A prodigious talent steps forth for the Festival of Youth Orchestras

Cork musician Kevin Jannson takes part in the Festival of Youth Orchestras.

THE Festival of Youth Orchestras takes place at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on Saturday. Along with groups from all over the country, Cork School of Music’s Chamber Orchestra will be taking to the road.


And tucked away amid his friends and fellow-performers will be a young lad of 15, described by the school’s director, Geoffrey Spratt as the most prodigious talent he’s come across in his entire career.

Kevin Jansson has been studying both piano and violin at the Cork School of Music from the age of six, giving his first recital at 12. In the same year, he was chosen as one of four young Irish students to participate in the Finlay Programme for Gifted Pianists, and this was soon followed by invitations to international music camps and masterclasses — including one with Lang Lang, and three at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.

One should always be wary of over-hyping a young talent, but the fact remains that there are very few musicians who have the same incredible gift for both instruments.

Jansson was 13 when he won the Cork School of Music Junior Concerto Competition. The extraordinary quality of his performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D prompted Dr Spratt to assemble the Cork School of Music Chamber Orchestra specifically to perform the work with him in a public concert.

The next year, Jansson won the competition again, this time playing the violin. And so it was decided for the festival this year, he would feature as both piano and violin soloist.

Jansson is quiet, polite, almost shy when we meet. Fortunately, his parents both teach at the Cork School of Music , while his sisters study music too, so every room is filled with pianos, stacks of sheet music, violin cases, as well as the usual paraphernalia of a busy happy family. Somebody shutting himself off for hours on end to practise is taken as normal.

However, which comes first, piano or violin? Doesn’t he reach out more instinctively for one? “No, it’s not like that. I would always try to work equally with both.”

Pressed, he admits that now and again, if he’s really exhausted after a long day at school, he might skimp on the practice. “But then I lie in bed and feel so guilty for neglecting them and I work even harder next day.”

Life is very busy indeed when you’re in full time education, then at the Cork School of Music, and come home to more hours of work. But it’s second nature for Jansson.

“They are really great at Pres, very supportive. They let me go off and practice in spare hours, and understand when I have to travel to participate in some event.”

Like right now. An unexpected and honoured invitation to compete for the Thierry Scherz Prize in Gstaad, Switzerland, this week, along with just seven other international musicians, means he will be dashing almost directly from Switzerland to Dublin. “I don’t expect to get anywhere in Gstaad, but it will be a wonderful experience.”

Geoffrey Spratt watches over this exceptional talent with excitement but also a dollop of wisdom. It’s very uncommon for someone to be equally gifted on both instruments, he says.

“At the moment it is absolutely wonderful that he is neck and neck with himself on both, and for as long as he can possibly sustain this it’s really good. It’s still early days though. He may choose something entirely different and keep music as his passion rather than his career,” he says.

Jansson himself doesn’t know either. “I enjoy all my school subjects, and perhaps one day I will want to work in a different career. But right now my music is the most important thing in my life.”

The Festival of Youth Orchestras takes place at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on Saturday


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