Ella Roberts, Calne, County Wilshire, UK

Ella Roberts is an eighteen-year-old classical musician who will begin her Bachelor of Arts in Music at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama this fall. Her passion for music began at a young age, and she hopes to carry it through to a career in music, perhaps in composing for film and television. Much of Ella’s school and extracurricular activities have focused on music, including some of her community and leadership work. She says of music, “it provides commonality to a group of people who would otherwise never have met and allows people to develop new skills and a new belief in themselves. From a dementia patient recalling the words of a song from their teenage years, to young children discovering an instrument for the first time, music can be therapy for people across many generations.”

An exemplary student at the John Bentley School, Ella has participated in multiple school music and drama productions, and has a band with fellow students in which she plays the drums. Ella completed her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award, and her love of the outdoors carried her through an eight-day exhibition in Southern Norway, during which the students carried all their own supplies & equipment.

As a student, Ella has been a ‘reading buddy’ to younger children and a mentor in the Kidscape program. She was also elected head girl in her final year in school.  Of these duties, her school principal says Ella represents the interests of others “in an entirely unselfish fashion, demonstrating the qualities of empathy and kindness throughout. She is confidently able to articulate her own viewpoint and to communicate the views of others very persuasively.” Outside of school, Ella works with the music charity Wiltshire Rural Music, helping promote their outreach program and run music workshops in rural villages.  When her mother told her about a charity program a the local hospital working to raise money for a radiotherapy unit, Ella wrote a song called “Brighter Futures,” — the name of the charity — and worked to help them by organizing a benefit concert.

Ella credits the support of her family and clinic — and many online PKU groups — with her success and comfort of her diet. She says she finds “discovering new foods really exiting,” and believes she has a varied diet, “I don’t feel like PKU restricts me to having the same foods constantly.” Currently living with her family, Ella is good at managing her own diet but is growing increasingly interested in cooking,  saying she likes “planning ideas for meals that will be suitable when I am living away from home, completing my degree.”

Although she remembers feeling differently as a young child, Ella doesn’t feel restricted or left out because of her diet. “Now I feel like I can explain myself when I’m out because I have a better understanding of my diet… I don’t believe PKU should make you feel different in a negative way.” Ella found that doing a presentation to her class helped both she and her classmates feel more comfortable with her diet.  She looks forward to opportunities to educate others about how she has achieved success in life while managing PKU.