The key notes of a career

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My Life: Catherine Scott talks to Emmanuel Vass

Emmanuel Vass was just six years old when his parents gave him a toy musical instrument.

“It was like a toy glockenspiel,” says the 25 -year-old. “And I just took to it, so much that I started piano lessons at the age of seven.” Now Emmanuel is fast making big waves in classical circles and beyond.

A former Yamaha “unsigned artist of the month” and a BBC Music Magazine “Rising Star”, he was also hotly-tipped as The Independent’s “One to Watch” in 2013.

Now, little over 12 months later, his string of radio credits include BBC Radios 2, 3 & 6 Music, and his brand new debut album From Bach to Bond is currently winning rave reviews and picking up bags of airplay on John Suchet’s Classic FM show.

“It’s a really exciting time, especially with the new album out and about,” says Emmanuel. “It is strange that I started off down the classical route as I grew up with my parents listening to David Bowie, The Clash and Madonna.”

Emmanuel was born in Manila, Philippines and grew up in Pocklington, East Yorkshire after moving to the UK at the age of three.

Having passed Grade 8 piano with distinction at the age of 15, he subsequently studied with Robert Markham at Yorkshire Young Musicians, the centre for the advanced training for gifted young musicians based at Leeds College of Music.

“It was here that they focussed me on playing classical music,” says Emmanuel. This was followed by four years at the Royal Northern College of Music, where Manny studied with John Gough and was supported by scholarships from the Leverhulme Scholarship Trust and the Sir John Manduell Scholarship Trust. He graduated in 2011.

Although his training is classical, Emmanuel loves playing all different types of music, which is reflected in his album.

“I love playing Bach but I also love playing Queen and Bond themes, hence the name of the album.

“It also reflects the way people listen to music these days – it is more of a play list really.”

The son of a carpenter, Emmanuel says he doesn’t understand why classical music is seen as elitist.

“I am the least elitist person in the world, my dad is a carpenter,” he says. “I love all types of music, but there is something about a piece of music that’s been popular since the 1500s which fascinates me. I’m not sure pop music of today will be around in hundreds of years’ time.”

Previous engagements have included performing for the Prince and Princess of Monaco as part of the Variety Club Jubilee Ball; a performance for Lord Levy and the Russian ambassador at Kensington Palace Gardens; and a live BBC6 Music broadcast as part of an ensemble headed by Jimi Goodwin from the international award-winning band Doves. He has forthcoming concerts at Castle Howard and Bolton Abbey as well as in Germany.

What makes Emmanuel’s success even more impressive is that he doesn’t have a manager or an agent. He made his album by booking space in a local recording studio.

“One day I may well need a manager and an agent but at the moment it suits me to be myself. I am young and I want to play what I want to play,” he says.

“I have the freedom at the moment to do pretty much what I want which is introducing as many people as possible to the joys of classical music.”