JDRF names internationally renowned cellist as a global ambassador

London, U.K./ New York, NY, September 13, 2018– JDRF, the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research, is honoured to appoint internationally renowned cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason as a global ambassador. The 19 year-old British cellist captured the world’s attention during his performance at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

“We are thrilled that Sheku has joined us as our international ambassador,” said Karen Addington, JDRF UK Chief Executive. “We look forward to collaborating with him to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes – which is much misunderstood – and of our mission to find the cure.”

Sheku was diagnosed with T1D at the age of 12, five years before he won BBC Young Musician 2016 and made his mark as one of the brightest young stars in classical music.

In January, Sheku released his debut album, Inspiration, which topped the classical charts and reached number 18 in the Official UK Album Charts. He performed in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle during the wedding ceremony of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in May, which captured the attention of viewers across the world and catapulted him on to the global stage.

Having T1D means Sheku has the added complication of constantly counting carbs, injecting precise doses of insulin and balancing his blood sugar levels to avoid life-threatening highs and lows before he performs and multiple times throughout each day to stay alive. “Managing my type 1 diabetes does provide an extra challenge before I perform. Most musicians don’t have to think about avoiding hypos!” Sheku explains. “But playing at the Royal Wedding was awesome and I’m glad I can help raise awareness of the condition, and of the type 1 diabetes charity, 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 US. “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 JDRF Global Ambassador, Sheku will help to highlight JDRF’s international research programme and lend his voice to enhance fundraising, advocacy and education efforts in the fight against T1D. Sheku will begin to collaborate on initiatives immediately. On 17th September, JDRF is staging a party at LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair in London with an auction. Sheku will be providing a private cello lesson to the highest bidder. The money raised on the evening from the event and the auction will support T1D research and JDRF is extremely grateful to Sheku for donating this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

About type 1 diabetes

  • Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease that can happen to anyone, regardless of family history and is not caused by diet or lifestyle choices.
  • People with type 1 diabetes rely on multiple insulin injections or pump infusions every day just to stay alive, until we find the cure
  • Type 1 diabetes affects about 400,000 people in the UK, 29,000 of them are children

About JDRF

JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Our mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. To accomplish this, JDRF has invested more than $2.2 billion (£1.69 billion) in research funding since our inception. We are an organization built on a grassroots model of people connecting in their local communities, collaborating regionally for efficiency and broader fundraising impact, and uniting on a national stage to pool resources, passion, and energy. We collaborate with academic institutions, policymakers, and corporate and industry partners to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with T1D. Our staff and volunteers are dedicated to advocacy, community engagement and our vision of a world without T1D. For more information, please visit

About Sheku Kanneh-Mason

Sheku Kanneh-Mason first entered the spotlight as winner of BBC Young Musician 2016. He made his BBC Proms debut the following year, and released his first album, Inspiration, earlier this year on Decca Classics. It entered the Top 20 in the Official UK Albums Chart, making him the youngest cellist ever to do so, and he also became one of this year’s biggest breakthrough artists – across any genre. His cello arrangement of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’ went viral worldwide.

Sheku has been on a whirlwind adventure in the past two years – performing twice at the BAFTAs, playing at 10 Downing Street for the 30th anniversary of Black History Month, making his Carnegie Hall debut, performing at Paris Fashion Week, as well as high-profile TV appearances (including two BBC documentaries) and a busy international concert career. His performance at the Royal Wedding garnered huge public attention with Vanity Fair describing him as “the cellist who stole hearts” and Esquire calling him a “cello rockstar”.

Sheku is currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music. He is passionate about making classical music accessible to all. He comes from an incredible musical family in which all 6 of his siblings (he is the third child of 7) play instruments to a phenomenally high standard.