indian violinist charts his journey
by Gavin Fernandes
It Is hard to believe that I am about to graduate from the London College of Music at the University ofWest London.
If you had asked me at age nine, being a typical Mumbai boy, I would have said I was destined for maths or science. After all, my father was a professor of both subjects. But at 10, I was given a small violin and I came alive. Even so, the violin played second fiddle to my academic subjects. Let’s face it, Indians are taught from an early age that medicine, law and engineering are the preferred professions and certainly not classical music.
I loved western classical music partly because my father would borrow CDs from the British Council Library in Mumbai and I would listen avidly. The violin was an easy choice for me. It’s the nearest thing to a human voice, with the ability for raw emotion to cut through the white noise of everyday life. Soon I was playing for my local Ro- man Catholic church and anywhere else I was invited. I wasn’t sure that music was going to be my career so my parents held off from buying a full-size
instrument, but the Bombay Chamber Orchestra loaned me one.
But that was all to change when I was 12.TheWorld Philharmonic Orche stra of France (WPOF) were trawling the globe for musical talent. I thought it would be nice to have a go in the worldwide competition. No pressure. I simply went to play for fun. If I were chosen, great. If not, at least I would never have any regrets. Five places from across the world were up for grabs. It meant I would have a scholarship to study music.
Fate was kind to me and I was one of the lucky ones to be chosen. I was shocked. Not in a million years did I expect to be picked. It meant that rather than practising for 30 minutes a day, I would now have to play for hours and hours. I make it sound like a chore but nothing could be further from the truth. Every time I played, I was transported to another world. I still am.
I soon realised that if I wanted to compete with western musicians, I would have to leave India. Luckily for me, the WPOF agreed and at 14, I came on my own to Britain. The Hammond School in Chester, in the north of England, is a specialist boarding school. I found the first few weeks lonely and daunting but music really helped me settle in and very soon I was playing for orchestras, including the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Imagine, I played in the same place as my idol, Sir Simon Rattle.
Soon it was time to choose a university. The place to go was London which has some renowned music conservatoires and academies. But once I got to the University of West London I knew the London College of Music (LCM)
was for me. It was everything about the place. The music technology course. The inspirational tutors. The diversity of music. The wealth of talent from all over the world, all under one roof. The facilities. The different genres of music. No matter what you wanted to do mu- sically, the tutors made it happen.
I’m now 22 and I can’t believe that time has flown by so quickly. I’ve loved the LCM so much that, all being well, I’ll be coming back to study for a master’s degree in music.
I realise how privileged I am because I believe musicians make a difference. Lastyear,forexample,Iworkedwiththose with dementia. As we improvised, I could see the visible difference music made to their lives in that moment.
I recently won the prestigious Silver Medal from the Worshipful Company of Musicians. In the next few months, I’m hoping to conduct the world premiere of a ballet at the Bucharest Opera House, which it commissioned me to compose. I can’t wait to play in the Romanian capital.
People comment that I’m often the only ethnic minority person in the orchestra. I really haven’t noticed. The music is all important, all-encompass
I’m asked if, being in a predominantly white profession, I’ve faced racism. I can say with all honesty that musicians are simply interested in talent. If you can play, compose or conduct at the highest level, then your peers respect you. So no matter your race, skin colour or religion, throw away your apprehensions and follow your passions and dreams. Let nothing stand in your way.
Apart from conducting a world-fa
mous orchestra, my dream is one day to start my own foundation where music brings peace and harmony to humanity. To quote a great literary classicist – if music be the food of love, play on.
Gavin Fernandes is a final-year
stu- dent doing a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance with Music Technology at the London College of Music at the University of West London. He graduates in July.
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