At the age of 12, five years before he received the 2016 BBC Young Musician Award, Sheku Kanneh-Mason was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Sheku, one of the brightest young stars of classical music, didn’t let the complexity of constantly counting carbs, injecting precise doses of insulin and managing his blood sugar levels get in the way of his performances.
In fact, just this past January, Sheku released his debut album, Inspiration, which topped the classical charts and reached number 18 on the Official UK Album Charts. In what has been his most high-profile performance to date, Sheku performed in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle during the televised wedding ceremony of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in May, capturing the attention of viewers around the world and catapulting him onto the global stage. Sheku’s talent has gone viral, leading the way to BAFTA performances, a debut at Carnegie Hall and two BBC documentaries.
As a student studying at the Royal Academy of Music, Sheku is passionate about ensuring nothing gets in the way of his ambitions. “Managing my type 1 diabetes does provide an extra challenge before I perform. Most musicians don’t have to think about avoiding hypos!” he explains. “But playing at the Royal Wedding was awesome and I’m glad I can help raise awareness about T1D and JDRF.”
“We are excited and honoured to have the support of such a talented, distinguished and remarkable international role model who shares our commitment to achieve a world without type 1 diabetes,” said Derek Rapp, President and CEO of JDRF International. “With Sheku’s support and through the power of his voice, we will raise global awareness for the importance of research to find life-changing breakthroughs and, one day, a cure.”
As a JDRF Global Ambassador, Sheku will help to highlight JDRF’s impact on the international T1D research landscape and lend his voice to enhancing fundraising, advocacy and awareness efforts in the fight against T1D.