What was the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music like?
It’s been a while since I graduated, but I absolutely loved my time at both music colleges! They really taught me a solid technique and I certainly owe a lot of my musical development to them both. However, I don’t think they really prepared me for the reality of a career in music. They were so focused on improving one’s technique, a lot of other important skills fell by the wayside. I’m not going to criticise those institutions too much, as I believe they have changed these shortcomings in recent years, yet I feel like my time there could have definitely been more productive if someone had guided me in the right way.
Where would you suggest people buy a violin from?
I always encourage people to go to their local music shop. I have a great one in West Hampstead, called Proarte London String, (www.proartelondon.com)
Otherwise for bow repairs there is a great place in south east London called The Bow Business, run by Stephen Thomson (www.thebowbusiness.com)
What age do you recommend starting to play the violin?
You can start at any age, it really depends if you want to become a professional violinist of just do it as a hobby. I think the only limits are in our own heads, if you’ve got determination and discipline you can get far at any age!
So, what are you like as a teacher?
I take each student for who they are and adjust my style of teaching accordingly. There are students who react better to a structure, others to more spontaneous ideas. I look at the pupil as a whole and take an approach to who they are as a person, where their strengths and weaknesses lie. I believe teaching the violin isn’t just showing the student what to do, but in making them understand why and how to get there on their own. It’s important to build strong technical foundations, which take into consideration musicianship as a whole. I try to inspire my pupils with different ideas on how to approach the violin in a natural way and make sure I work on their weaknesses to even out the gaps in their technique and musical knowledge.
What has been your career highlight to date?
There have been many highlights, and although classically trained I love genre-crossing into improvisation, avantgarde and multi-layered electronics, so my career has been really varied!
I have very fond memories of performing Mozart’s concerto in G Major with a chamber orchestra in Switzerland. The concentration and focus leading up to it and the actual performance, during which I felt elated, in flow realising I knew where every note of the concerto belonged and why.
As a contrast, playing British Summer Time with the band Elbow in front of 80.000 people was quite spectacular and humbling because of the sheer number of people united in one place to enjoy music together. Also one of my last performances before Covid19 was for the 50th anniversary of the band “Steeleye Span”, fiddle duetting with Peter Knight on the stage of the Barbican!
Releasing my neoclassical/ambient album Autovia, as an artist in my own right was definitely a highlight and most recently releasing my solo violin, viola and voice album Mirror Images has been a total climax of my career.
As part of the London Contemporary Orchestra I have certainly been star struck a few times, including meeting Philip Glass whilst performing his three symphonies at the Royal Festival Hall, sharing the stage with Jonny Greenwood and recording with Thom Yorke in the same room at Air Lyndhurst studios!
Since the pandemic hit, I feel like I’ve really found a niche with my live concerts in nature. That’s been a total adventure and a constant inspiration during this difficult year! I’m already excited about my next one 🙂
What violin pieces would you recommend people listen to, to inspire them to play?
The Bruch violin concerto performed by Itzhak Stern was a CD I listened on repeat as a teenager as well as the Sibelius violin concerto with Maxime Vengerov. Another incredibly inspiring classic is the Mendelssohn Concerto in Eminor, my favourite being Nathan Milstein’s performance. The finale of the Brahms concerto, The Tschaikowsky Concerto, Arvo Pärt “Fratres” or the interlude “Meditation” from the opera Thais by Massenet are great pieces to inspire any future violinists. If you’re looking outside of classical violin, I thoroughly recommend listening to the jazz violinist Stephan Grappelli or folk fiddler Eliza Carthy and Peter Knight!