Chi-chi Nwanoku

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Chi-chi Nwanoku
BornJune 1956
Fulham, London

Chinyere Adah Nwanoku, OBE (born June 1956, London) is a double bass player and professor of Historical Double Bass Studies at the Royal Academy of Music. She was a founder member and principal bassist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, a position she held for 30 years.[1]

Of Nigerian and Irish descent, she is the founder and Artistic Director of the Chineke! Orchestra, the first professional orchestra & junior orchestra in Europe to be made up of a majority of Black and minority ethnic (BME) musicians.[2][3][4]

Performing groups[edit]

She has worked as principal double bass of the ensemble Endymion, the London Mozart Players, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the English Baroque Soloists, the London Classical Players and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique.[1]

Nwanoku is the founder of the Chineke! Orchestra, Europe's first classical orchestra made up of a majority of black and minority ethnic musicians, with whom she regularly performs.


Chinyere (Chi-chi) Adah Nwanoku is of Nigerian and Irish descent and is the oldest of the five children of her parents,[5] Dr Michael Nwanoku and his wife Margaret (née Hevey).[6] Nwanoku was born in Fulham, London, and before reaching school age she spent some years in Imo State, Nigeria, where her family went for two years. She attended Kendrick Girls Grammar School in Reading, Berkshire. At the age of seven she began her education as a classical musician, first piano, and at the age of 18 bass. She subsequently studied at the Royal Academy of Music.[6] She was also undertaking training as a 100-metre sprinter but had to end her athletic career following a knee injury.[5]

She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2001 Birthday Honours[6][7] and Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours,[8] both for services to music. She has been made an Honorary Fellow of both the Royal Academy of Music and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music.[9]

Besides playing and teaching bass, she has been active as a broadcaster, as in BBC Radio 3 Requests and in BBC TV Proms and as a member of BBC’s Classical Star jury. In 2015 she presented the BBC Radio 4 programmes In Search of the Black Mozart,[4] featuring the lives and careers of black classical composers and performers from the 18th century, including Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Ignatius Sancho, and George Bridgetower.[10] She is a Board member of the National Youth Orchestra, Tertis Foundation, London Music Fund, Royal Philharmonic Society (Council), was previously on Association of British Orchestras board, is Patron of Music Preserved, the Cherubim Trust.[11]

She was a guest of BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs on 11 February 2018.[12]

She lives in London and has two children, Jacob Hugh and Phoebe Hugh, and a granddaughter, Maya Ekene Hugh.


  1. ^ a b "Chi-chi Nwanoku". Royal Academy of Music. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  2. ^ "Chi-chi Nwanoku's Chineke! Orchestra Debuts Sept. 13 at Southbank Center", Classicalite, 23 July 2015.
  3. ^ "Chi-chi Nwanoku: 'I want black musicians to walk on to the stage and know they belong'", The Guardian, 2 June 2015.
  4. ^ a b Jessica Duchen, "Chineke! Europe's first professional orchestra of black and minority ethnic musicians launches", The Independent, 1 September 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Our founder| Chi-chi Nwanoku MBE", Chineke! Foundation.
  6. ^ a b c Ed Keazor, "Chi-chi Nwanoku: A Classical legacy and an African heritage", Music in Africa Magazine, 25 November 2014.
  7. ^ "The Queen's Birthday Honours". BBC. 15 June 2001. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  8. ^ "No. 61962". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 2017. p. B13.
  9. ^ "Chineke! Foundation". Chineke! Foundation. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  10. ^ In Search of the Black Mozart, BBC Radio 4.
  11. ^ "About Cherubim Music Trust".
  12. ^ "Chi-chi Nwanoku", Desert Island Discs, 11 February 2018.

External links[edit]