After starting to learn to play the violin with Suzuki, I went to Saturday music school at the Junior Guildhall School of Music and Drama when I was 7 years old. My parents would drive me to the City of London to the Barbican every Saturday for nearly 11 years. The Guildhall School is right next door to the Barbican concert hall; on the lakeside of the school opposite the Guildhall is City of London School for Girls, which I ended up at when I switched schools at 16 for my A-Levels; I loved that school and had many brilliant experiences there.
At the Guildhall, I would learn the violin until I was about 12 with Pauline Scott; I informed her very seriously on our first meeting that I didn’t like to shift positions, but that I wanted to play the Mendelssohn violin concerto and so would learn to play it solely in first position. There were string orchestras to attend early on, then later, the symphony orchestra to play in. Theory classes, and chamber group coaching. Concerts to play in. Some old programmes of concerts my parents came to watch me playing in have been discovered recently at home, and most of them I don’t remember. However, there are strange things I do remember; the crispy bacon and cheese toasted sandwiches I used to buy for lunch at the cafeteria are totally etched into my brain!
There were many opportunities that came with studying at Junior Guildhall like going to concerts next door at the Barbican. I went with a group to see Ida Haendel play the Sibelius concerto, it’s one of the first live concerts I remember going to.
After going to university, I auditioned for postgraduate music colleges. I auditioned for both the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. I had been studying with a professor called Howard Davis whilst at university, and after getting places at both colleges, I went to the Academy to continue my studies with Howard.
The Academy is on Marylebone Road, backing onto Regents Park. I initially went there for 2 years, extending it in the middle of the second for a third, as I felt I had more to learn before venturing out to try to begin a professional career. In my third year, I also studied with Marianne Thorsen, leader of the Nash Ensemble, who was at the time also the violinist in the Leopold String Trio.
The Academy was an incredibly packed three years; some of the most exciting things I’ve done took place whilst I was a student there. I was a principal player for symphonic concerts such as Sibelius symphonies conducted by Sir Colin Davis, played the first violin solo part in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, and was, in my last year, Principal 2nd of the Royal Academy Soloists, directed by Clio Gould.
The Soloists are a string group made up of 13 players. We generally spent a week doing really detailed work on a string programme that we would then perform at the end of the week. I learnt a lot of the repertoire of string pieces that I came to know and love in those weeks. One of the most memorable was performing the Arnold Double Violin Concerto as part of a concert with them. The Soloists are a student version of the Scottish Ensemble with whom I went on to work with when I left the Academy.