 8 in flute. She has her sights set on a career in medicine and is taking A Levels in chemistry, maths, biology and music.

Helen feels music will always play a large part in her life as: “It combines art, languages, maths, history, plus you meet so many interesting and lovely people along the way – a lot of real characters.”