4 March 2024

"It was convenient that my local accordion teacher happened to be one of the best classical accordionists in the world, and a remarkable pedagogue" - A conversation with RPS Young Artist Award Nominee Ryan Corbett

By Lark Music

We are approaching one of the paramount events in classical music, the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Awards, where we celebrate the inspirational role that classical music plays in our lives! At Lark Music we are extremely thankful to have the opportunity to support such an incredible organisation who, through a programme of grants, commissions, professional development and performance opportunities, help many performers and composers overcome barriers to progress and fulfil their potential.

We spoke to another nominee for the RPS Young Artist Award, Ryan Corbett, a Glaswegian accordionist, to learn what this award means to a young musician.

How did you get into music?

When I was four my parents bought a piano advertised in the local newspaper for £20.

What is your least favourite genre to perform?

For me it depends more on the music than the genre.

What do you think makes your music/performance unique?

Better to ask the audience.

How did you find your style?

Of those who have influenced my style of playing, my teacher, Pletnev, Rachmaninov, Richter, Michelangeli, Horowitz and Caruso come to mind, though I’m not saying I can play like any of them, far from it.

Why did you pick up the accordion?

When I was eleven, my grandmother bought a small accordion for me and my brother to try. It didn’t work very well, so we ended up taking turns playing it like a piano while the other pulled the bellows across the floor. It was soon fixed, and I became addicted to playing Scottish traditional music on it.

What makes your instrument special to you?

It does what I ask it to do.

Do you have a favourite accordion? Have you met any makers whose instruments you’ve found to be truly unique or you particularly enjoy playing?

My accordion is a Bugari Spectrum made in Castelfidardo, Italy, and tuned by Viktor Melnik in Bulgaria. I’ve been playing it for four years and am very happy with it.

On your journey to becoming the vocalist you are today, what were some things that affected or helped define you?

Lessons with Djordje Gajic. I’ve been learning with him from the age of fourteen and continue to do so. It was convenient that my local accordion teacher happened to be one of the best classical accordionists in the world, and a remarkable pedagogue.

How has social media changed being a musician for you?

I would have been a better musician without social media. It seems to me that browsing wastes time, impedes concentration, reduces confidence, and promotes unhealthy mental patterns. However, these platforms are useful for promotion, and in a world where people judge others based on follower count, they should probably be used.

Do you think social media is good for musicians?

To post, yes. To browse, no.

What is your favourite ever performance?

I don’t have a favourite, only because I’m fortunate to have had many that I’ve loved.

What was the most interesting venue you’ve played?

Either the cellar of a 7th century monastery in the South of France or the Bellgrove homeless hostel in Glasgow, I can’t decide.

Are there any venues you dream of playing in?

I rarely dream about playing.

Conversely – tell us a horror story you want to get off your chest

I was once involved in a video recording where they used a grandfather clock and some other props to make the concert hall look like an old-fashioned living room. I was tasked with transporting the clock from the hall back to the prop store and managed to break it into three parts on the way.

Who do you want to collaborate with?

David Oistrakh

What would winning this award mean to you?

To be nominated is already an honour. The award has an impressive list of former winners and it’s nice to be recognised by the society who commissioned Beethoven’s 9th.

How do awards like this help musicians?

They bring people together and shine a light on some of the positive activity in the music world over the past year.

Whether you win or not, what can we look forward to seeing from you? Is there anything you are working on which you are particularly excited about?

Upcoming projects include duos with violinist Geneva Lewis, mezzo Lotte Betts-Dean (fellow nominee), tenor Nicholas Mulroy, trumpeter Aaron Akugbo (fellow nominee), Djordje Gajic, and solo concerts here and there. I also look forward to giving the UK premiere of Mikhail Pletnev’s accordion concerto in the summer.

We really enjoyed our time speaking to Ryan. If you would like to hear more from him, you can connect with him via the links below: