We are honoured to have two distinguished musicians as our patrons - Richard Yarr, Senior Producer, Classical Music with BBC Northern Ireland , and Jonathan Byers, a former winner of the competition and now a cellist of international renown.

Richard Yarr

Richard Yarr is Senior Producer, Arts & Music, with BBC Northern Ireland, where he oversees local classical music output for BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio 3. This includes a range of creative partnerships with organisations including the Ulster Orchestra, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Opera. He created BBC Northern Ireland’s School Choir of the Year competition in 2014 and co-ordinated the BBC’s coverage of Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture in 2013. During his varied BBC career he has also worked as part of the BBC Singers Management Team in London and with the BBC Proms.

Richard read music at Queen’s University and graduated with First Class Honours in 1992. He then gained a choral scholarship to King’s College London, where he completed a Master of Music Degree, before returning to Queen’s to undertake Doctoral studies.

Richard is the Chair of the Charles Wood Festival and Summer School in Armagh; Founder and Artistic Director of the Northern Ireland International Organ Competition for young organists aged 21 and under; and Director of Music at First Church in Rosemary Street – Belfast’s oldest place of worship. He is also Patron of the Northern Ireland Young Musician of the Year Competition.

Richard is in demand as an adjudicator and has worked at competitions from Caithness to Cavan. He also presents BBC Radio Ulster’s popular Sunday evening requests programme, Sounds Sacred.

Richard received the Freedom of the City of London earlier this year, recognising his work with young musicians, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Jonathan Byers

Jonathan was the winner of the 1997 Northern Ireland Young Musician of the Year competition.

Belfast-born Jonathan Byers began playing the cello aged seven, and went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London with David Strange and Jennifer Ward Clarke. As a founder member of the Badke Quartet, he was winner of the 1st prize and audience prize in the 5th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition in 2007. The Quartet performed at festivals in the UK and abroad, including the Aldeburgh and Verbier Festivals and in such venues as London’s Wigmore Hall and Kings Place, Musikverein in Vienna, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and frequently broadcasted on BBC Radio 3.

Jonathan enjoys a busy freelance career performing as guest principal with many orchestras and period instrument groups, including the Academy of Ancient Music, Gabrieli Consort, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Classical Opera Company, La Serenissima, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Early Opera Company. He also plays with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and is currently Co-Principal cellist with the English Concert and the Irish Baroque Orchestra. In 2011, Jonathan was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, an honorary award for former students of the Academy who have made a notable contribution to the music profession. Jonathan performs on a c.1750 cello by John Johnson and a fine Italian cello from c.1730s made possible by the Stradivari Trust.