British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason was just eighteen when he jumped into public consciousness, dazzling millions of TV viewers with music by von Paradis, Fauré, and Schubert at the 2018 wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. But the cellist, now 21, is having an equally outsized impact on music education and increasing diversity in the classical music field, both in his home country and around the world. In the U.K., he’s ambassador for a nonprofit that supports music education for elementary-school children in London, and this winter, he visited students in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program, the orchestra’s free after-school education initiative launched by Music Director Marin Alsop in 2008. At Baltimore’s Mary Ann Winterling Elementary School, Kanneh-Mason led a class for 75 cellists, with activities including a group improvisation by Kanneh-Mason and the students. During the same visit, Kanneh-Mason made his Baltimore Symphony Orchestra debut with Saint-Saëns’s Cello Concerto No. 1 at the Music Center at Strathmore and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, on a program that included Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 and Florence Price’s The Oak.
Caption: Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason (seated, sixth from right) leads a group class with cello students at Baltimore’s Mary Ann Winterling Elementary School, January 2020. Photo by Rosie Constantine.