To mark the 40th birthday of BBC Young Musician, a look back at this hugely influential competition, focusing on the soaring careers of the three finalists from 2016, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, saxophonist Jess Gillam and French horn player Ben Goldscheider.

From its inception in 1978, BBC Young Musician has been a national institution and performers who’ve won or taken part amount to a roll call of contemporary British classical music. It’s a showcase keenly watched by the music business and an appearance in the final often opens the door to a major career.

Even by the high standards set by the competition, the most recent final in 2016 was very special indeed. The winner Sheku Kanneh-Mason is now Britain’s most talked about young musician – he topped the classical charts with his first CD and played twice at the Bafta Awards. His co-finalists Jess Gillam and Ben Goldscheider are also making waves, Jess already featured as a soloist at the Proms and both tipped for stellar careers. This programme follows Sheku, Jess and Ben over the two years since the final, seeing how these young players, all are still in their late teens, are balancing the demands of a blossoming career with their studies at music school.

The pressures faced by Sheku, Jess and Ben are nothing new and alongside telling the stories of the 2016 trio, the programme also meets many former winners and finalists. These include violinist Nicola Benedetti, winner in 2004 and now an ambassador for the competition, cellist Natalie Clein who won in 1994, percussionist Adrian Spillett, victor in 1998, violinist Jennifer Pike who triumphed aged just 12 in 2002, and pianist Martin James Bartlett the winner of the 2014 final. Also interviewed is acclaimed trumpeter Alison Balsom, now a regular presenter of BBC Young Musician, who feels that while she didn’t win in 1998, still sees the competition as an important springboard for her career.

The programme interviews Humphrey Burton who co-created the competition and presented it for many years, and oboist Nicholas Daniel, the second winner in 1980, who’s since gone on to be one of Britain’s most acclaimed classical soloists. Also interviewed is actor Richard Wilson, star of One Foot in the Grave, a long-time fan of the competition, who admits to getting slightly tearful at the sight of young musicians playing with such brilliance.

With contributions from conductor Mark Wigglesworth, music critic Jessica Duchen and principal of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Julian Lloyd Webber, the programme celebrates forty years of BBC Young Musician and shows that it’s never been a more valued and relevant part of the UK classical music scene.