The Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra is delighted to announce the Barker Bursary competition, made possible through the generosity of the Orchestra’s President, Jumbo Barker. The competition will award two bursaries to local young musicians, which are intended to cover music-related costs such as instrument purchase or repair, travel expenses to lessons, participation in masterclasses or attending music courses. This list is not exhaustive and other music-related expenses are permissible.

The winners of the first Barker Bursary Competition have now been chosen.

The Senior prize winner, Sakura Fish, is eighteen years old and lives in Bishops Stortford. She is a
highly accomplished violinist who has played in both the National Children’s Orchestra and the
National Youth Orchestra, and competed successfully in the Rotary Young Musician Competition at
local and district levels. Her audition pieces – the 2nd movement of Bloch’s Baal Shem, and an arrangement of a Japanese folk song, Sakura – impressed and moved the judges. Sakura is exploring a range of possibilities for using her prize of £3,000 to expand her musical horizons. She will also take up a professional solo performance opportunity as part of her prize.

Twelve-year-old Ariana Wilson from Saffron Walden won the Junior prize playing the 1 st movement
of the Haydn Trumpet Concerto, including a cadenza she had composed herself. The judges were
greatly impressed by her performance after only four years playing the instrument. Ariana hopes to
use some of her £2,000 prize to attend a course for young female brass players at the Royal College
of Music.


  • The competition is aimed at talented young solo musicians who will be aged under 22 on 30th June 2024.
  • The competition comprises two strands:
    • Senior – applicants post-Grade 8 (or equivalent);
    • Junior – applicants Grade 5 – 8 (or equivalent).
  • The competition is open to young musicians who live, or attend full-time education, in the following District Council areas:
    • Essex – Uttlesford/Harlow;
    • Hertfordshire – North Herts/East Herts;
    • Cambridgeshire – CB21, CB22 and CB23 postcode areas;
    • Suffolk – CB8 and CB9 postcode areas;
  • The competition is restricted to acoustic/orchestral instruments that can be played in a broadly ‘classical’ context; see below for list.

List of eligible instruments

The following instruments, and their derivatives, are eligible.


Alto saxophone (classical)



French horn

Tuned percussion


Double bass

Acoustic guitar (classical)



One bursary will be offered in each category, as follows:

  • Senior – £3,000 and a performance opportunity;
  • Junior – £2,000 and a performance opportunity where appropriate.

For the Senior prize winner the performance opportunity may take the form of the offer of a concerto performance with the Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra, or a solo recital at the Linton Music Series. Where appropriate, the Junior winner may be offered the opportunity to join the Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra, or to rehearse a concerto movement with the Orchestra. At the end of the year, winners are required to participate in publicity to outline what winning the bursary has meant to them.

Application process

  • Applicants must complete the application form below and submit it by 23.59 on 30th June 2024. Late or incomplete submissions cannot be considered, so you are advised to submit your application before the deadline. The application must include:
    • evidence of instrumental standard (either scanned copy of grade certificate or endorsement from a teacher); and
    • a video clip (1 minute maximum) of the applicant playing their instrument.
  • All complete and eligible applications will be considered by a panel of respected local musicians and a short-list produced.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be notified by the end of July 2024; if you have not heard from us by then, unfortunately you have not been selected on this occasion.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend for audition and interview in early September in or near Saffron Walden.

Audition/interview information

There is no set repertoire for the audition, and shortlisted applicants are free to select one or more pieces of their own choice, to showcase their skills. The music selected must fall within the following time limits:

  • Senior – up to 10 minutes;
  • Junior – 3-5 minutes.

A piano will be made available and applicants are responsible for providing their own accompanist, if required, at their own expense. There is no official accompanist. Applicants may use a pre-recorded accompaniment if they wish; in this eventuality, it is the applicant’s responsibility to provide appropriate playback equipment and to ensure that it is operating correctly. After performing their audition piece(s), the panel will conduct an informal interview to discuss the applicant’s musical motivation, experiences and aspirations.

The audition panel

About the bursary scheme

The competition has been made possible through the generosity of the Orchestra’s President, Jumbo Barker, for whom this is an opportunity to continue the work of his late father, George. In the early 1980s George Barker, founder of the Uttlesford Orchestra that became the SWSO, established a bursary scheme connected to the orchestra which ran successfully for several years, providing opportunities to many young people.

The principle behind George’s bursary was to help fund young musicians in developing their musical education, perhaps giving them the opportunity to pursue music as a career. The award covered music-education related costs such as tuition, instrument repair or purchase, travel and subsistence. It also provided a connection with a long established and respected symphony orchestra within Saffron Walden. The new award, the Barker Bursary, has been designed to offer the same opportunities as the original scheme, and a continued connection with the Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra.

Start your application

If you require any assistance, or have a question which is not answered here, please email