Chi-chi is the first of five children from a Nigerian father and Irish mother.
In her teens she was a talented 100m sprinter and when injury prevented her from competing in the Montreal Olympics, she turned to music, studying the double bass at the Royal Academy of Music in London and with Franco Petracchi in Rome.
Chi-chi is Founder, Artistic and Executive Director of Chineke!, Europe’s first professional orchestra comprising Black and minority ethnic (BME) musicians. Chineke!’s mission is “championing change and celebrating diversity” and it seeks to redress the imbalance of the representation of BME musicians in British orchestras.
She is Principal Double Bass and a founder member of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Professor of Double Bass Historical Studies at the Royal Academy of Music, where she was made a Fellow in 1998.
As a broadcaster Chi-chi presented BBC Radio 3 Requests for four years, was a Jury member for BBC 2 TV ‘Classical Star’ and is a regular guest presenting the BBC Proms on TV. She devised and presented a two-part series for BBC Radio 4 in 2015 which brought to life the stories and music of black composers and musicians from the 18th century, whose vivid presence on the classical music scene has slipped through the net! Chi-chi is the ‘mentor’ in this year’s BBC TV series ‘All Together Now, the Great Orchestra Challenge’.
Some of her notable chamber recordings include Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet (recorded three times) and Octet, Beethoven’s Septet, Boccherini Sonatas, and a solo recording of Dittersdorf and Vanhal Concertos, Hyperion CD 67179.
As well as being a trustee of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the Mayor’s Music Funds, she served on the board of the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) from 2008 to 2013 and as a Council Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society since 2009, and in 2011 created the ABO/RPS Salomon Prize which celebrates the “unsung heroes” working in the ranks of British Orchestras.
In 2012 Barrie Gavin directed a documentary film about Chi-chi’s career, called ‘Tales from the Bass Line’. Chi-chi was awarded an MBE for services to Music in the 2001 Queen’s Birthday honours. She was one of the 100 – Happy List in the Independent on Sunday 2011, and in July this year was appointed as an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Laban Conservatoire in recognition of her “pioneering contribution to music, in particular the inspiration she provides, the commitment she has shown, and the contribution she has made to addressing inequalities within classical music in the UK, most recently through the Chineke! Foundation.” Chi-chi is a passionate advocate of the importance of music in everyone’s lives and is committed to teaching and sharing her love of music.
Chi-chi is the Black British Business Person of 2016