Knox Academy pupil Ben Gentil was named East Lothian Young Musician of the Year at the 2023 competition of the same name.

The atmosphere in the church was superb and it was great to have such a supportive audience to share in this celebration

The council’s Instrumental Music Service hosted the competition in St Mary’s Church, Haddington on Friday 24 March. Three recitals were held over the course of the afternoon with twenty-five soloists from seven schools performing; thirteen young people were then asked to return to perform in the evening final.

There was a huge range of musical talent on display with performances from violins, cellos, a double bass, guitars, bagpipes, tuba, pianos, flutes, clarinets, saxophones, xylophone and drum kit.

'exceptionally mature'

Drummer Ben, an S6 pupil from Knox Academy, was announced the winner by adjudicators George Smith and Jonathan Gawn. Ben performed Paul Simon’s Fifty Ways to Leave your Lover and Stanley Clarke’s Silly Putty. Adjudicator George Smith, from the internationally renowned Maxwell Quartet, said it was: “an exceptionally mature performance that created so much space in the music and showcased Ben’s total command of the instrument”. Ben will now travel to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to represent East Lothian at the Scottish Young Musician of the Year Final on 21 May.

Two runner-up prizes were also awarded to xylophone player Daniel Schmidtt (S5), from North Berwick High School, and bagpiper Tom Ferguson (S5), from Musselburgh Grammar School, for their superb performances. Haddington Concert Society kindly offered a new annual prize for the Most Promising Young Musician which was awarded to Alex Layberry (P6, East Linton Primary School) for his exceptional performance on the day.

Debut performances

The evening saw the debut performances from the East Lothian Council Instrumental Music Service Senior Woodwind, String, Brass and Bagpipe ensembles. The Senior String Ensemble was highly commended by adjudicator George Smith and a video of their performance will now be submitted to the Scottish Young Musician 2023 Ensembles Competition to represent East Lothian in the national ensembles event.

East Lothian Council’s Instrumental Music Service Team Manager Jonathan Gawn commented: “It was incredible to see our senior ensembles performing with such commitment and confidence.

“Performing in a large space like St Mary’s, to several hundred audience members, is a brilliant opportunity for our young musicians and it was particularly inspiring to see so many musical styles being presented. The atmosphere in the church was superb and it was great to have such a supportive audience to share in this celebration of our young musicians’ talents.”

Incredible talent

George Smith commented “There was an incredible range of talent on display throughout the day and it’s great to see such high quality music making and ensemble playing happening here in East Lothian.”

This was the competition’s second year; Ross High School pupil Corey Dodds was named Young Musician of the Year 2022 at last year’s inaugural event.


Prize winners:

  • Young Musician of the Year: Ben Gentil, Knox Academy
  • Runner up: Daniel Schmidtt, North Berwick High School
  • Runner up: Tom Ferguson, Musselburgh Grammar School
  • Most Promising Young Musician: Alex Layberry, East Linton Primary School

String ensemble winners

Violin 1
  • Michael Hoole - Musselburgh Grammar School
  • Lilia Villarreal-Forrest - North Berwick High School
Violin 2 
  • Isabella Gold - Knox Academy
  • Brodie Wallace - Knox Academy
Violin 3 
  • Thomas Bull - Ross High School
  • Lois Thomson - North Berwick High School
  • Hannah Swinney - Dunbar Grammar School
  • Freya Harley - North Berwick High School
Double Bass
  • Peter Stuart - North Berwick High School
  • Hayden Way - North Berwick High School
  • Ben Gentil - Knox Academy
Published: Tuesday, 4th April 2023