Meet the pianist from a Leeds estate helping young classical musicians from working class backgrounds

A  man brought up on a Leeds council estate who achieved his dream becoming a classical musician has launched a new venture to support young musicians from working class backgrounds.

By Mark Lavery
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 10:52 am

Pianist Scott Caizley said he wants to help people who are not from privileged backgrounds overcome the hurdles he has faced.

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Scott Caizley: From Leeds couuncil estate to classical pianist

He said he dreamed of being a classical pianist as a boy.

Scott Caizley

Scott's dad worked as a labourer and the family scrimped and saved to pay for piano lessons.

Scott, 28, progressed quickly and started excelling in his music exams, while having to cope with bullying and name-calling at school.

He went to Leeds College of Music at 16 after which he was offered places at the Royal College of Music, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (music college) and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Scott went to Trinity Laban, but said he didn't fit because of his accent and background.

Scott Caizley

He left after seven months and ended up studying for degrees in education and research at University College London.

IN OTHER NEWS: The Moortown funeral director helping homeless people in LeedsYorkshire Evening Post readers contributed when he crowdfunded to help pay for an MA in philosophy at the University of Cambridge.

Scott 's master's degree and later PhD saw him research and explore the experiences of classical music students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

He has now launched Brave Maestro! at - a network and enterprise dedicated to supporting classical music students from disadvantaged backgrounds across the UK.

Scott Caizley pictured at his Cambridge graduation

Scott said his research found that working class classical music students face barriers accessing tuition.

He said they also face financial, cultural and social barriers after being admitted to music colleges.

"I am proud of where I come from," said Scott. "I am even prouder of how far I have come.

"I have now dedicated my life and career to ensuring those from similar backgrounds to myself face less obstacles when accessing quality music education."

Scott Caizley at his Cambridge graduation

Scott said his research revealed that 12 per cent of low performing state schools have a musical orchestra compared to 75 per cent of all private schools

He said state schools are less likely to know what a conservatoire (music college) is and have much less focus on the arts in general than private schools .

The research also found that state schools offer less specialised musical tuition than private schools

Scott said: "I worry about the future of classical music especially in cities like Leeds.

"The late Dame Fanny Waterman was an exceptional figure in the field of classical music and remains one of my biggest inspirations.

"She was educated at the Conservatoire in London, The Royal College of Music and returned home to Leeds where she spent the rest of her life, a life dedicated to classical music and music education.

Scott Caizley

IN OTHER NEWS: Former Chumbawamba guitarist has co-written new song for West Yorkshire set to be recorded in Leeds"She really understood the importance of music and produced the world's greatest piano competition, the Leeds International Piano Competition, which put Leeds on the map in the classical music world.

"If you ask any concert pianist around the world what competition they would like to win, I guarantee they would say ‘The Leeds’.

"I was the first person in the UK to pursue doctoral research on understanding experiences of state school students in music conservatoires.

"Thanks to my degree at Cambridge which the YEP helped me fund, I was able to then win further funding to pursue a PhD.

"I sometimes pinch myself on how far I’ve come. If you had told me whilst at Rodillian that I would go on to study at Cambridge University and one day become a Doctor in my field, I would’ve laughed!

"I worry that state schools will continue to axe quality music education in their schools.

"My research has found music to also enable upwards social mobility for working class students. It is much more than just being proficient at an instrument, it allows us to become creative and innovative in real world problems.

"I owe where I am today to my quality music education. Without it I simply wouldn’t be where I am today.

"I was the first person to publicly advocate for more diverse recruitment in UK music conservatories. I definitely ruffled a few feathers doing this but it is important that people from diverse backgrounds remain loud in situations of injustice.

"Classical music is overwhelmingly white and middle-class.

"I plan on dedicating the rest of my working life to remaining a leader in the field of music and education and ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background can access quality music education.

"I plan on researching further and remaining present in the fight for more quality music provision in state schools across England."

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