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Junior Conservatoire accordionist makes history with podium place at global music contest

An East Dunbartonshire performer has made history after becoming the youngest person – and first Scot – to secure a podium place at one of the world’s most prestigious accordion competitions.

Musician Ryan Corbett was also the highest placed European participant after coming third in the Performer category at the recent Harbin Summer International Accordion Art Week in China, in which he was competing against a stellar international line-up including undergraduate and postgraduate students. The 19-year-old, who has been a student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Junior Conservatoire for four years, overcame jet lag and tough competition en route to his success.

Ryan, who attended Douglas Academy and Craigdhu Primary School, said: “There were accordion players from all over China, Russia, Serbia and me from Scotland. The hotel I was in was full of Russian musicians. It was wonderful because the Russians have done so much for the development of the accordion so we spent hours talking about the instrument and our different cultures.

“We were sharing stories about how we play and perform, it was amazing. I felt so at home with them and I’d like to meet them again.”

The Harbin Summer International Accordion Art Week forms part of the China Harbin Summer Music Festival. Among the events taking place were concerts, masterclasses and the international competition – though Ryan admits he did not appreciate the sheer scale of the festival until he arrived.

He said: “I didn’t know much about this competition until I arrived in China. There were 300 competitors from all over the world. It was a much bigger festival than I thought, it was global.

“I wasn’t nervous playing in front of the huge audience. As a musician, you learn how to deal with your nerves and put all of that into good use. I just got up there and hoped that the adjudicators, also from all over the world, liked what they heard.”

The competition result was the latest milestone for Ryan, who started playing the accordion by teaching himself at the age of 11. At 14 Ryan, who also plays piano, started receiving lessons from Junior Conservatoire staff member, Djordje Gajic.

Djordje supported Ryan during his trip to China and said: “This is a fantastic achievement for Ryan and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Ryan is a very talented, hard-working and highly motivated student who never fails to impress me with his ability, he is a pleasure to teach.

“If he continues to develop and work hard, I think Ryan has the ability to establish himself as one of the leading performers of his generation.”

Ryan, who also attended St Mary’s Music School, is preparing to commence studies in September on the Bachelor of Music degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which is consistently ranked in the world’s top ten institutions for performing arts education.

Before then, he is continuing to rack up the miles by attending a relative’s 90th birthday celebration in Mexico. He added: “I’m sure I’ll be playing a concert to celebrate once I get there.”

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