Former pupil, Anna Appleby, has been awarded the prestigious Trailblazer Award at the recent annual GDST Alumna of the Year (AOY) event.

Anna, who attended Central High, one of our predecessor schools, from 2003 to 2009, was one of nine outstanding women from across the whole GDST community to be shortlisted for GDST Alumna of the Year 2018.  She was nominated for her achievements in Music by Richard Gooding who was Director of Music at the school at the time of Anna’s attendance.

Announced alongside the overall AOY award, the winner of the Trailblazer honour is selected from the shortlisted nominees by the AOY judges in recognition of the significant work of a GDST alumna in the early stages of her career.

Anna received the Award at the GDST’s Reception in London on 13th June. On hearing her name announced, she said:

“I was completely taken by surprise and am stunned. There were some incredible women shortlisted and many congratulations to Dr Nirupa Murugaesu on becoming GDST Alumna of the Year.

“To have won the Trailblazer Award however is incredibly special and I am really honoured to accept this award.  I hope to inspire other young women to compose and use their creativity fearlessly.”

Anna at just 24 could not be a more worthy winner. A highly acclaimed young composer, Anna is a fearless female role model and inspiration in a career that is very much considered to be a ‘man’s world’.

The Donne – Women in Music report issued in June 2018, expressed this more clearly in some bleak statistics. Across Europe, 97.6% of classical and contemporary classical music performed in the last three seasons was written by men, and what only must be considered an inexcusable 2.3% written by women. Another report from 2016 showed that only 3% of that year’s top 250 films had female composers.

Nevertheless, Anna has bucked the trend and forged an already successful career as a composer – leading the way for others.  Now based in Manchester Anna has written for everyone from opera singers to primary school children to amateur choirs to world-leading orchestras, including the Royal Northern Sinfonia, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the orchestra of Dutch National Ballet, and has had her music showcased abroad and on BBC Radio 3. She has particularly enjoyed working with community music groups, including Streetwise Opera.

Anna was the 2016/17 Music Fellow with Rambert Dance Company, and has premiered works with choreographers at the Southbank Centre, the National Theatre River Stage, Ignition Dance Festival and RADA Studios.

Asked what advice she would give to aspiring musicians, Anna responded:

“Everyone will tell you that it isn’t easy or sensible, but life isn’t easy or sensible, so think about whether you are happy for music to cause a lot of those problems for you. Be prepared to fail as it will help you improve, and be prepared to compromise but not so much that you lose sight of your boundaries. Surround yourself with musicians and artists who can help you and whom you can help in turn, don’t be afraid to walk up to interesting people at drinks receptions and ask them about their work!”

Well this approach has certainly paid off for Anna! Congratulations.

Photograph: Anna Appleby (second from the left) is photographed with Juliet Humphries, Chair at GDST, Michael Tippett, Acting Head at NHSG, Cheryl Giovanonni, CE at GDST.


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