Nicola Benedetti seems to be living a charmed life. At 25 she is gorgeous, has an exciting international performance career and an album -- 2012's release The Silver Violin -- that's topped classical and pop charts. If she weren't so down to earth and passionate, we'd really like to hate her. Alas, she's both.
"I know it seems like something everyone says," remarks Benedetti humbly, "but I really am very grateful everyday to have this life."
The life in question is an earned one. Benedetti loves playing the violin, but she draws a very clear connection between work invested and pleasure received. "It's a deeper level of enjoyment," she says. Without a tireless amount of hours logged, there'd be no depth in her 20 year love affair with wood and strings.
Off stage, Benedetti uses her talent to help others discover this same kind of joy by working with Sistema Scotland, a charity organization back home that seeks to promote music education in schools. She wants kids to understand that mastering an instrument requires much more than 20 minutes here or there. It's in the delving, the daily connection and the continued effort spent that eventually matures to a musical education. There's no room for slacking in the competitive world of classical music.
I know, we're bummed too.
An unconventional success tale, Nicola didn't grow up in a family of musicians like so many others who tour at her level: her parents are an Italian businessman and a Scottish stay-at-home mom. In fact, if her older sister hadn't seen a violinist perform two decades ago and begged their mother for lessons, Nicola might never have discovered her life's mission.
The sisters studied together and blossomed into professional musicians, but fortuitously diverged in their chosen style of performance. "Luckily my sister doesn't like to perform as a soloist," says Nicola. Because of that, sibling rivalry for work has never dirtied their relationship.
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Unlike her sister, Nicola embraces the spotlight and is energized by it. And while she appreciates the diversity her career affords her - playing in ensembles, working to support music education, and recording albums - it's when she's soloing in front of an orchestra that she feels most alive.
The thought of that pressure is enough to make most humans buckle, but not this violinist. Hours of preparation, practice, and hundreds of performances have mostly eliminated that response, she says. But occasionally, the do creep in. "You never know when you'll be surprised by nerves," warns Benedetti.
And that's okay, she says excitedly. In fact, she wouldn't have it any other way. It's precisely those unexpected elements of live performance, complete with potential foibles, that make this charmed life of hers feel so thrilling.
You can hear Nicola Benedetti do what she does best this weekend with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. She'll be performing Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto tonight, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Meyerson Symphony Center.