Student Feature - Learning about Music with Julia

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Julia, I am a Belgian-Italian Year 13 student at Park House English School in Doha, Qatar.

Could you tell us how and why your passion for music started?

When I was about three or four years old, my parents took me to a piano lesson and I vaguely remember thinking that the piano wasn’t for me. However, I must have been intrigued by the prospect of playing a musical instrument, so I tried my luck with a violin lesson. Considering I have been playing the violin for the last 14 years, it’s safe to say that my first lesson fuelled the spark. This love for music then developed when I started taking my music education more seriously and listened to more recordings by great musicians of the past and present.

It may sound cliché, but what music can make one feel truly cannot be described with words. Music allows us as listeners and performers to transcend our ordinary reality and transports us to this place where we can feel so much at once – it’s hard to define. As such, the ability to express myself through the violin is something I will never take for granted.

Has music opened up any new experiences or exciting opportunities?

When the Qatar Music Academy opened its doors here in Doha, I enrolled and hence had the opportunity to take more advanced violin lessons and join music theory classes and ensemble groups. After two years of being part of a string ensemble, I became the Concertmaster of the Qatar Youth Orchestra. Through this position, I have been able to take part in many performances, notably playing in projects alongside the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra both as a soloist and orchestral musician. These performances have given me an insight into the ‘behind the scenes’ of a performance as well as what the life of a professional musician may be like. I have also had the pleasure to play for a few British Royals (cue ‘The Crown’ on Netflix), namely Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

These experiences, along with many others, have really allowed me to develop my musical identity and grow as a person.

What skills have you learnt from being a musician?

I would say that one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt from being a musician is that behind every glittering performance, successful audition or competition, there is always a much harder, often harsher reality. And this applies to all areas of life; winning a sports tournament, scoring well in an exam and taking part in a drama performance are only a few examples. It is usually discipline rather than motivation that carries us through these difficult patches of hard work. Music has taught me that the only way to achieve a result that we are satisfied with is through pure grit, having razor-sharp focus and a strong sense of discipline and determination. I apply this work ethic to my academics and head girl role at school too, allowing me to always strive for my best.

Another skill music has taught me is to be more reflective and observant. Often when I listen to music or perform, I like to ask myself questions such as: What do I like about this music? How does this music make me feel? What is special about this interpretation?

I try to keep this open, inquisitive and reflective mindset when I read books, watch movies or do other seemingly ‘ordinary’ tasks like engaging in a conversation as I feel it adds so much value to various aspects of my life.

Who is your favourite classical musician and why?

I love this question. Maybe that’s why I cannot choose just one; it’s impossible! My first childhood idol was Itzhak Perlman. His sound and tone are like liquid gold and his ability to make any piece look so easy when it is actually incredibly difficult, both technically and musically, is astounding!

I am a great admirer of the musicians of the past and specifically the ‘old school’ (arguably ‘golden age’) violinists including Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrakh and Yehudi Menuhin as they have paved the way for violin playing as we know it today. That being said, there are so many musicians of this day and age who don’t cease to blow me away and each one of them is admirable in their own way. Hilary Hahn, Janine Jansen, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Maxim Vengerov and the very young Daniel Lozakovich are some of my current favorites. Each one brings something special to the table and turning to their music in difficult times such as these always feels like a gift! I also appreciate how many musicians of the younger generation are championing classical music through social media to allow it to become more accessible to everyone!

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

My dream for the future would be to take care of my physical and mental health whilst being able to sustain a sustainable career. It’s no secret that a profession in the music ‘world’ is highly taxing on all aspects of one’s life, which is why I value health so much! In terms of my dreams, I would love to study at a conservatoire and one day become an orchestral musician. Making music with others gives me goosebumps! Additionally, I would love to have a small class of students to teach as I believe the passing on of knowledge is such a gift!

What advice would you give to any aspiring professional musician?

I’m not sure if I am the right person to be giving this advice as I am an aspiring professional musician myself! That being said, I would recommend any young musician to practice consistently and methodically. It’s not necessarily about how long one practices because the importance lies in ‘how’ you practice. Find a routine that allows you to build good habits. Also, try not to take critiques from your instrumental teachers too personally. I know it’s hard, but if a teacher is giving you a correction or some advice, it’s because they care about you and want to see you develop! Lastly, but certainly not least, never forget why you started. Always make sure that a deep love and passion for music drives all the work that you do!