Meet two amazing young brothers from Stockport heading for a bright future on the concert platform
- Credit: not Archant
WORDS BY HOWARD BRADBURY PHOTOGRAPHY BY DGS MUSIC LTD
It began with a toddler’s liking for an electronic keyboard on a supermarket shelf. A decade on, Jackie and Geordie Campbell are sitting beside a pair of grand pianos in the Stockport home of their teacher Simon Bottomley, contemplating – at the tender ages of 12 and ten – a career on the concert stage.
Mr Bottomley has been teaching piano 30 years, and on the staff of Chetham’s School of Music for over 20 years. His everyday round involves dealing with the most precociously gifted of young musicians.
And yet he says: ‘For this age, they are the most talented pianists I have seen.’
Jackie and Geordie are both pupils at Chetham’s. Both already have a long CV of piano competitions and performances. Put their names into YouTube and you will be astonished at what you see.
Will they one day be famous concert pianists? ‘I think it’s quite likely,’ says Simon. ‘You can never predict anything. It’s more than just being able to play well...it’s being very lucky, being in the right place at the right time.’
The boys recently went to Kiev to compete in the International Competition for Young Pianists in Memory of Vladimir Horowitz. The biennial event is one of the most prestigious of its kind and the boys – Jackie competed in the under-16s and Geordie in the under-13s were up against the best young pianists in the world. They didn’t win - Geordie came third - but this demonstrates the level of talent and accomplishment they possess.
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Do they get nervous in such situations?
‘Sometimes I get nervous,’ says Jackie. ‘The nerves sort of go away when I sit down.’
Geordie gets ‘a bit’ nervous, he says. But they are well used to piano competitions – even competing against each other. Jackie has won the most prizes, but Geordie has beaten his elder brother on one occasion.
‘They do music because they really want to do it, not for winning,’ says their mum, Lucy. ‘They respect each other.’
Jackie agrees: ‘We’re not total rivals.’
Even their mother is not quite sure where this prodigious talent comes from. The boys’ father, Malcolm Campbell, is a lecturer in mathematics at Manchester University. Lucy is a former research chemist who has now devoted herself to guiding her sons’ careers.
Jackie first reached for a keyboard before he was two. Geordie began before he was four.
‘Jackie was a very young toddler,’ recalls Lucy. ‘He found a toy keyboard on a shelf at Sainsbury’s. Every time we went to Sainsbury’s, you’d find him standing by the keyboard, and he played and played.’
A keyboard was bought, and by the age of three, Jackie went to a Yamaha keyboard school in Altrincham. Geordie came along to lessons and took up the keyboard too.
Jackie learned so quickly that soon he was receiving one-to-one tuition, then his tutor recommended that he switch to the piano.
Jackie was just five when he became a pupil of Simon Bottomley, and Geordie was four.
‘I take pupils at five sometimes. They have to be unusual. Seven would be the normal age. At four, Geordie was the youngest pupil I have ever had. They are both very bright, and have reading ages way above their age,’ said Simon.
The pair made rapid progress. ‘They benefited because their parents supervised their practice and sat in on all the lessons. It was very organised learning, but somehow they managed to make it fun.’
Lucy adds: ‘It was always led by the children. They wanted to do music at the pace that suited them.’
Jackie was six when he gave his first public recital, and since then has performed widely across the UK and Europe. In 2009, he performed as part of Manchester International Festival, and in 2013, he performed Grieg’s A minor piano concerto with Wilmslow Symphony Orchestra.
Geordie’s first performance was at the age of five, two years before he got a scholarship to study at Chetham’s. He was still only five when he performed on Radio 3 as part of the BBC’s Pianothon – a celebration of amateur piano-playing.
In 2011, Geordie won second prizes in the Horowitz international piano competition in Kiev and Les Rencontres Internationales Des Jeunes Pianistes in Belgium.
Simon said: ‘They have different styles. Geordie is very serious-minded, Jackie is more extrovert. They both have the same kind of thoroughness in their approach, but they are different characters.’
The boys put in three or four hours of piano practice every day, on top of the usual schoolwork that every child must complete.
Are the Campbell boys the future of classical music? The signs are good. They have been taken under the wing of David Schofield, a Cheadle-based pianist and former student at Chetham’s, who has a company, DGS Music, devoted to managing exceptional talent. The boys have their own website too, www.jackieandgeordie.com.
David said: ‘For their ages, they have the ability to take the classical music world by storm, and with their work ethic, an incredibly dedicated professor and a great school behind them, I believe they will go very far indeed.’