22-year-old pianist, who taught himself to play whilst in foster care, wins Channel 4 show

10 June 2024, 13:21 | Updated: 10 June 2024, 14:15

Brad Kella wows with final performance on The Piano

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Brad Kella taught himself to play piano by ear, after his foster parents bought him one when he was seven years old.

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The Piano is the inspirational Channel 4 TV show that sees classical piano superstar Lang Lang, alongside Mika and Claudia Winkleman, search for the UK’s new piano star.

And in 2024, the winner was Brad Kella, a 22-year-old from Fazakerley, a suburb of north Liverpool. Brad, who was placed in foster care at age seven, is completely self-taught and plays original music in an improvisational, cinematic style.

In his first audition, Lang Lang described sensing an “enormous feeling of love” and “waves of emotions” from his playing. Mika added there was “something really powerful about him as a pianist – and I feel like not a single inch of it is taken for granted, nor was given to him”.

During the climactic final concert of the talent competition, Brad performed his own composition in honour of his foster parents.

“I got put in foster care,” Brad told the audience. “But I had the best foster parents in the whole world. And they gave me the capability to dream, to believe that anything was actually possible and there’s a stigma with kids in foster care and we genuinely get seen as just a number. I want to show people what a number can do.

“This piece is called ‘Ev and Frank’ which is named after my foster parents.”

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Brad Kella wins Channel 4's The Piano

His original piece, a cinematic work with a sweeping string quartet backing, prompted viewers to suggest Brad should score a film. His partner and foster parents could be seen wiping away tears in the audience during the moving performance.

Brad was one of seven finalists at Manchester’s Aviva Studios, in a sold-out concert where all proceeds went towards buying pianos for train stations and hospital receptions.

He was last seen in his ‘audition’ performance at Liverpool Lime Street station, where he performed an emotional original composition titled ‘A New Beginning’ for his daughter.

In his first audition, Brad explained: “I got put in foster care when I was seven years old with my twin brother. I was so confused, I remember hanging on to the railings outside my foster parents, and just didn’t want to go in.”

But his foster parents turned out to be Ev and Frank, who Brad describes as “the best people in the whole world – like, living angels”.

“When I told them about wanting a piano, they were immediately like, ‘yes’,” Brad said. “There was a budget for kids in the care system, and Ev put some money in and got me a piano – and from that moment, my whole life changed.

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“I used to just sit there for hours and hours, and figured out how different chords made me feel. I don’t read music at all, but each individual piano key just takes me somewhere.

“Once I started playing piano, I started feeling this unique feeling about myself. That I was my own person. I owe it to my foster parents because prior to them, I had no one there who believed I would be capable of doing such a thing as playing piano.”

Today, Brad and his partner Abbie have a daughter, Phoebe, and Brad still spends hours every day practising the piano.

“My story, people are going to see as a sad story. But I think the best thing about my story is that it’s not finished yet. And I don’t think it’s going to end in a sad story.

He added: “Kids in care are literally just treated as a number. We are down in the system as a number. I feel like I could be a voice to kids like that, and I hope I just give them more of a reason to keep trying – trying to achieve their dreams.

“Don’t reflect on the past, because you change your future. There’s a new beginning for everyone there, you just need to search for it.”