The Latvian violinist recalls growing up in a musical family, and stresses the importance of hard work


Baiba Skride © Marco Borggreve

My first teacher, Ludmila Girska, was an amazingly constructive person. She was strict, but in a calm way – I always knew exactly what she wanted from me. A large part of my development, from the ages of 5 to 14, was spent under her tuition, so she also became an important part of my life generally. I talked with her a lot and she never treated me like a child. Instead I was encouraged to reveal my own personality, in both my playing and my life. A certain rigour has always been part of my relationship with music, not least because of my parents. My father, a violinist turned choir conductor, and my mother, a pianist, taught me never to be satisfied with my performance, and always to work harder. Thankfully, this attitude was balanced out by my later teacher, Petru Munteanu, who stressed the importance of accepting when I played well!

I had a lot of stage experience from a very young age. I travelled extensively with my parents and sisters from the age of four, first as a singing trio and then playing our respective instruments. This taught me the importance of respect and kindness when playing with others. I was also given a lot of advice on how to perform as a soloist. Whether it was how to play quietly in large halls or to have a strong stage presence, I was always given small pieces of advice that one simply has to know to be a soloist. Expectations of you are very high in this career, and you often have to hide your feelings. But they can catch up with you and you need to deal with them as soon as you can. It is important not to be too affected by those around you, and only to have a few people that you trust to support and help you when needed.

Trying to leave the Soviet Union to get more musical experience was among my and my family’s main obstacles. We had such a deep desire to see other parts of the world. I remember taking a train for three days at the age of six just to play in a competition in Bulgaria. It seems crazy now, but at the time it was so normal! Having learnt from these experiences, I would now tell young musicians never to skip steps in their development. I see more and more young musicians posting their lives on social media, sometimes forgetting the value of hard work. You must always keep proving and improving yourself. This goes for every type of musician, including orchestral musicians, who are often seen as lesser than others – which is not at all true. More training should be given for students to be content in an orchestral career. A love of quality at every level should never be lost!


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