In conversation: AYM Alumnus Ben Goldscheider

Just before Christmas AYM’s Matthew Tiller was delighted to catch up with AYM Alumnus Ben Goldscheider. Born in London in 1997, Ben began playing the horn at the age of 9 and started studying with Susan Dent at the Royal College of Music Junior Department from the age of 11. In 2020, he graduated with honours from the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin, studying with Radek Baborák. 

At the age of 18 Ben was a Concerto Finalist in the 2016 BBC Young Musician Competition. Since then he has been nominated by the Barbican as an ECHO Rising Star and last autumn made his debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ed Gardner at the Royal Festival Hall.

Ben told Matthew about his formative years, support from AYM, career so far and plans for the future.

How old were you when you started playing? Your parents are musicians aren’t they?

I began playing the Horn at the age of nine, having previously started on the cello at the age of six. Both my parents were professional string players and so it was inevitable I would play something! The Horn, however, was chosen as an aid to help strengthen my lungs because at the age of six, I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis. I quickly became obsessed with the beautiful sound of the instrument (not necessarily made by me!) and remember being transfixed by performances of works such as the Alpine Symphony and Mahler’s 9th as well as a recording of the Mozart Horn Concerti played by Barry Tuckwell.   

What obstacles did you face when learning your instrument? 

The Horn is infamously considered to be one of the more difficult instruments to play and so, naturally, progress at the beginning was fairly slow and not very satisfying! Just to produce a sound is a great challenge and so a big obstacle was to have the belief that once I improved my technique, I would be able to reap the rewards by playing wonderful music in ensembles and orchestras. Music is a very humbling profession; we can learn as much as we like every day but sound is finite and so we must start again from scratch every morning, despite knowing a little bit more than we did the day before.

I was, and still am, very lucky to have a very small, supportive circle of friends and family around me who to this day, are able to guide me in the right direction and keep me on track.   

Photo by Kaupo Kikkas

How did AYM’s support through the Awards programme make a difference to you?

AYM made THE difference to my development. Without a sufficient instrument, there is a ceiling to the progress that can be made by any individual. The support that AYM gave me to buy a good quality instrument enabled me to progress in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. Such a basic thing has unbelievable consequences along the chain of events that is my life and I will forever be grateful for their belief in me. 

What are the seminal moments in your career so far, good or bad? 

There is no doubt that the BBC Young Musician competition made a huge difference to my career. It opened a lot of doors and enabled many opportunities that allowed me to build a career. The opportunity simply to play and be heard is the hardest thing for musicians to get and so I am very conscious of how important the BBC were in that respect.

I have also had some incredible experiences since then, such as making my solo debut at the BBC Proms, playing chamber music with Daniel Barenboim and Martha Argerich and making debuts at major European venues such as Wigmore Hall, the Musikverein in Vienna and the Philharmonie in Berlin. I think the most important lesson I have learned thus far, aside from the necessity to work hard and dedicate yourself to music, is that the main driver for it all is the love we have for what we do. It is essential to nurture this and remain in touch with it, through good and bad. 

Photo by Kaupo Kikkas

Tell us about your latest album!

In May 2020, I released my second recital album called Legacy, A Tribute to Dennis Brain. The idea was to celebrate the centenary of the legendary Horn player Dennis Brain by pairing pieces by composers he worked with, pieces written in his memory and then commissioning two new works to pay homage to his excellent record of promoting new music.

Looking forward, I have two new albums coming out soon; one of which is a concerto album with the Philharmonia that features music by Sir Malcolm Arnold, Ruth Gipps and a new work by Christoph Schönbeger. The other is a CD of the complete chamber music works of Ruth Gipps that feature the horn, the vast majority of which have been recorded for the very first time. 

Do you think it’s harder for talented young musicians from low income families to progress than when you started out?

It is no secret that funding for music schools, music hubs, music lessons is not going up and so access to a good education, the single most important element to progress, is surely getting harder and harder.

I think that until the Government and those responsible for funding music on a macro level realise its social and cultural importance beyond that of making music, it will be really difficult for people to make it an integral part of their lives, especially if money is a problem. Music is, not should be, for everyone and if access to it is barred due to financial reasons, then that is a real tragedy. 

What are your plans for 2022 and beyond?

I am currently part of the ECHO Rising Star tour which sees me play recitals at more than twenty major European concert halls during the 21/22 season. I am also going to play concertos with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the London Mozart Players. In terms of recordings, I have a lot of projects that I really can’t wait to share as well as a lot of new music I will be commissioning over the next few years!

Thank you to Ben for answering our questions, it was a privilege to support him and we look forward to seeing where his career goes next! You can keep up to date with Ben by visiting his website.

Do you know a talented young musician in need of support and opportunities? Our Awards programme offers up to £100,000 in means-tested grants each year, helping young musicians grow and develop their musical potential. Find out if they are eligible and help them apply by following the link below.

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