Rising music star killed

THURSDAY 9.30AM: A gifted, award-winning musician whose many achievements included playing for Prince Charles died after his car hit a tree.

Tributes have been pouring in for John O'Gaunt professional musician Nic Branston (25), who recently finished a post- graduate course, specialising in the French horn, at the Royal College of Music in London. His musical talent also extended to the piano, guitar, bass guitar and drums.

Over the years the former Oakham School pupil gained a string of prestigious scholar-ships and awards including the Ian Fleming Award of which he was particularly proud.

He had performed at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace and had been hand-picked to play for the Prince's guests at private gatherings.

He also played with some of the world's leading orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Proud parents Paul and Rachel Branston, who have businesses in Queniborough and a music school in Oakham, paid tribute to their talented son.

Mrs Branston said: "He was just an incredibly gifted boy. We've been inundated with e-mails from top professional musicians from around the world, top professors at the Royal College and countless young people he grew up with.

"He performed with some of the world's leading orchestras and performed all over the world. We've had people saying he was among the best young French horn players in the country"

Mr Branston said: "He was very modest about his own ability. He could have surged ahead to great heights. He was on trial with the Opera North Company and had auditions lined up with BBC orchestras in Scotland and Wales. He had high hopes of landing a top job.

"Nic was full of life and a great person to be with. His friends who have written to us in the last few days have said how shocked they are by his loss."

Nic had been to a quiz night in Queniborough with friends on Sunday night. He went back to his friend's house to listen to music before returning home in the early hours of Monday morning.

It's thought he then left the house again in his maroon Renault Megane because he couldn't get a signal on his mobile phone. He was later pronounced dead at the scene of the accident which happened at about 3am in Station Hill.

Mrs Branston said: "The last time we saw him was at about 8pm on Sunday. We had tea and then he had a shower. He popped his head around the door and said 'see you'.

"He was a fun-loving, vibrant person who had a dry, quick wit. He was such a big personality and was the life and soul of the party. We just can't believe he's gone."

As well as his parents Nic leaves behind his younger brother Joel (5). Mrs Branston added: "There may have been 20 years between them but they were very close. Nic was his very cool older brother."

Mrs Branston said her son's friends would be playing at his funeral to be held at St Mary's Church in Queniborough on Tuesday at 2pm. Many top musicians from London will also be in attendance.

The Royal College of Music has suggested setting up the Nic Branston Memorial Award in his memory. Family flowers only but donations towards the award can be sent to Gamble Funeral Directors of Syston.

Police are appealing for witnesses to the accident. Anyone with any information should call Pc 635 Adrian Price on (0116) 222 2222.