24 November 2023

We recently welcomed Mr Linton Stephens back to Birkenhead School to give a lecture on ‘Perceptions of Success’ as part of our Nicholls Lecture Series.

By Jack V, Sixth Form student

A bassoonist, activist, and presenter from the Wirral, Mr Stephens showed an interest in the oboe from an early age. However, when he found out about the bassoon, a related double reed instrument, he was captivated by it. But he was told he was ‘too small’ for it. Years later he picked it up at 16, after hearing about an opportunity to play from a friend. This theme of overcoming adversity has been prevalent throughout Mr Stephens’ career.  

He went on to study bassoon at RNCM for 6 years, and briefly taught lessons here at Birkenhead School. Subsequently he went off to Germany for a two-year course, but became disillusioned with the isolation and long hours and eventually dropped out. Upon his return, he did not pick up the bassoon for 2 months. He overcame this hurdle and used his musical ability for other causes. For example, presenting a radio show on BBC Radio 3. platforming young, minority or up and coming composers, who otherwise may not have the opportunity to have their voices heard. 

Mr Stephens recommends Ikigai, the Japanese concept that refers to giving one a ‘sense of purpose.’ This is comprised of: what you love, what the world needs, what you are good at and what you can be paid for. This is what success really looks like. His pathway through music was a personal journey. Stephens warns of the trappings of comparing your path to others and encourages us to appreciate that success can come in different forms, for different people.  
We would like to thank Mr Stephens for sharing his personal stories with us, along with his views on what it means to be successful. 

About Linton Stephens:

British/Jamaican musician Linton Stephens (He/Him) originally hails from the Wirral and took up bassoon at 16. He went on to study as both a junior and undergrad at the Royal Northern College of Music, and later as a prestigious Ogglesby scholar for his post graduate studies from which he graduated with distinction. After a short hiatus he continued his studies at the Hochschüle für Musik, Liszt Academie in Weimar, Germany.

As a free lancer Linton regularly plays with many of the UK’s leading professional orchestras including The BBC Philharmonic, The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, The Hallé Orchestra, English National Opera, English National Ballet, Opera North, Manchester Camerata and Aurora Orchestra. He currently holds a bassoon chair with Chineke! Orchestra where he plays both orchestral and chamber works by mainstream and under-represented composers.

Linton joined BBC radio 3 in 2020. He can regularly be heard hosting the popular show and podcast classical fix. You’ll also catch him occasionally popping up in other places around the network. 
A passionate advocate for equality, Linton has served on the Musicians Union equalities committee for over 5 years and, since 2020 was elected chair of this committee. He also works as a consultant within the arts and further a field on the subjects of diversity and inclusion. Clients have included BBC Philharmonic/NOW/Scottish/Symphony, CBSO, Ulster Orchestra, Association of British Orchestras and NBC film studios. He is on the change committee for the global music publisher Hal Leonard.
Linton also holds the position of Artistic Associate with The Multi-Story Orchestra. An organisation whose vision of inclusivity and artistic collaboration he strongly believes in.
He is an Artist In Residence with Ark Schools with whom he teaches and coaches young musicians. He’s also given workshops for students at the Royal Northern College of Music and for bassoonists of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
In 2021 Linton joined the board of governers for Chethams School of Music and the Orion Orchestra.