In anticipation of a thrilling performance on 1 April, we’ve been chatting with Zoe, who has played alongside the choir in 2019, 2021 and 2022.
Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?
My mother, Linda, is a classical guitarist and gave me huge amounts of support. She was also a founding member of the West Sussex Guitar Club. My house was filled with music, and I had piano and singing lessons besides guitar; my sister, Tamzin, is a professional soprano.
Naturally I’m indebted to my teachers throughout my education. I’m still studying: I’m at the Royal College of Music doing a Master of Performance, under the tutelage of Gary Ryan and Christopher Stell. The emphasis here is on interpretation and stagecraft, and I have major recitals at the end of each of my two academic years.
What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?
I was unfortunate to have suffered a back injury a couple of years ago which meant that I had to retake my undergraduate final year. I had to learn how to play standing up and deal with pain. But a positive attitude meant that I made good use of this time.
What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?
I’m currently enjoying working with a fellow RCM student, Matt Iddeson, along with professional videographers to bring classical performance to a wider audience. Forte Sessions has just launched on YouTube. (Instagram: @fortesessions).
Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?
I know it’s a cliché but I love how Bach’s harmony develops methodically. Then there’s Federico Mompou, whose Suite Compostelana I love: it’s written for guitar as a homage to Santiago de Compostela, a historical Galician city in northwest Spain. I’m also fond of the Iranian guitarist Lily Ashar, who has written many folk arrangements for guitar. Lily Afshar was the first woman in the world to be awarded the degree of doctor of music in guitar performance.
In essence, I like many different composers from many different eras, though I am especially looking forward to returning to the Renaissance era when I play alongside the Renaissance Choir on 1 April. I am really looking forward to playing with the choir again as they have a unique sense of community and artistry which is an honour to perform alongside.
What are your most memorable concert experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?
It was wonderful to be able to immerse myself in Spanish culture last year, when I took part in the Granada Guitar Festival along with members of the Northern Guitar Ensemble. People cheered and clapped.
I think I kept my composure when my false nails once flew off during a performance!
What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?
Don’t limit your ambitions. There are ways to navigate life’s challenges. If you are a classical musician, you can apply focus. And it’s OK to take a break in your career.
How would you define success as a musician?
My immediate plans are to make recordings to a high standard, so as to bring more awareness of the wonderful instrument that is the guitar.
I’ve got 88,300 people following me on Instagram. Social media is the way forward to make classical guitar more accessible and less elitist.
Zoe Barnett is currently studying at the Royal College of Music for her Master’s degree generously supported by the Derek Butler Trust and the Sussex Young Musician Award 2022. She is studying under the tutelage of Gary Ryan and Christopher Stell. Zoe is a Young Artist with the International Guitar Foundation for 22/23 where she has premiered new works for the guitar at the London International Guitar Festival. She has gained inspiration from masterclasses with Sergio Assad, Judicael Perroy and Xuefei Yang. Zoe has played in venues in the U.K. such as the Wigmore Hall, Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall and Bolivar Hall. Abroad, she has played around Europe and China.