This fall, Callum Hilton will join the ranks of some of Britain’s finest musicians, from theatre actors to classical instrumentalists to popular radio presenters, as a student at the prestigious Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. But one thing sets him apart. The boy from Denton, Manchester is only eight years old, and he learned most of the craft on his own.
Callum began playing the piano at age five and became a self-taught expert in almost no time. He taught himself by ear, not being able to read music yet, and learned impressively fastHe couldn’t read music, so he taught himself by ear. He later began piano lessons with tutor Benjamin Powell, who said he was “one of the most remarkable young students” he had ever taught.
This year, Callum became one of only a handful of young musicians, many of them armed with years of professional training, to win a scholarship to Chetham’s. He will be studying the piano and the cello starting in September. For the moment, he is a student at Manor Green Primary School in east Manchester.
His natural talent came as a surprise to his parents, who said no one in the family had the slightest inclination to music. His mother Tracy admits they had no idea where Callum got the interest or the talent, but both parents fully support their son’s passion.
Callum says he is looking forward to beginning his music studies. He says he would like to learn more about music and composition, perform in concerts, and meet other musicians. All students at Chetham’s study at least two instruments and are required to attend choir practice. The school holds regular concerts at the neighbouring Manchester Cathedral, and its ensembles have repeatedly won awards.
Chetham’s School of Music, known colloquially as “Chets,” is located in the Manchester city centre and accepts students aged 8 to 18 years old. Founded in 1969, the school boasts a long list of notable alumni, including rock musician Mike Lindup, choral director David Hill, pianist and music professor Stephen Hough, pianist Peter Donohoe, and jazz musician Gwilym Simcock.
Admission to Chetham’s requires an audition in which aural awareness, sight-reading ability, and creativity are taken into account, alongside ability in playing a musical instrument. Despite admitting students solely on musical talent, the school receives high academic rankings compared to local and national schools. Most students go on to study at top music conservatories in the UK and abroad, or pursue higher education at leading universities.