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Classical-soul artist Alexis Ffrench to be first Artistic Director of ABRSM

The London-based exam board's new appointee will work 'to broaden the appeal of classical music and reach out to learners following less formal progression paths'

A composer, pianist, producer and passionate advocate for music education, Alexis Ffrench has amassed over 450 million global streams and is at the vanguard of composers ‘reframing and reimagining’ classical music for new audiences.

The appointment is a sign that the exam board is reframing and re-imagining itself, after navigating the coronavirus pandemic and, most recently, having to apologise for ongoing problems with online registration systems.

According to ABRSM Chief Executive Chris Cobb, French’s appointment reflects the organisation’s vision for the future, ‘to inspire as wide a range of learners as we can from around the world to experience the joy of music’. The new Artistic Director’s role ‘will help us to support musical progression in all forms, reaching out to a more diverse range of learners and musicians whose participation in music-making may be through less formal educational routes or assessments.’

Part of this will involve helping to bring Performance Grades to life and leading masterclasses and concerts. Ffrench will also influence ABRSM’s repertoire with the aim of extending the diversity of syllabuses and the supported musical genres.

Alexis Ffrench said, ‘I am thrilled to be appointed as ABRSM’s first ever Artistic Director because, above all, it means that I will have the distinct privilege of helping shape and enrich the musical journeys of performers and learners of all ages, all over the world – working to raise each and every joyful voice in celebrating their progress, achievements, and collective love for music in all its forms.

‘I am particularly keen to consider new contexts for musical expression, collaborative opportunities, and explore creative pathways for musicians engaged in self-directed, non-didactic music making in recognition of, and appreciation for, the exciting and panoramic range of talents, interests, and experiences demonstrated in non-traditional arenas.

‘Musically speaking, my hope is to embrace a global network of learners and aspiring performers, and harness their creative potential for joyful music-making and artistic exploration to the fullest.’