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22 Highlights in the Life of Chi-chi Nwanoku

22 Highlights in the Life of Chi-chi Nwanoku

  • 1956: Born in Fulham, London, England, of Nigerian and Irish descent.
  • 1963: Started learning classical music and piano at 7.
  • 1973: She was set to be an Olympic sprinter. After having missed out on qualification for the 1972 Munich Olympics, she was training to represent Britain in the 1976 Montreal Olympics when a knee injury at 17 ended her sports career. So she actively pursued a career in music, taking preparatory double bass lessons in Cambridge on the recommendation of her school’s music teacher — John Dussek.
  • 1976: Entered the Royal Academy of Music, from which she graduated after four years, receiving the Eugene Croft Prize and the Principal’s Prize.
  • 1986: Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music (LRAM) and Associate of the Royal College of Music Hons (ARCM). She was featured in the album Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater, Salve Regina, Sonatas for Organ (Hyperion) by the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Founder member and principal bassist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
  • 1988: After two years of extending her studies in Italy with Franco Petracchi, she returned to London, quickly building her reputation and working with ensembles such as The London Mozart Players, London Classical Players, The English Baroque Soloists, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, among others.
  • 1989: Was featured in the album Schubert: Piano Quintet in A “The Trout”, Adagio and Rondo Concertante in F (Virgin Classics) by the Domus Quartett.
  • 1991: Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM).
  • 1992: Released the album Rossini: The String Sonatas (Hyperion) along with members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
  • 1995: Released the album Boccherini: Cello Sonatas (Hyperion) with cellists Richard Lester and David Watkin.
  • 1996: Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music (FRAM). UK premiere of Ferneyhough’s Trittico per G.S. for solo double bass.
  • 2000: Released her debut solo album, Dittersdorf / Vanhal: Double Bass Concertos (Hyperion) with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and conductor Paul Goodwin. Board member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (until 2018).
  • 2001: Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
  • 2008: Board member of the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) (until 2013).
  • 2012: Barrie Gavin directed a documentary film about Chi-chi’s career called Tales from the Bass Line.
  • 2015: Founded of the Chineke! Foundation and became Artistic & Executive Director of its flagship ensemble, the Chineke! Orchestra — Europe’s first classical orchestra made up of a majority of black and minority ethnic musicians, with whom she regularly performs. She presented the BBC Radio 4 programme In Search of the Black Mozart, featuring the lives and careers of black classical composers and performers from the 18th century, including Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Ignatius Sancho and George Bridgetower.
  • 2016: Honorary Fellow of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music. Black British Business Awards, Person of the Year. Mentor for the BBC 4 TV series All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge.
  • 2017: Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). ABO Award.
  • 2018: Honorary Doctor of Music at the University of Chichester. She was named in the Top 10 of the BBC Woman’s Hour, “Women in Music Power List”, and was awarded the inaugural Commonwealth Cultural Enterprise Award for Women in the Arts (Commonwealth Business Women’s Awards) and the Creative Industries Award (Variety Catherine Awards). Besides, she was featured in the BBC Radio 4 series Only Artists and was Kirsty Young’s guest on BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs.
  • 2019: Opened the new building of Hackney New Primary School, a specialist music school for children. She was voted to the Powerlist of Britain’s 100 Most Influential Black People in 2019 (repeated in 2020 and 2021).
  • 2020: Was included in Patrick Vernon’s book 100 Great Black Britons (Robinson). Presented a 6-part radio show on Classic FM in October 2020 called Chi-chi’s Classical Champions — a programme highlighting the music of contemporary and historical composers of Black and ethnically diverse heritage. A second series was broadcast in 2021.
  • 2022: Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

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