3:42 PM September 27, 2022
Two schoolboys from Hampstead and Highgate go head-to-head in the strings final of the BBC’s Young Musician competition.
Aki Blendis, 14, from Highgate School, plays a Grieg and Britten program on his violin, while 16-year-old UCS student Jaren Zeigler performs Schumann and Hindermith on his viola.
The pair have been friends for five years, ever since playing a string quartet together, but on BBC 4 on Sunday they are battling it out to make the grand final – hoping to follow past winners Sheku Kanneh- Mason, Nicola Benedetti and Natalie Clein.
Five string players aged 12 to 18 perform their 16-minute programs to impress the judges, with the winner competing against the top winners in the piano, woodwind, percussion and brass categories for the coveted Young Musician 2022 title.
Aki’s father Simon Blendis, a Highgate-based violinist and frontman of the London Mozart Players, said he was “very proud” to see his son, accompanied by his pianist mother Saoko.
“Aki and Jaren are both boys from north London who have been friends for a while so it’s really great for them to be together in the final of a national competition,” he said. “It’s also great to see two local schools represented in this most prestigious competition open to musicians from across the UK.”
Aki started playing the violin at the age of four with a Suzuki band at Lauderdale House before learning with local teachers and then joining Saturday lessons at Junior Guildhall. He also plays classical and jazz piano and is part of the Highgate School Orchestra.
“He loves music and showed early aptitude, but he also loves playing football,” Simon said. “He entered the competition to try his luck and was stunned when he got through the first round and even more stunned to reach the final. Because there is no pressure or expectations, he just enjoy this fantastic experience.”
Jaren started as a child with Color Strings in Muswell Hill.
Mum Lana Green said: “It seemed like a lovely group of babies, we didn’t realize it turned into learning an instrument. At five they introduce them to different instruments to see which ones they pick up. He chose viola, then at eight he auditioned for primary academy at the Royal Academy of Music and is now taking music to A level. He has been watching BBC Young Musician since he was little and dreamed of being there. at the grand final when Sheku won which was hugely inspiring and he wants to pursue a career in music.”
The young musician’s string finale airs on BBC4 on October 2 at 7 p.m. and the grand finale on October 9. Visit www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00bb3wt