Jackdaws announce new President

Dame Sarah Connolly, image credit Christopher PledgerJackdaws Music Education Trust is delighted to announce Dame Sarah Connolly as their new President with her tenure commencing this January.

This new partnership represents a shared commitment to music education and a passion to improve access to active music making and classical music for all.

Mezzo-Soprano Dame Sarah Connolly has been a supporter of music education and aspiring musicians throughout her career, and will be a huge asset to Jackdaws as they work to promote their values of inspiration, access and inclusion.

She follows in the footsteps of illustrious previous Presidents, founding President Dame Joan Sutherland (1993-2010) and Sir James MacMillan (2011-2020). Jackdaws is humbled to welcome Dame Sarah Connolly to join their mission “to enable creative expression by bringing music to life”.

Dame Sarah Connolly said;
“I am looking forward to being useful to Jackdaws and supporting the wonderful work they do.”

The Chair of Jackdaws Board of Trustees, Mark Hunter said;
“We are thrilled that an artist of Dame Sarah’s standing is giving us her support in this very valuable way and incredibly grateful to her for giving us this opportunity to promote and celebrate our shared values. I feel certain that our founder, Maureen Lehane, would approve mightily.”

Jackdaws Artistic Director, Saffron van Zwanenberg said;
“I am a huge admirer of Dame Sarah as an artist and it is a massive boost to me personally to have her as our President going forward. This has been a troubling and challenging time for the arts and with her support, our determination to forge a better future, with access to high quality music making for all, will surely flourish and thrive all the more. It is very exciting.”

Jackdaws Music Education Trust

Lehane-Wishart Studio at JackdawsWe are a small music charity dedicated to improving and extending participation in and enjoyment of music and the arts more widely through active, innovative projects.
Jackdaws’ core values are inspiration, access and inclusion, and our mission statement is “bringing music to life by enabling creative expression”. An emphasis on active participation is the key driver behind all output.

Jackdaws Music Education Trust will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2023 and is based in Great Elm just outside Frome in Somerset, in an idyllic setting on the banks of the Mells Water in Somerset.

  • Throughout the year Jackdaws runs an intensive programme of events including;
    Weekend music courses for instrumentalists and singers of all abilities, led by musicians of the highest standing
  • A Young Artists programme featuring the prestigious Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards, bursary fund for courses and OperaPLUS project
  • Concerts linked to our other events
  • A Youth and Community programme which is the largest and most valued part of our organisation which features three key large scale projects which focus on chamber music, opera and composition, annually engaging with around 3,000 children and young people the South West.



Dame Sarah Connolly, image credit Christopher PledgerDAME SARAH CONNOLLY

Born in County Durham, Sarah Connolly studied piano and singing at the Royal College of Music, of which she is now a Fellow. She was made a DBE in the 2017 Birthday Honours, having previously been made a CBE in the 2010 New Year’s Honours. In 2011 she was honoured by the Incorporated Society of Musicians and presented with the Distinguished Musician Award. She is the recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s 2012 Singer Award.

Recent highlights in opera have included Fricka (Covent Garden, Teatro Réal & Bayreuther Festspiele) Brangäne Tristan und Isolde (Covent Garden, Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Glyndebourne Festival & Gran Teatro del Liceu); Komponist Ariadne auf Naxos and Clairon Capriccio (Metropolitan Opera); the title role in Giulio Cesare and Gertrude in the world premiere of Brett Dean’s Hamlet (Glyndebourne Festival); the title role in Ariodante (Wiener Staatsoper, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence & Dutch National Opera); Sesto La clemenza di Tito (Festival d’Aix-en-Provence); Purcell’s Dido (Teatro alla Scala & Covent Garden); Jocaste in Enescu’s Œdipe (Covent Garden); Gluck’s Orfeo and the title role in The Rape of Lucretia (Bayerische Staatsoper); Phèdre Hippolyte et Aricie (Opéra national de Paris & Glyndebourne Festival) and the title role in Agrippina and Nerone L’Incoronazione di Poppea (Gran Teatro del Liceu).

She has also sung the title role in Maria Stuarda and Roméo I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Opera North); Komponist (Welsh National Opera) and Octavian Der Rosenkavalier (Scottish Opera). A favorite at the English National Opera, her many roles for the company have included Geschwitz Lulu; Octavian; the title roles in Charpentier’s Medée and Handel’s Agrippina, Xerxes, Ariodante and Ruggiero Alcina; the title role in The Rape of Lucretia; Didon Les Troyens; Roméo, Susie The Silver Tassie and Sesto – for which she was nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera.

Her many concert engagements include appearances at the Lucerne, Salzburg, Tanglewood and Three Choirs Festivals and at the BBC Proms where, in 2009, she was a memorable guest soloist at The Last Night. Other notable engagements have included The Dream of Gerontius (Boston Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis & Mozarteumorchester Salzburg/Bolton); Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 at the BBC Proms (LSO/Haitink); A Child of our Time and Brangäne (Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle); Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Leipzig Gewandhausorchester/Chailly, Boston Symphony Orchestra/von Dohnanyi & Philadelphia Orchestra/Nézet-Séguin); Das Lied von der Erde (Concertgebouworkest/Harding, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Nézet-Séguin & LPO/Jurowski); Des Knaben Wunderhorn (L’Orchestre des Champs-Elysées/Herreweghe) and La mort de Cléopâtre (Hallé/Elder, CBSO/Gardner & BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis).

She has appeared in recital in London, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Geneva, Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Atlanta, Stuttgart; at the Incontri in Terra di Siena La Foce and the Schubertiada Vilabertran and at the Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Edinburgh and Oxford Lieder Festivals. In the 2018/19 season she curated a Residency at Wigmore Hall.

Committed to promoting new music, her world premiere performances include Judith Bingham’s The Colour of Fire (Two Moors Festival); Torsten Rasch’s A Welsh Night (Three Choirs Festival); Gareth Farr’s Relict Furies (Edinburgh Festival); Jonathan Harvey’s Songs of Li Po (Aldeburgh Festival) and Sir John Tavener’s Tribute to Cavafy (Symphony Hall, Birmingham) and Gnosis (BBC Proms).

A prolific recording artist, her many discs include Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (OAE); Des Knaben Wunderhorn (L’Orchestre des Champs-Élysées/Herreweghe – winner of an Edison Award); Brangäne Tristan und Isolde (LPO/Jurowski); Elgar’s Sea Pictures and The Dream of Gerontius (BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis – winner of a Gramophone Award); Britten’s Phaedra (BBC Symphony Orchestra/Gardner) and Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Haydn’s Scena di Berenice (Gabrieli Consort/McCreesh). Her roles on DVD include Giulio Cesare, Nerone, Clairon and Purcell’s Dido. Her recording of Handel arias with The Sixteen and Harry Christophers was described as ‘the definition of captivating’ and her three solo recital discs The Exquisite Hour, Songs of Love and Loss and My true love hath my heart have all won universal critical acclaim. She features on the soundtrack Fragments of a Prayer by Sir John Tavener, for the feature film Children of Men.