THE founder of the world-renowned Barnsley Youth Choir has been appointed MBE for his services to young people and music.

Mat Wright, who is also the artistic director of the choir, was named in the Queen’s 2020 New Year's honours list as a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

The 45-year-old established Barnsley Youth Choir in 2009 alongside his wife Eleanor Wright and Keith Norton, developing an outstanding international reputation winning gold medals in the 2014 World Choir Games and the European Choir Games in 2015 and 2017.

The choir is currently ranked fifth in official world rankings - the highest ranked in Great Britain - and Mat said he was thrilled by the MBE.

“I am humbled that people think me worthy of such recognition,” he added. “I feel privileged to have worked alongside thousands of exceptional young people and skilled professionals over the last 20 years and serve this wonderful community. I am grateful to employers who have recognised the importance of my choral work and have provided me with the flexibility that has been so important.

“I would also like to thank my family, particularly Eleanor - a driving force behind the choir, who have made so many sacrifices to make this work possible. This award reflects on the entire team at Barnsley Youth Choir that I am privileged to work alongside, most notably Ann Wroe and Yvonne Worsley.

“This exceptional team work selflessly and tirelessly, and make such a difference to the lives of children and young people in this community.

“I am very grateful to be recognised and delighted that the work of Barnsley Youth Choir has been acknowledged.”

Mat was a former member of Wakefield Cathedral Choir following the award of a music scholarship to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and subsequently graduated from Bretton Hall College, going on to complete a PGCE in music education where he gained a commendation.

He was recognised as an outstanding teacher (AST) early in his career and has worked in a variety of roles in Barnsley schools including as a vice principal at Horizon Community College.

He currently works for the Astrea Academy Trust as a deputy director of education that serves schools in South Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire.

Ann Wroe, president of Barnsley Youth Choir, added: “This is an amazing achievement and so justly deserved for someone who has never accepted recognition for his unbelievably hard work over the last ten years.

“He is a visionary who has on numerous occasions made the impossible possible for so many young people.

“The award could not have been given to anyone more loyal or deserving. Mat is an inspirational, motivational and caring person who works tirelessly and selflessly to provide incredible life-changing opportunities for the young people of Barnsley ensuring that they excel in their ambitions to succeed.

“I know that every person involved in the Barnsley Youth Choir family will feel so proud and burst with pride.”

Pictures: Sarah Brabbin.