Tell us a little about your professional life since leaving the Academy.
After leaving the Academy, I became Principal First Violin with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. I then went on to a year-and-a-half contract with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra as their Associate Concertmaster. This led me to move to Scotland, where I spent time freelancing with a variety of orchestras and smaller ensembles across Europe, using Edinburgh as my base. I now find myself happily in Glasgow with a job share as Associate Leader of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, which I balance with a position as Leader of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra – I love the UK and Norway, so I feel fortunate to call both home! I also try to make sure I am still maintaining some chamber music and solo work outside of these engagements.
What has been the immediate result of the Coronavirus crisis on your working life?
Like most of my colleagues, all of my work for the foreseeable future has been cancelled. This means I don’t know when I will next work and I will be staying at home until things become clearer. I am very happy that I can still teach my pupils online.
Do you think there will be lasting change in the music world? If so, what changes do you foresee?
I think we must expect things to be quite different in the future. I don’t think it will be possible to revert back to our previous existence after such a shock to the entire world, and the financial repercussions that we are already starting to see will be quite scary for those of us in the arts. However, despite this, I remain optimistic that we will come through this with some positive changes. Firstly, as an industry we have never had to be so creative outside of the rehearsal rooms we are used to sharing. It had been on the horizon for a while that we needed to push things more into the modern world of technology and access a wider audience – and out of no choice of our own, we are all now doing this more. I have never seen my colleagues be so open-minded and inventive with their creative output! When we are all on the other side of this, we will need these new skills to keep our industry thriving, especially as I expect the financial situation to hit us quite directly. Although I want this surreal and difficult time to be over, I think developing in a creative and communicative way has been something that has needed to happen in this industry for a long time.
Are you managing to remain positive in this time, when many of your usual work outlets have disappeared overnight? If so, how?
After an initial period of frantic activity in the belief that I must ‘use this time wisely’, I am now coming to the realisation that productivity can mean many things. As most of us have trained ruthlessly at our vocations since before we can remember, it’s easy to feel a sense of guilt at not working or practising. I believe this time can be productive in many different areas of our lives. Although I am enjoying focused and grounded practice on my instrument, trying to come back to myself as a violinist and not as someone churning out an excess of notes every month, I also don’t want to guilt trip myself if, on a given day, I feel like baking and cuddling my cat instead. I am starting to find a fulfilling balance between meaningful violin practice and work on other things. For me, this has meant a lot of baking (sourdough!), running, learning Norwegian and spending time with my husband. After years of dashing around, I’m starting to see that spending time on all of these things is actually more productive than feeling quite exhausted. However, in a purely musical sense, I have written some goals for music I want to learn and how I would like to use this time on the violin. It has helped me to structure the way that I could develop my playing and is a daily motivation to get further along in these goals. I have also been approaching project ideas that I’ve had at the back of my mind for a while and am challenging myself to plan and articulate these so that post Coronavirus I can make them a reality.
Do you have any advice to current students and recent alumni for getting through this indefinite period of isolation?
My advice would be to trust your instincts. The current situation is so far from anything we could have imagined, and has the potential to cause deep emotional turmoil, so the idea of being continually productive and fruitful is not a reality. As soon as the pressure of ‘I should be doing…’ is lifted, I believe natural productivity will be able to grow. In the short term, write down some pieces you want to learn and concert ideas for the future. Then, each day, take steps towards doing some of these things. Write down aspects of your playing you want to improve – just acknowledging them will start your journey. Get down on paper any little creative concepts you have and see how they grow organically. Don’t pressurise yourself to blitz through all the Paganini Caprices (unless you really have a burning desire!) but take each day as it comes and remain honest to your feelings.
When I was a student at the Academy, I had a huge amount of drive to start working as soon as I could. Although I am glad to have had so many professional experiences so quickly, in hindsight I feel I could have enjoyed the time alone with my instrument much more. It is good for us to remember to breathe and take our minds out of the race, because in the end we will be much more developed artists if we take care of all aspects of ourselves.