Alumni Spotlight

Will McGahon tells us about his time at BEAT and what’s doing now.

I started the violin aged 7, and was flailing around with terrible teachers and going nowhere until I started going to Finchley Music Centre every Saturday morning. I was awestruck by the talent of the older students in Jazz Club (and its wonderful director Julian Hinton), and musicality of orchestra strings tutors like Bev Lee Harling and Gillian McIntosh.

Flash-forward to starting A-Levels and my violin playing had hit a brick wall. Thankfully, my local school didn’t offer music as an option, so I studied through the music service at Woodhouse with the brilliant Jayne Barnes. Jayne helped and nurtured everyone on that course to do the absolute best, I was instilled with a sense of motivation and understanding of music I hadn’t seen before. Jayne also encouraged me to get involved in the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, who I played with for a few years under some amazing conductors, including their previous director Peter Ash, who we toured with playing Alpensinfonie by Richard Strauss. Performing that amazing tone-poem was some sort of musical epiphany for me and propelled me to take music seriously and try to get into music college. I owe Jayne a massive debt of gratitude for giving me support in the right direction, without which I wouldn’t be a musician today! Subsequently, through Jayne and BEAT I reconnected with my old orchestral tutor Gillian McIntosh, who agreed to teach me and assist my dream of going to conservatoire.

After a lot of grafting, I managed it, and chose to study at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester with Julia Hanson. I adored my time up north, away from the mania of London and seized upon any and all music opportunities that came my way; Baroque violin lessons, visiting professors and chamber music tutors – you name it, I probably did it at RNCM. I left after four years feeling ready to play any and all music that came my way, and had an amazing time freelancing until the pandemic hit. During my final two years at RNCM I had become interested in all aspects of historical performance, rifling through treatise, old editions, historical recordings etc. I particularly had an affinity with HIP Romantic Music, and had heard about a course in the southwest of France which covered classical and romantic period performance. As there was no more playing work during COVID, I decided to apply for the MRPE course in Saintes and miraculously got a scholarship for my year of study. I had a great time meeting new friends and exploring new ideas about old music!

I’m now a freelance professional with both modern and historical orchestras across the UK and Europe, such as Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, United Strings of Europe, Britten Sinfonia, Solomon’s Knot, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and many more! I’ve also been lucky enough to perform chamber music with Huw Watkins, Susie Chen, Orlando Jopling, Milena Simovic, Ben Griffiths, Reinoud Ford, Hannah Shaw and others.

If you’d like to find out more about learning the violin with BEAT, joining one of our Music Academy ensembles, or taking A-Level music, please use the contact form to get in touch.