One to Watch #1: Vanessa White
Hola and welcome to the first instalment of my One to Watch series. This will be a series of interviews with up-and coming creatives across a wide range of art forms, published on a bi-monthly basis. To kick off the series, I present to you an extremely skilled violinist and dear friend, Vanessa White. Vanessa is in her final year at the Royal Northern College of Music, and has a bright musical future ahead of her (not to mention an upcoming collaboration with yours truly)! Her blog, www.vanessatheviolinist.co.uk, inspired me to start this blog, so she seemed a fitting interviewee to start the the series with.
1. First of all, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? What first inspired you to take up the violin?
Both my parents are musicians: my mother is a pianist and my father a violinist. Unfortunately as a child I was pretty hopeless at the piano so the violin seemed to work for me a lot better! As a teenager I discovered just how exciting it was that you can do so many cool tricks on the violin and there’s so much amazing repertoire written for the instrument. There was so much to learn and the idea of being able to dedicate my life and career towards mastering the instrument was really exciting.
2. So you’re a student at the Royal Northern College of Music. When you’re not occupied with studying, what do you do in your spare time? Do you take on external projects, for example?
As a violin student, time is very limited! I spend many hours practicing on my own and rehearsing with ensembles in college. Of course, I do many projects externally including with some of my established chamber groups from college. My family run a music festival in the East Midlands, Great Bowden Music Fest where I am able to play chamber music with professional musicians including members of the Tonhalle Orchestra, Zürich as well as enjoy the company of many musicians from different countries. In my spare time, I really enjoy singing in St Ann’s Choir in Manchester, relaxing with friends, going on long walks, and of course spending time with my two dogs Carlotta and Mimi.
3. Being a performer requires a lot of self-directed practice. How do you keep your motivation up on the days when you just don’t feel like practicing?
That’s the biggest challenge for any performing musician! Every player has different strategies and it takes years to master a specific way to keep the motivation on a regular basis. Every individual is different.
Certain strategies that help me are keeping realistic goals on a daily basis, for example I set out exactly what repertoire I need to get through in one day and the minimum time I need to spend on each work. Once I start, my motivation tends to come up and I do a lot more than my plan earlier stated! It’s also important for me to not give myself the total number of hours that I need to practice. That feels as if you’ve climbed over a mountain to achieve it. Set yourself the lowest necessary number of hours and chances are that you will go over this quite substantially… and feel great for it!
4. Now we’ve talked about the hard graft, what’s your favourite aspect of being a performer?
I love being able to showcase my love for the instrument: the beautiful melodies in the music, but also what an amazing sound can come singing out of the violin. The freedom to go out on stage and make a piece of music your own is really thrilling!
I love performing chamber music in particular as it’s such a special experience to be able to go onto stage with fellow like-minded musicians that are also some of my closest friends, and work together to make a performance memorable. It’s very exciting to work as a team.
5. And what genre of music would you like to play more of, given the chance?
I really enjoy performing in a piano trio setting (violin, cello and piano). I have worked with two different piano trios and this combination really works for all instruments to communicate within the ensemble. I also love the repertoire that’s written for piano trios.
6. If you could only play the music of one composer for the rest of your life, who would it be and why?
That’s a hard one! But I must stick to the reason I decided to start playing the violin, which is when I heard the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. My goal at that time was to be able to play this concerto one day. The Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D minor and Mendelssohn’s Octet are also two of my favourite chamber music works.
7. Who would you say is your biggest inspiration, musically speaking?
I have two, in very different contexts! I love the violinist Jascha Heifetz. His sound is so unique and full of so much beauty that it’s hard to not be inspired by him. I also have to say that I am hugely inspired by my father. It’s so inspiring to watch him play, he never lets one note go without quality and conviction, and his absolute love for the instrument and the violin world has really inspired me. If one day I can play like him I would be the happiest violinist in the world!
8. And what advice would you give to aspiring performers?
Go follow your dreams. Work really hard, stay inspired and motivated, and if you feel any of this slightly slip go back to something that inspires you. For me it’s listening to a performance I did of the Mendelssohn Octet with a professional group when I was only seventeen. Never let anyone tell you you’re not good enough, and prove them wrong! Stay positive!
9. So what’s next for you, post-graduation?
I graduate from the Royal Northern College of Music this summer and am hoping to continue my violin career in Germany. I would love to have a varied career performing violin and chamber music recitals in different countries and play with an ensemble or a few in Germany. The more I can travel for my career the happier I will be.
I would also love to run my own music festival. I’ve loved working with my parents on the Great Bowden Music Fest, and to start another one that I can do myself would be really exciting.
10. And finally, where can we see/hear you next?
My next recital is on Thursday the 14th of
March 2019 in Loughborough, where I will be performing works by Grieg, Sarasate and Dvořák with pianist Radu Prisada. But if you would like to see my latest upcoming concerts, visit my website www.vanessatheviolinist.co.uk.