The Wedding Economy

Meet the 19-year-old cellist who will be performing at the royal wedding

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Photo courtesy of Getty

Among the handpicked performers who will entertain the wedding guests of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle this weekend is 19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

According to a tweet from Kensington Palace, the teen from Nottingham, England, caught the prince's attention last June when he performed at a charity event in London.

While Kanneh-Mason's name may be unfamiliar to some, he already has an impressive musical resume.

Kanneh-Mason says his initial desire to play the cello was simple: He wanted to learn an instrument bigger than the violin his older brother Braimah played. At six, he started playing a quarter-size cello, and by the age of 10 he was studying once a week at the Junior Royal Academy in London.

In 2016, he made history as the first black winner of the BBC Young Musician competition. After winning the award, The Times of London reports, he signed a recording deal with Decca, had a bus named after him by the Nottingham council and released an album. BBC reports that his album, "Inspiration," reached No. 1 on the classical chart in 2017 and No. 18 on the main chart, making him the youngest cellist ever to be included on the ranking.

Kanneh-Mason told The Times that before winning his prestigious award, he was a normal teen doing a few shows a year and studying.

"To go from that to a record contract and lots of concerts is a massive change, but at the moment it's not too crazy," he said. "I'm enjoying it, and that's the most important thing."

Kanneh-Mason and his brother aren't the only ones in the family who are musically gifted. In fact, each of his six siblings plays an instrument, be it cello, violin or the piano.

Last year, the entire Kanneh-Mason family appeared in a BBC documentary, "Young, Gifted and Classical," which tells the story of how parents Stuart and Kadie raised a group of talented kids, despite neither parent's involvement in music or the arts.

"They aren't musicians," the 19-year-old told The Times, speaking of his parents. "As we were learning, they were learning all of it as well. And it wasn't always that we were going to be musicians. [My sister] Isata started the piano and very soon it seemed like she was learning very quickly, so us younger ones followed her and copied her. It hasn't happened, but if one of my siblings wanted to do something else, they would equally have encouraged them."

In 2015, the Kanneh-Mason children also performed a musical medley in the semi-finals for the show "Britain's Got Talent."

While he and his siblings have been able to take advantage of the great opportunities music has afforded them, the teen understands that not every kid is as fortunate.

"I grew up in an environment where I would listen to a lot of classical music and get taken to a lot of concerts; for a lot of children that opportunity isn't there," he told The Times. "Because of that, it's difficult for a child to then see it as something they want to do, or even just to watch concerts."

To help other children follow in his footsteps, BBC reports, Kanneh-Mason donated money to his old school in Nottingham, to ensure that cello would continue to be taught there.

As he gears up for his big performance at the royal wedding on Saturday, he confirmed on Twitter that he is beyond excited about the opportunity.

"I was bowled over when Ms. Markle called me to ask if I would play during the ceremony, and of course I immediately said yes!!!" he writes. "What a privilege. I can't wait!"

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