Trust your gut, stick to your guns and enjoy what you’re doing, says the British violinist
Lockdown has been like returning to the time before life got so busy with performing. I feel like a student again, practising without a particular concert date in mind. It’s helped me to sympathise much more with my younger self and, like many others, I’ve used the time to reconnect with people I haven’t spoken to in a long time, like one of my first teachers, Gillian Bradley. I was only about seven when I started with her, but she took it very seriously! Her sense of humour and firm but fair approach worked really well for me and laid the foundations for what was to come. I didn’t know then what it meant to be ‘a violinist’; all I knew was that for the rest of my life I wanted to keep making a noise on the box of wood I was holding. When you’re so young, though, you don’t really understand the importance of routine, and it’s hard for a teacher to give you the structure you need without imposing their will to the point that your self-motivation disappears. Gillian struck a perfect balance: she helped me build from one small goal to the next without ever making me feel like I had no say in what we were doing. Thanks to her, I now really appreciate the value of learning to become your own teacher.
There can be so many opinions and ideas circling around you that it’s sometimes tempting to ignore your own. You know deep down in the pit of your stomach how you feel about something, but it can be easy to brush that feeling aside. I’ve always known that music gives me a huge sense of freedom and creativity, and I’m grateful to the people who supported me when I needed to make my own decisions. These early lessons helped me to cultivate the sense of independence I needed when I took my first steps on to the professional concert stage 20 years ago. They gave me the confidence and courage to travel around the world as a teenager, performing Sibelius in Singapore at 16 and recording my first concerto disc a year later in Tasmania.
Right now, I’m in awe of those working on the front line to keep us safe. My sister is an NHS hospital doctor and my grandmother has been working as a neurologist in Poland. Both have told me how they’ve been helped by the way artists continue to reach out online. On my first concert trip to Finland many years ago, I came across the word sisu. It’s a concept that encompasses strength of will, determination, resilience and the ability to act rationally in adversity. This resonates with me now more than ever, as we find new ways to bring light into people’s lives through music.