How did you get into working in popular music?

In 2013, when I finished at the Academy, I went to New York and that’s where I met a fixer. She needed a violinist for a TV programme to play with Elvis Costello and the Roots and I agreed (even though I no idea what the TV show was!). That was my first experience with pop music and TV. I worked with that fixer for a while – it’s a small circle there so I got to know some people and they started to call me for other things. A lot of people ask me if I have an agent or management, but I don’t – it’s all through word of mouth and a network of people.

What are the differences and similarities between working in classical and popular music?

In certain ways they are very similar. I always apply what I learnt in school, particularly being professional and on time, which is something you really learn as a classical music student! Some situations in pop music can be very stressful and it’s important to be patient – I think my classical training really helped with that. Playing-wise, however, it’s pretty different and I had to learn a lot. Working on Broadway musicals helped me with the rhythms and certain technical elements. At the beginning, performing with in-ears was very tricky because I wasn’t used to it and I’m so used to listening to things with my own ears, but it’s becoming easier the more I do it. Also working with mics and knowing how to place them was something new. I had to just learn on the job by watching other people and taking note of what they were doing. I had to learn quickly!

What have been some of your career highlights and favourite people you’ve worked with?

Playing with Stevie Wonder on his Songs in the Key of Life tour was definitely a highlight. I did all the East Coast tour dates, which was a few dates over two years. He’s such a musician and so inspiring – it was just beautiful. That was only two years after I came back to New York, so it was huge for me.

Another highlight was playing at the Grammys in New York two years ago. It was crazy – I was playing with Kesha and it was one of the big performances of the night. I never thought I’d perform at the Grammys and this was a just string quartet, not even a big orchestra.

Finally, I would say this tour! Everything I do in New York is a one-day gig or a one-off, but this has been seven months. We started in July last year and the tour runs until March 2020.

Tell us more about working with Madonna. What has the tour been like so far?

Working with Madonna has been really incredible. It feels normal now, but sometimes I have to pinch myself! Rehearsing for the tour was so much work. We were rehearsing for 15-16 hours a day and I got very little sleep. Working with the choreographers and dancers meant there was a lot of waiting time, so I learnt to be very patient. They were shaping things day by day, whereas the musicians could practise every day with the band, so we were a little ahead. It was hard but a very good learning process for me. When I’m on stage I have to be in costume and have my hair done which has been really fun. I’m used to wearing all black and sitting with the music as a sideline musician, but on this tour, we have to memorise everything and even the cellist is standing the entire time in costume.

Where else have you travelled on this tour?

For this tour Madonna is doing residencies, so we stayed in New York for three months and then we went to Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, LA, Philadelphia and Miami. Then we left the USA and spent three weeks in Lisbon, now London for three weeks and then finishing in Paris.

When the tour ends in March, what’s next for you?

I’m going back to my teaching – I have a studio of about 20 students, and they are definitely missing me! It was their recital yesterday and they sent me videos. More freelancing too, of course, though it’s hard to know exactly what’s going to happen there because I often find out about things very last minute. Also, more fixing work. I really like doing that – it gives me the opportunity to do something different! I love it. Being a violinist, I like hiring string players because I work with all of them so I know how they play, how they are on the job and also, if they can they be serious and reliable.

What advice would you give to graduating students or new alumni?

Don’t be afraid to network – to go out, get to know people and learn from them. With social media it’s so much easier to ask questions. For example, if you can see that someone went to the Academy and is doing something you are interested in, you can contact them and ask their advice – that’s great!

Another thing I’ve learned is to keep your personal life divided from work. At work always treat everybody nicely, be on time and keep practising. Know where to draw the line – a colleague is a colleague and a friend is a friend.

Finally, learn how to write professional emails. That’s very important!