A YOUNG brass bandsman who took up the cornet just over three years ago is not just developing into a fine musician but is also finding it helps him manage his Asperger syndrome.

Rhys Stokes, 11, has tended to struggle to socialise, but music has helped him grow in confidence and has developed his social skills.

The pupil of Greenfield Primary in Hoyland plays the cornet every day in many different bands and groups and is a rising star in Barnsley Metropolitan Band, where he now plays on the ‘front row’ with the solo cornets.

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“He lives music,” said mum Rosie, who is thrilled to hear Rhys has been shortlisted for a Young Champions award after being nominated by his cornet teacher.

“He plays every single day. If he’s not rehearsing or performing with one band or another, he’s at home practising.

“He’s been diagnosed with Asperger’s, and he has struggled to socialise. But playing is so good for him. He’s mixing more with adults and children in bands, and it’s helping him.

“What we used to find with him was that if he did something once, that was it for him. He’d done it. We thought music would be good for him to stick at and work at, and he’s just flown with it.”

Rhys has already passed his grade five cornet exam and is working on his grade five theory exam, which must be passed before he can progress onto the higher playing grades.

He plays in Barnsley Metropolitan Band, Barnsley Town Concert Band, Civic Fusion, the Foden’s Youth Band, Yorkshire Youth Band and Grimethorpe Youth Band, as well as regularly helping out other local brass bands including Strata, Unite and Deepcar.

“They don’t all meet every week, some are once a month or once a term, or when he’s needed. Luckily so far we’ve not had clashes. It means there’s something every single week and weekend though.”

Alex Francis, conductor of Barnsley Metropolitan Band and lead officer at Barnsley Music Service, said: “Rhys is one of those people who’s always been just a natural musician. Music is clearly very important to him.

“Right from when I first started teaching him about three-and-a-half years ago the progress he has made has just been exceptional.

“He’s always played in groups and bands, and every extracurricular event or workshop that’s been offered to him he’s just thrown himself into it. He’s flying through his grades and his dedication is just second to none.

“Not only that, but it’s been a pleasure to seem him grow as a young individual. I’m so pleased he’s been shortlisted for a Young Champions award.”