“When something resonates perfectly it creates bigger vibrations which I use to
help me play in tune.”
Tell us about your journey into playing the violin.... what was your first touch point with music?
"I remember being sat with my Grandma watching the New Year’s Day Concert and her saying to me “Look at those violinists, how amazing would it be to be sat there playing?” At that moment I decided that that’s what I was going to be. It took my mum a couple of months to understand that a ‘linny’ (this was how I use to say violin) was actually a violin. At my next ENT appointment my mum asked my consultant if it was possible that I would be able to learn how to play the violin, he advised that whilst it wouldn’t be easy it may help me better understand pitch and volume control. A few weeks later, after numerous school meetings, my parents bought me a violin, I began learning in school and I haven’t stopped playing since."
Stringed instruments work in a very different way to other instrument families, and we’re fascinated to know a little more about how you use your violin to your advantage. Can you talk us through the way the physics of the instrument help you?
"Stringed instruments are, generally speaking, all made of wood. Different types of wood have a stronger resonance and different instruments resonate better than others. Whenever I try out various violins or violas, I am naturally drawn to those that vibrate better on both my collar bone and against my neck. This is not something that I was taught or even truly understood until much later on in my musical career yet for some reason I have always been conscious about, even from a very young age."
At what point did you discover this?
"As I progressed through the exam system and naturally needed a better quality violin I became more and more aware of just how much I rely on vibrations. I didn’t even realise that my head sits incorrectly on the chin rest (at an angle so that my neck can be as fully pressed against the violin as physically possible, especially the end of my jaw) until I began learning at Chetham’s School of Music. When my specialist tutor pointed it out to me I didn’t understand why this was incorrect. It was only as my career progressed that I realised just how much I rely on the vibrations in order to better understand the sound I produce and to help with intonation."
Where can people find out more about using the violin in this way?
"Unfortunately, there is very little information available discussing this topic. It’s not a well-known nor discussed technique, in fact if anything it’s not even a technique it’s simply the way that I and, to my understanding, other hearing impaired stringed players navigate their instrument to their advantage. During lockdown I was fortunate to have some mentoring from the organisation Music and the Deaf. From their experience scientifically speaking this technique does not actually enable hearing impaired string players to hear better, in fact it’s scientifically not possible. From their understanding what we deem as using to vibrations to hear better is in fact us having learnt the perfect resonance / vibration for the intonation of each note. When something resonates perfectly it creates bigger vibrations which I use to help me play in tune."
What are you working on at the moment in preparation for a return to the stage?
"A year of Covid restrictions has been very hard on many industries but particularly for freelance musicians. In order to financially survive the many lockdowns, and therefore lack of performance opportunities, I have had to take a job working in retail. Whilst I am itching to get back to my old, normal life, things are not currently stable enough to solely focus on my musical practice and work. To ensure that I am ready to perform again as soon as the opportunity arises I find time for daily practice. This normally entails some scales, technique work and some unaccompanied Bach in order to keep things ticking over and keep the positivity and passion for playing a top priority."
Tell us what you’re looking forward to most, musically, about the coming year?
"I look forward to 2021 as a hopefully ‘more normal’ year. I’m so excited at the prospect of live music making with other musicians and in particular return to rehearsals and performance with the BSO Resound family, which has not been possible since the lockdowns began back in March 2020. When performing with colleagues there is nothing quite like it and I can’t quite put into words how much I have missed performance interaction."
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