Reigate music student overcomes crippling injury to win clutch of festival awards

A Reigate student has conquered crippling Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) to win a clutch of awards in a prestigious annual music festival.

Chloe Barnes, 16, a student at Dunottar Senior School in Reigate, won the awards at the Sutton Music Festival.

Her achievement was all the more remarkable given that following her diagnosis with RSI, her practice time on the oboe, cor anglais and cello was cut to just ten minutes, twice a day.

Chloe has been battling RSI injury to her right arm since July.

The injury was the result of writing exam essays and intensive, two-hour sessions practising her instruments.

Chloe said: “It was very painful and also a problem because my right arm was holding the weight of the instruments.”

She said: “It was also quite annoying because most of the important auditions were in September, so I wasn’t able to prepare as much as I’d have liked.”

She added: “I’m not rehearsing as much as before the injury but I’m getting there.

“I’m still having problems when I’m writing but it’s improving, and my physio said it should be better by Christmas.”

At Sutton Music Festival, which took place from November 9 to December 2, Chloe won the Concerto class competition, in which she played a solo oboe part, accompanied by the piano.

She also won a gold medal for coming first in the Woodwind Solo class.

In both the Concerto and Woodwind Solo classes, her performances were judged ‘outstanding.’ Her final win was the Woodwind Recital class, for which she was awarded the Golden Jubilee Recital Cup for Woodwinds. As a result of her performances, she was singled out as the Most Outstanding Performer. Chloe said: “I had a telephone call at home. It was quite surprising because I wasn’t expecting them to ring me at all. It was really encouraging.”

As the Most Outstanding Performer, Chloe was awarded a final prize of the H R Taylor Trust Winds Award and £50.

She plans to spend her winnings on more music and a combined oboe and cor anglais music stand.

Her festival wins came on top of Chloe being offered a place in the prestigious National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain (NYWO). The orchestra, according to Sir Simon Rattle, its patron, ‘consists of some of the finest young wind players in the country.’ And as well as being offered a NYWO place, Chloe was also offered a place as one of the two oboists in the National Children’s Chamber Orchestra, which will be preparing and performing next Easter at the University of Hertford.

Students have to audition for this on an annual basis and this will be Chloe’s third time playing in the orchestra.

She said: “I was really excited because I’ve been on it before and I have quite a few friends who are in it. I’m really looking forward to seeing them.”

Her mother, Jean, said: “We are so very proud of Chloe, especially as she's been struggling with her arm.”

She said: “ Only being able to play for a few minutes each day meant she had lost some of her 'embouchure,' the critical facial muscle strength which enables double reed players to make a nice sound. “She’s so happy to be playing again and I’m sure she’ll be able to move on and build on what has been a very successful few weeks.”

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