Award-winning cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason is on the 2020 New Year's Honors List

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, a young, gifted, and award-winning cellist, has been appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to music.

The New Year Honours list 2020 recognizes the outstanding achievements of people across the United Kingdom, a government statement said. 

"The List celebrates a range of extraordinary young people across the UK. MBEs are awarded to 25-year-old Yusuf Patel for his work in tackling extremism in London; 21-year-old award-winning cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason; and 27-year-old Mete Coban, the co-founder of My Life My Say, for his work transforming youth engagement in democracy."


The MBE is the third highest-ranking Order of the British Empire award, behind the Commander of the British Empire (CBE) which is first and then Officer of the British Empire (OBE).

According to a statement on the Kanneh-Mason website, Sheku called the award “amazing" and said he "was so lucky to have the dedicated support of parents" who gave him the opportunity to have music lessons. 

"The love and enjoyment for this great art is something that should be available to everyone," Sheku continued. "I am committed to continuing my work with ...London Music Masters and Future Talent to reinforce the benefits of access to music for all young people.”


Sheku was raised in Nottingham, England by his father, Stuart Mason, a business executive, and his mother, Kadiatu Kanneh, who was born in Sierra Leone and moved to Wales as a young girl with her family. Kadiatu grew up to work as a university professor, while Stuart worked for a travel company.

Today, the Kanneh-Masons are a large family of musicians. Both Kadiatu and Stuart play musical instruments to a high standard but never pursued professional music careers. Sheku is the third of seven children, who play either violin, piano or cello. 


Sheku's love for the cello reportedly started when he saw his sister perform during a weekend course for young Nottingham string players, run by a charity Music for Everyone. He then switched from violin to cello and went on to take part in Music for Everyone's courses.  

Sheku also joined the Chineke! Orchestra, which was founded to provide access for ethnic minorities training to be classical musicians. In 2016, he told The Guardian newspaper:

"Chineke! is a really inspiring project. I rarely go to a concert and see that kind of diversity in the orchestra. Or in the audience. Having the orchestra will definitely change the culture."

While he was a pupil at the Trinity School, Nottingham, Sheku took GCSE A-levels in music, math, and physics. Two years later, the BBC reported that he donated £3,000 to his former school, enabling ten other pupils to continue their cello lessons.

In 2018, his album Inspiration was described as "the biggest-selling British debut" on the UK classical albums chart. The album would achieve more than 2.5 million streams on Spotify.

During the same year,  Sheku gave a memorable performance at the wedding of Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan. He also played in the presence of the couple at the Royal Variety Performance six months later. 


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