24 March 2021

Kassem pulls the strings as he takes John Lyon Musician crown

There is a new name on the de Mello Cup for 2021 as classical guitarist Kassem Azzawi took the title of John Lyon Musician of the Year.

A stunning rendition of 19th century French guitarist Napoléon Coste’s Study No.8 saw Kassem lead the field in the John Lyon Musician of the Year competition final at the end of March, which brought together all the category winners from the previous week’s House Music, with 18 instrumentalists and vocalists competing in two categories, grades 1-4 and grades 5-8.

John Lyon Musician of the Year 2021

With no live audience, the full concert was live-streamed on YouTube, with almost 400 pupils, parents, staff, governors and Old Lyonians watching from home. However, one key person inside the Boyd Campbell Hall for the performance was guest judge, Jess Gillam, a world-renowned saxophonist, Classical BRIT Award winner, BBC Young Musician finalist, chart topper, BBC Radio 3 host, and Last Night of the Proms soloist.

In the junior category, all performances were praised for their musicality and handling of nerves while being filmed by three broadcast cameras. The competition was close but the joyful and expressive performance of Krish Singh Magar (9JNL) playing his own composition on the dhol drum took the trophy.

John Lyon Musician of the Year 2021

The senior category proved one of the most wide-open for many years, with any of the eight performances in with a chance of winning. While special mention goes to last year’s champion Sammy Smith (11AJF) and Patrick Colson (L6REM), who each performed twice, the night belonged to Kassem, whose control of his instrument and lyrical phrasing led to victory and the lifting of the de Mello Cup, named after Mr Joe de Mello, a long standing supporter of the School and former member of supporting staff in the Music Department.

Speaking after the competition, Director of Music Mr Huw Jones, said: “Huge congratulations to Kassem, our new Musician of the Year. It was a stunning performance that clearly impressed our guest judge. I must also thank Jess Gillam for agreeing to adjudicate on this competition – I’m glad I wasn’t in her position as the quality of all 18 performances this year was incredibly high.

“A final thank you must go to the technical team behind the scenes, whose hard work meant the concert could be enjoyed by the audience at home, watching and listening to an incredibly professional production.”

Watch the full concert for a limited time

House Music winners and John Lyon 2021 Musician of the Year performers

Aaran Parmar
Classical Guitar Grades 1 – 4

Krish Singh Magar
World Music Grades 1 – 4

John Lyon Musician of the Year 2021

Jai Davison
Electric Guitar and Bass Grades 1 – 4

Ethan Greaves
Drum Kit Grades 1 – 4

Oliver Castell
Voice Grades 1 – 4

William Pye
Strings Grades 1- 4

John Lyon Musician of the Year 2021

Harman Bhamra
Brass Grades 1 – 4

Netransh Gupta
Woodwind Grades 1 – 4

Ravi Gurjar
Piano Grades 1 – 4

Kassem Azzawi
Classical Guitar Grades 5 – 8

John Lyon Musician of the Year 2021

Patrick Colson
World Music Grades 5 – 8

Rahul Renganath
Electric Guitar and Bass Grades 5 – 8

Aryan Rajan Gupta
Drum Kit Grades 5 – 8

Samuel Smith
Voice Grades 5 – 8

John Lyon Musician of the Year 2021

Nicholas Berezovsky
Strings Grades 5 – 8

Josh Holloway
Brass Grades 5 – 8

Samuel Smith
Woodwind Grades 5 – 8

Patrick Colson
Piano Grades 5 – 8