Rugby School student Naomi Simon has lifted the winner’s trophy in the 2022 BBC Young Chorister of the Year competition.
The talented 16-year-old singer, whose wide repertoire includes every genre from rock to choral, was determined to go for the trophy again after making the semi-finals last year.
She triumphed in yesterday’s final (Sun, Dec 11) as the stand-out competitor from the shortlist of six talented choristers.
Naomi joined as a boarder at Rugby in 2020 on a music scholarship from The Minster School in York – which closed in 2020 – and has been coached by head of vocal studies, Matthew Sandy, since she arrived.
Director of music, Richard Tanner, Matthew and Naomi’s housemistress, Debbie Horner, all travelled to support Naomi in the semi-final filming in Manchester during the October half term.
Richard said: “Naomi is not only a wonderful team player through her contribution to our choirs at Rugby School, but also a stylish solo singer. She’s a natural performer who excels in her ability to adapt to a range of genres in her own unique way.”
Matthew added that Naomi is one of the most versatile singers he has coached and he couldn’t be more proud of her. “Far from being put off by missing out on the finals last year, Naomi was absolutely determined to have another shot and go for the trophy. We are all very proud of her resilience and dedication – she has an amazing talent.”
Naomi said she was happy to have reached the semi-finals last year but knew she had more to give.
“I felt I hadn’t shown all I could do. I changed my piece to ‘Mary did you know’ quite late. I really connected with this on an emotional level and it shows there can be different sounds in choral music.
“I was overjoyed just to have the chance to perform my pieces to an audience. That was almost enough, but to win was completely surreal. The support I received from school, my family and friends was immense – everyone was there and played a massive part in my success.”
Naomi’s mother, Frances Simon, said her family are delighted by the support received from Rugby School in the lead-up, during and post activities of the competition.
“Rugby truly is home from home for us as a family. As Naomi is an only child, she has flourished being in an environment which is super-supportive and nurturing. It melted my heart to see Richard, Matt and Naomi’s Housemistress sitting in the live studio. It was half-term holiday but there they were cheering her on!”
Aled Jones presented the competition which was judged by Katherine Jenkins, Howard Goodall and David Grant.
Naomi will now have the opportunity to take part in a range of radio and television programmes during the year for the BBC, sharing her talent with the nation and working with top musicians. She is recording with the BBC Philharmonic on Wednesday.
The full competition, including Naomi’s performance, is available on the Songs of Praise website here.