Alexis Ffrench becomes ABRSM’s first artistic director

Harriet Clifford
Wednesday, May 18, 2022

ABRSM hopes that the new collaboration will enable a ‘new and more diverse generation’ of young people to ‘reap the rewards of musical achievement'.

Alexis Ffrench
Alexis Ffrench

Alex Lake

Classical-soul artist Alexis Ffrench will become exam board ABRSM’s first artistic director in a partnership that aims to inspire a wider range of young people to learn classical music.

Ffrench, a composer, pianist, producer signed exclusively to Sony Classical, will lead masterclasses and concerts and help ‘bring to life’ ABRSM’s new Performance Grades.

The announcement is part of ABRSM’s drive to diversify and widen the reach of its offering in line with the board’s ‘clear’ vision ‘to inspire as wide a range of learners as [they] can from around the world to experience the joy of music’. 

It is hoped that the collaboration will ‘broaden the appeal’ of classical music and ‘reach out learners who are following less formal progression paths’.

Ffrench said: ‘I am thrilled to partner with ABRSM as its 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.

Ffrench hopes to work with the exam board to ‘embrace the diverse mosaic of cultural influences, genres, and progressive innovation’ to ‘form a truly representative picture of the music that inspires musicians to express their individuality’.

Ffrench added that he hopes to focus on ‘new contexts’ for musical expression, collaborative opportunities, and wants to explore pathways for musicians engaged in ‘self-directed, non-didactic music making’. 

This is, he said, ‘in recognition of, and appreciation for, the exciting and panoramic range of talents, interests, and experiences demonstrated in non-traditional arenas.’

‘It’s going to be quite a ride,’ he added.

ABRSM chief executive Chris Cobb said: ‘Everyone at ABRSM is tremendously excited to be collaborating with Alexis to bring together his ambition and ours. As artistic director, he 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. 

‘Alexis will help to bring to life our new Performance Grades, leading on master classes and concerts, demonstrating the impact that personality brings to performance. His influence on our repertoire will also be important as we seek to further extend the diversity of our syllabuses and the musical genres we support.’

Alexis Ffrench performs at the Barbican on 6 October 2022.