WHEN Jack Holloway chose a little-known Estonian composer for a music magazine's writing competition, he never dreamed it would strike a chord with the judges.
The question posed was: Which anniversary between 2009 and 2013 should the music world really push the boat out for?
Jack, 23, of St Mary's Road, Ealing, chose the 80th birthday of Veljo Tormis, impressing the judges with his "spirited and knowledgeable championship" of this often-overlooked composer.
He was astonished when he won the BBC Music Magazine's Michael Oliver Memorial Prize for young writers under 25, a cheque for £500 and had his winning entry published in the magazine. He also went to the prestigious awards ceremony on board the MV Silver Sturgeon on the Thames.
Jack, an oboist and pianist who actually met and sang for Veljo when the composer visited his university in York, says: "I was knocked sideways. I could not believe it. I thought it was a joke.
"The ceremony on the Thames was quite something; all the movers and shakers in the music world and recording industry.
"And being congratulated by lots of people was lovely."
What was even more incredible was he had never even planned to enter the competition. Jack, who
has won two music scholarships as a child and used to rehearse in Windsor Castle, says: "My mother said: 'Why don't you go for it?' but I wasn't that keen.
"I was reading music at York and chose unusual modules like Indian and Estonian folk music. Then Veljo came to the university.
"He didn't speak a word of English but he had a great sense of humour. He rehearsed his pieces and we sung. He prodded us a bit until we got it right. Music is the universal sign language."
Jack had always loved singing as a child, joining his school choir and then winning a scholarship to St George's School, a boarding school in Windsor.
He says: "All our rehearsals were in Windsor Castle in the Chapel of St George, the Queen's private chapel. When you are eight you don't know what to make of it. It's a bit of an eye-opener to sing in Windsor Castle.
"The Queen went to her private chapel twice a year. She was only five feet away from where we sang and usually came over and said a few words. There is a sense of pomp and ceremony but it is all incredibly stuck in the past."
Although his brother William joined him two years later, Jack admits it could be tough going. He says: "It was hard work practising with two instruments (piano and oboe) at 7am. I chose instruments that would complement my singing."
Jack then won another music scholarship to Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith where he did A levels in music technology, English and History. He graduated from York University in July last year and had an internship with the Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM).
Since leaving university he has worked in PR and festival administration and is currently handling the PR and stage managing a Midsummer Night's Dream at a stately home in Surrey.
He also sings in a jazz and gospel choir called Lifted Voices and has had two more articles published in The Classical Music Magazine, one on youth orchestras and the other on the Hilliard Ensemble.
He feels his prize has given him the confidence to write. He says: "None of that would have happened without the award."