Royal cellist is now a clothes model

Royal cellist is now a clothes model


norman lebrecht

October 24, 2018

Paul Smith dressed Sheku Kanneh-Mason for the royal wedding.

Now Sheku is starring as his model, promoted across all media.



  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Those shoes are very suitable.

  • violafan says:

    Thats awesome! Good for Sheku

  • Ridiculous and embarrassing, devaluating the art form and himself. Selling-out.

    • V.Lind says:

      Nonsense. Being an uber-purist is sheer self-indulgence at this juncture. Halls are less full, record sales are dropping, orchestras are shutting down, even t4eaching jobs are getting thin on the ground as fewer kids want the discipline of learning an instrument with which to play classical music.

      So when hip young cellist is deemed recognisable and admired enough to be worth paying to promote a brand, it is something to be celebrated, not lamented. If the kids think Sheku is “cool,” they may take a look — and listen — to what he does. If that’s what it to start rebuilding audiences, go for it.

      In the meantime, it gives him an income above and beyond what he can earn in concerts or from record sales — which may keep him in the business.

      • William Ford says:

        “If that’s what it to start rebuilding audiences, go for it.” Only if it were that simple. Yet, I am not clutching my pearls. Classical music lives on like never before. It is more available, less costly and orchestras flourish, even in remote areas of the US. Many still feel it “cool.” Ouch!

      • Petros Linardos says:

        “If the kids think Sheku is “cool,” they may take a look — and listen — to what he does. If that’s what it to start rebuilding audiences, go for it.”

        That has always built cult followings, not expanded audiences.

        I understand the argument about crossover appeal, but believe it has to be rooted in artistry, not marketing gimmicks. Guitarist John Williams is a case in point: a first rate musician, focused on his art, though his repertoire has never been strictly “highbrow”. One might argue along the same lines about Pepe Romero and the Romero family in general.

      • buxtehude says:


      • I think you got it completely wrong. It is not ‘purism’ when classical music performers DON’T get into the public realm selling clothes or anything that has in itself nothing to do with their profession. Among other things, it has been commercialism (which is another form of populism) which has damaged the stature of the art form. A good young performer should be presented as a classical musician and not as a fashion model. So-called ‘innocent’ young people getting lured to classical music concerts BECAUSE such musicians pose as fashion models, get quite disappointed when they find-out that Mahler has not the ‘cool’ touch they had come to expect, and that Debussy is not a perfume brand but some inaccessible sound chemist, that this guy Braaahms is an old dull fellow with a beard, and that you can’t dance on R Strauss, etc. etc.

        Classical music’s problem, which is, by the way, greatly exaggerated, is the misunderstanding that it is a mere product from the past and no longer compatible with our modern lives. The opposite is true:

    • Chris says:

      Get off your high horse for just a moment John – and Petros Linardos, where have you been hiding since this young man took the music world by storm around two years ago. John – this young fellow is in excellent shape, very photogenic, so why should he not take advantage of that fact. Petros – he now has a couple of discs to his name both of which are selling in lage numbers, apart from his leading role in the wedding of the Duke and (now) Duchess of Sussex.

      • It is this populist attitude which is giving the entirely wrong impression of what the art form is. And then, if more people would spend time on horse riding, that would be more healthy than trying to sell classical music for what it is not. These attempts to ‘use’ classical music to ‘sell’ commercial products is something that is not expected from other professions: would we trust our lives to surgeons who appear on billboards in Calvin Klein underwear? Or a lawyer who dresses in a clown outfit and tries to get you buying a theme park brochure while you are filing all your divorce complaints? Instead of thinking that defending the nature of the art form is somehow related to horses, it would be more thoughtful to read a bit about it.

        • buxtehude says:

          I think that for once John you’ve got something completely wrong. Populism, in the current use of that term, and commercialism have nothing in common; it’s like comparing oranges with nuts & bolts.

          Advertising today is the sea in which all creatures swim, and this sea includes opposition to it, let’s call it the shore, the reaction being formed in the reverse image of what it opposes.

          Misrepresentation is the heart and soul of advertising. It’s not true that other professions don’t engage in this, for example attorney Saul McGill in the field of law. Look at movie trailers, those calls-to-prayer of today’s dominant art form.

          The whole point is to get people into the tent.

          • The whole point is to get people into the tent without misleading them.

            And I think commercialism is indeed a form of populism, creating artificial needs with as many non-thinking people as possible, appealing to the lowest common denominator.

        • Nick2 says:

          I have always looked forward to John Borstlap’s comments here. But I agree he has got this one totally wrong. He may not like it but commercialism IS part of classical music. That’s a fact if life in this day and age. And having worked at building audiences for over 40 years, I for one embrace it and have seen what it can do in helping build new audiences.

          • There seems to be a confusion of terms here…… There is a difference between promotion, or marketing, and commercialism. The first two terms relate to a correct packaging and information to inform audiences, but commercialism is using classical music to make money, without concern for the art form as such.

          • buxtehude says:

            This thread is about an instrumentalist being bigged up as a fashion model. If the resulting increase in his celebrity draws more people to his concerts, well: good! This is so gentle a form of misrepresentation it hardly counts as such.

            I’m bewildered by your reaction to this.

        • Martain Smith says:

          Too true! Love your comparison with a surgeon or lawyer – but alas, I fear the World may be coming to that!
          Out for a quick buck!
          Superficiality, marketing, image…that’s what it’s all about – but it’s short-lived, and there’s a reason why people still seek out Fürtwängler’s Wagner, or Callas’ Norma – they prevail!

      • Petros Linardos says:

        More power to Sheku for his musical achievements. All I am criticizing is his secondary career in fashion.

  • Will Duffay says:

    Very happy for him to do this. Surprisingly, given the Classical bubble we live in where we assume that other folk have heard of major award winners, a lot of the UK will still be unaware of Sheku’s playing (although fewer since the wedding). It won’t hurt his career, or the expansion of classical music into new markets, for him to be seen in high profile ads.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Anything worth reporting about Sheku’s music making or music related activities?

    • Bruce says:

      You’ve been a regular on this site long enough to know that what a musician wears is much, MUCH more important than their playing. 😉