Ambitious teen with a big dream

Kieran Carter
Kieran Carter
Share this article

Most 17-year-olds would argue they live a hectic life balancing A level studies with their social life but those commitments must seem like child’s play for one ‘astounding’ teenager who is determined to become an orchestral cellist.

Kieran Carter from Dover Close, Southwater, plays the cello, clarinet, piano, saxophone and bass clarinet and has been awarded with 16 distinctions in musical exams.

He is leader of the clarinets at West Sussex County Youth Wind Orchestra and is co-principal of the cello section in the Junior Trinity Symphony Orchestra.

The ambitious teenager is also studying English, French, Psychology, and Drama at the College of Richard Collyer, Hurst Road, and with his AS level exams underway and an itinerary that leaves him with just three free days each month, County Times reporter, Nikki Cutler, had to discover his secret to success.

Kieran admits that his infatuation for classical music isn’t the only way that he differs from other teenagers.

“We had a two week holiday in Italy which was horrible. I hated it,” he said as he recalled a family holiday in which he had no access to any musical instrument. “I ended up inventing my own instrument called the lego, which I played on my leg.”

Kieran is modest about his achievements despite having been singled out as the best composer in his class at Trinity by Professor Robert Saxton from Oxford University, who said Kieran has ‘huge potential’ during his visit to the school.

The 17 year old has independently completed several classical yet modern compositions.

The talented musician started his musical career at the age of seven after his mother, Tracie, bought him a present.

“When he was seven we bought him a little toy key board and we would come home and he would have learnt the songs at school so we got him piano lessons,” she remembered.

Kieran has now passed his grade eight piano exam with a distinction.

“He literally just absorbed it. He ate it up,” his mum said, “from day one music was him.”

At the age of nine, while at Southwater Junior school, Worthing Road, Kieran started clarinet lessons and after just two years, he had achieved his grade four.

Tracie said she was shocked by her son when she told him he could have a treat for doing well in a school report.

“We asked him what he wanted and he asked to rent a cello for the summer,” said Tracie. “By the end of the summer he was playing amazing pieces which were self-taught so we thought we should get him lessons. His teacher was absolutely astounded at how much he had taught himself.”

With the teaching of Ethan Merrick of the West Sussex Music Service (WSMS) and Gordon Pringle at Trinity, Keiran speedily achieved a distinction in his grade eight cello exam, the highest accolade available.

Tracie believes that the West Sussex Music Service (WSMS) has been instrumental to her son’s success by providing him with a wealth of performance opportunities.

“The West Sussex Music Service always looks for opportunities like that. They are absolutely brilliant,” Tracie said. “I think they have got to be the best in the country.”

With his abundant natural talent, Kieran has always excelled in music lessons and he even achieved A grades his music GCSE and A level exams two years early. But these seem like a small feat compared to the number of hours he puts in.

In order to attend Junior Trinity Saturday school in London, he gets up at 6.15am and gets home after 7.30pm. He also joins West Sussex County Youth Orchestra one Sunday each month.

It is hard for Kieran to put his finger on his biggest achievement but his performance at Southlodge Hotel, Horsham, in March sticks in his mind.

ITV’s ‘King of the Jungle’ Christopher Biggins, Faye Tozer from the pop band, Steps, and television presenter Michael Aspel were amongst the celebrities who watched Kieran and his band play during Dame Vera Lynn’s 95th birthday celebration lunch.

College is Kieran’s main opportunity to socialise but he can sometimes forget he’s there to work as well.

“There are times when I’m knackered,” he admits. “It doesn’t affect my music but there are times when I think I have to put time aside for college work.”

So far his academic achievements don’t seem to have been influenced after achieving three A* and six A in his GCSEs.

The next step in his musical career is to start applying to conservatoires - universities of music - but he is looking forward to a year out before so he can catch up on some more conventional obligations such as getting a job and learning to drive, as well as practising his cello.

Win a free term’s instrumental or singing lessons!

Making music happen for the children of West Sussex

That’s the main aim for the West Sussex Music Service (WSMS), teaching music in the county for over 50 years now.

From small beginnings, there are now several county groups including a national standard 90-piece orchestra, music centres around the county with about 150 different ensembles / bands / choirs / orchestras which meet the needs of all standards from Early Years groups for 3 – 6 year olds to elementary standard to intermediate to advanced. WSMS teaches over 15,000 children every week in schools and at music centres around the county. In a recent (2011) report, the service was classed as “outstanding”.

Tuition is offered in small groups or individually, at schools or at the music centres. Almost every instrument can be learned and because of the network of ensembles, bands etc, it will be a very short time before a child learning with us will be ready to make music with so many others - a skill that will last and be enjoyed for a lifetime.

There are opportunities to make music in so many styles inlcuding rock, jazz, classical, folk. Recently WSMS started teaching adults too.

At the heart of the West Sussex Music Service are its talented tutors, many of whom also enjoy a performing and recording career. All tutors have full CRB checks and receive regular professional development and there is a quality assurance programme run by WSMS.

The main local music centres are Horsham and Haywards Heath, with the county centre, catering for the very advanced players, rehearsing at Billingshurst. Other main centres are in Worthing and Chichester.

On Sunday 17th June, the Horsham and Haywards Heath Music Centres put on two concerts in the Hawth to packed audiences. Over three hundred and fifty young people took part in eighteen different ensembles.

The Haywards Heath Beginner Violins included some children as young as five years old; the Junior Bands and Orchestras were inspiring youngsters at grade one and two level and the progression was continued with ensembles to suit every age and ability, right up to the Horsham Big Band, Horsham Youth Strings and Horsham Youth Concert Band. Some of these extremely talented youngsters will be going on to the top music colleges in the country to pursue careers in music. For all, though, the emphasis is on enjoyment.

For more information or apply on line for tuition or music centre membership, see the website or call 01243 642361 or email