Sir Charles Groves Prize awarded to Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE and Professor Martin Ashley

Making Music awards Sir Charles Groves Prize to Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE and Professor Martin Ashley for outstanding contributions to musical life in the UK

Making Music, the UK’s membership organisation for leisure-time music groups, is delighted to announce that Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, Founder and Artistic & Executive Director of the Chineke! Foundation, and Professor Martin Ashley, Editor-in-Chief of the Association of British Choral Directors’ Choral Directions Research, have been jointly awarded the 2020 Sir Charles Groves Prize.

Selected by Making Music’s board of management, the biennial prize recognises the outstanding contribution of individuals and organisations to the musical life of the UK. Established in 1990 to mark Sir Charles Groves’ 75th birthday, the award honours the renowned conductor’s remarkable contribution to both leisure-time music – as a former president of Making Music – and to British musicianship and composition.

Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE will be presented with her prize by Barbara Eifler, Making Music Chief Executive, during the Chineke! Orchestra concert on Friday 28 May at London Royal Festival Hall – the first live-audience concert of Southbank Centre’s ‘Summer Reunion’ season. Professor Martin Ashley will be presented with his award at the Association of British Choral Directors (abcd) Choral Leaders’ Festival in September.

Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE established the Chineke! Foundation in 2015, which supports, inspires and encourages Black and ethnically diverse classical musicians working in the UK and Europe. A founder member of the Orchestra for the Age of Enlightenment, she held the position of principal double bass for 30 years. Throughout her career she has performed and recorded diverse styles from authentic baroque to 21st century, as well as new commissions with many of Europe’s leading chamber orchestras and ensembles.

As a broadcaster, Nwanoku presents regularly for BBC radio and TV, and is currently presenting ‘Chi-chi’s Classical Champions’, a six-part series for Classic FM which shines a spotlight on Black and ethnically diverse composers and performers.

Barbara Eifler, Making Music Chief Executive, said:

“This award recognises Chi-chi Nwanoku’s outstanding work in increasing and showcasing the diversity of talent in classical music. On top of all her own professional engagements, she has worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone has access to classical music, has role models and pathways into this music, and is able to build a sustainable career within it. Chi-chi does not just talk the talk, but walk the walk – as well as being an articulate speaker on inclusion and access, she’s a doer who just went ahead and set up the Chineke! Foundation, to start making things happen that nobody else was doing – truly an inspiration to us all.”

Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE said:

“I’m deeply honoured to be receiving the Sir Charles Groves Prize alongside Professor Martin Ashley. It’s humbling to be counted among such illustrious recipients of this award – peers, mentors and icons who have inspired me over nearly 40 years of working in this industry. My firm belief has always been that classical music is for, and should be, accessible to everyone, no matter your social or economical background or where you're from. My aim with the Chineke! Foundation has been to give Black and ethnically diverse musicians and audiences a point of reference, a space where they can belong and access a treasure trove of music as well as to share the opportunities and benefits the state education system gave me in music. The industry is gradually looking as though it wants to open up, become more diverse, inclusive and offer a sense of belonging, so if I have helped to facilitate that change then all is well.”

Professor Martin Ashley originally trained as a middle-school music specialist, teaching for 17 years in UK state and independent schools before moving into higher education. Following a number of senior research positions, he retired from the higher-education sector in 2013 to concentrate on his research into young male singing and the promotion of the Cambiatia singing concept for adolescent voices.

During the pandemic, Ashley’s research into the implications of Covid-19 for choirs and supporting music groups had a major impact on both professional and leisure-time singing activity UK, working tirelessly to disseminate scientific evidence to the public, policy makers and stakeholders.

Barbara Eifler, Making Music Chief Executive, said:

“Professor Martin Ashley can truly be said to have rescued many singers and choirs from the lowest of emotional lows during the last 18 months. In March 2020, he immediately started collecting research studies and evidence about singing and Covid, in order to inform and advise choirs with the best possible data and risk mitigations from around the world. His clear, well-reasoned and science-based approach has helped many choirs gain valuable perspective and plan ahead to safe meetings in person. Over the last 15 months, he has been tireless in speaking at innumerable events and generous with his time in responding to the needs of singers and choirs in the UK. I am very pleased that his work is being recognised with this unique and prestigious award.”

Professor Martin Ashley said:

“This award came out of the blue and I was, of course, delighted and honoured to receive it. Many people in many walks of life have struggled during the pandemic, but the valiant efforts of music leaders to keep their choirs and orchestras together have received disappointing little recognition outside their immediate sphere of activity. So, I would like, through this award, to recognise and pay tribute to their efforts, without which we would be facing a future of rebuilding music groups from almost nothing.”

Press photos approved for use: Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE // Professor Martin Ashley // joint image of Chi-chi and Martin

Past winners of the Sir Charles Groves Prize include Take it Away (2018), Sir Karl Jenkins, (2016), Nicola Benedetti (2016), Howard Goodall (2006), Glastonbury Festival (2005), Chandos Records (1996) and Gillian Moore (1990).

Every year, Making Music present a range of awards and prizes to individual musicians, music groups and organisations in both the leisure-time and professional sectors. For more information, contact Sally Palmer, Making Music Projects and Office Manager, at


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Notes to editors

Making Music has championed leisure-time music groups since 1935 across the UK with practical services, artistic development opportunities and by providing a collective voice for its members. We represent over 3,500 groups made up of around 190,000 musicians of all types, genres and abilities. We help them run their groups so they can get on with making music!


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