Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 2 September 2015

The violin that gets its own plane seat lands in Katherine’s hands

By Amanda Poole

Published 01/02/2013

Michael Trainor travels with the £75,000 violin to Belfast on a flight from London
Michael Trainor travels with the £75,000 violin to Belfast on a flight from London
Michael; presents the instrument to its new custodian, Katherine Sung

As violins go, few have hit such a high note in such soaring style.

But this one is so special, it even gets its own seat on a plane.

The prestigious Milton violin — worth £75,000 — has been handed over to the newly-appointed leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra by the previous holder.

The beautiful instrument, made by renowned Neapolitan violin maker Joseph Gagliano, was presented to south Belfast teenager Katherine Sung (18) after she was put through a rigorous audition process to become leader of the orchestra.

Handing it over at Belfast City Airport on the steps of the plane was Michael Trainor, the violin’s talented previous custodian who had accompanied it over from London.

Katherine was picked by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to take the precious violin, which can only be kept for a maximum of three years, in recognition of her incredible talent.

The Milton violin has previously been used by the leader and principal players of the Ulster Orchestra.

Prize-winning musician Katherine told the Belfast Telegraph she is enjoying her new role and was honoured and thrilled to be in possession of such a fine musical instrument.

“I am very excited about it,” Katherine said.

“It takes a while to get used to a violin, but I’m looking forward to practising on it and developing my playing.

“As leader of the youth orchestra I have to know the music inside out, set an example in terms of rehearsal etiquette and ensure everything runs smoothly.”

Katherine began learning the violin with her tutor Alex Lawrence when she was just six years old.

And next year the gifted Methodist College pupil will study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

Stanley Foreman, Ulster Youth Orchestra general manager, said Katherine is a talented young musician who shows enormous promise.

“She merits being appointed leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra in 2013 and I am sure she will inspire every member of the orchestra with her dedication and commitment to achieve the highest standards in all the music she plays,” he said.

Head of Music at the Arts Council, Rosa Solinas, also praised Katherine’s “exceptional” talent.


  • The Milton violin was made by renowned Neapolitan violin maker Joseph Gagliano in Naples around 1780.
  • It was donated to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland by Prof Alan Milton in 1980.

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