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Child prodigy from Norwich’s Larkman School wins scholarship and plays with UEA Symphony Orchestra

PUBLISHED: 16:44 25 February 2013 | UPDATED: 16:44 25 February 2013

Eight year old percussionist Joseph Cole who has won a music scholarship to Taverham Hall School . Photo: Steve Adams

Eight year old percussionist Joseph Cole who has won a music scholarship to Taverham Hall School . Photo: Steve Adams

He may be a few years behind Mozart, who started composing when he was just five, but an eight-year-old boy from the Larkman School in Norwich has already played with the UEA Symphony Orchestra.

And while the bass drum he banged may have been bigger than he was, Joseph Cole acquitted himself well in the concert at St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich on Thursday night, where he was the only child playing.

The youngster, who lives with his mum Julie Childs near Dereham Road, has also won a music scholarship to the independent Taverham Hall, outside the city, where he starts in April.

He has been a percussionist for about three years and started playing at the Larkham School as part of the Sistema in Norwich music programme, which was formerly known as In Harmony.

The project, which gives hundreds of four to 11-year-olds from Norwich the chance to get into music with free lessons and access to instruments in both curriculum time and after school, is supported by famous cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.

Joseph said: “When I started at Larkman they said what instrument do you want to play and I said percussion, and that’s how I started.

“I go to the after-school club on Tuesday and Wednesday. It used to be six hours a week but got cut to four hours.

“I want to keep doing it and become a professional percussionist in the future.”

He may have been the only child performing at St Andrew’s Hall, but that did not faze him.

“I was sort of nervous at first, but when the other percussionists came in, I got better,” he said.

His mother, who is a glass artist and works from home, said she was very proud of him, and likened his musical skills to his aptitude at mathematics, where he’s in the top 3pc at the school.

She said: “It’s all about numbers – maths and playing music.

“I’m always impressed by how hard he works, and the time he puts into it.

“The preparation and practice lead to the awards.

“He’s a very hard worker and very focused.

“He had to read some complicated sheet music at St Andrew’s Hall, and to get the scholarship he had to do two days’ worth of tests.

“Getting the scholarship was partly down to his musicianship and partly to his schoolwork.

“The Larkman school has been brilliant. And the Sistema project gave him his chance. I had piano lessons when I was a child, and I know I could not afford private lessons for him.

“Now’s he’s got the scholarship, it’s very rewarding.”

Joseph plays the drums, glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone and tubular bells, and particularly enjoyed playing the bass drum at last week’s concert.

His favourite composer is Benjamin Britten, whose Spring Symphony was performed at St Andrew’s Hall, although he also likes Linkin Park.

The UEA’s symphony orchestra is conducted by Sharon Choa, who said: “He’s very good and very focused for someone of his age. He does not mess about and has no fear.

“He just does the job. What really impresses me most is his focus.

“He can concentrate even with people older than himself. There’s something quite special about him.

“We would be very happy to help any other children with similar aspirations to Joseph’s.”

In Harmony was launched in Norwich in March 2009, as well as in Liverpool and London.

Each city was given a share of £3m from the Department for Education to set up projects to help children in less well-off communities.

The inspiration for the scheme came from the educational music programme El Sistema, founded in Venezuela 35 years ago.

The publicly-funded South American project was launched to help street children rise out of poverty while producing a fine crop of talented musicians.

Do you know a child prodigy in the Norwich area? Call Norwich Evening News reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email

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