Ark Helenswood violinists selected to join acclaimed youth orchestra

A local Hastings secondary school is celebrating two of its students being accepted as members of the county’s most prestigious youth orchestra.

Ark Helenswood Academy students Sam Brown and Paige Birchley, who have been playing violin together for seven years, have been accepted into the East Sussex Youth Orchestra after an open audition with musicians from across the county.

As members of the East Sussex Orchestra, Sam and Paige will now tour France with the group, supported by the Royal Academy of Music’s Professor of Conducting, Colin Metters.

Sam and Paige have been playing together since meeting at a local summer school seven years ago and are both aiming for the very top of the musical profession.

Sam Brown said: “I want to audition for the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a few years and getting into the East Sussex Youth Orchestra is a big step towards that.

“We’ve had weekly violin lessons at Ark Helenswood to help prepare for the audition, which was really helpful. It meant that we’d always have really great, helpful feedback on how we could improve and get ready for the audition.

“Getting involved in music has helped me in other subjects like maths, because you need to have a good understanding of numbers to be a musician.”

Paige Birchley said: “Music is really important to both of us and we chose to come to Ark Helenswood in Year 7 because of its reputation for performing arts.

“I want to join a big touring orchestra when I’m older and playing with Sam and the musicians from the East Sussex Youth Orchestra will help prepare me for that.”

Peripatetic music teacher Pat Beament, who coached the students to success, said: “It’s been so gratifying seeing both students develop into accomplished young musicians. They’ve both shown incredible dedication and played in some of Hastings’ and East Sussex’s most acclaimed musical groups.

“Ark Helenswood has really supported myself and its young musicians. Being able to work closely with the school’s Principal and music staff has meant that I’ve really been able to focus on helping students like Sam and Paige to achieve their ambitions.”

As well as its longstanding reputation for academic excellence, with the best results of any state school in Hastings, Ark Helenswood has had particular success in the performing arts. In previous years, dance students from the school were selected to perform when the Olympic Torch came through Hastings and, more recently, students at Ark 6th Form East Sussex performed on the Hastings Pier during its renovation.