FIVA pitch...

By Nicole Wilson  -  09 August 2020

After interviewing Rodney Friend for a Musical Orbit webinar earlier this year, he spoke to me of his sadness that traditional music courses could not go ahead this Covid-ravaged summer. Rodney is a true force of nature in the orchestral world. Past concertmaster of the London and New York Philharmonic orchestras as well as the BBC Symphony, he has been uniquely placed geographically and temporally to work with some of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century. 

From Bernstein, Boulez and Baremboim to Perlman, Zukerman and Du Pre, Rodney’s powerful yet warm personality has seen him become not just a respected colleague but a close personal friend of these great musicians.

From his concertmaster seat he has has a close up view like no other of the hands of the greatest violinists and over decades of analysing violin playing and all its intricacies and anomalies, he has developed an all encompassing knowledge of violin technique. Whether it’s through his two volumes on Orchestral Excerpts, guiding students through the treacherous waters of orchestral excerpts or his acclaimed book on left hand position ‘The Violin in Fifths’, Rodney is a generous musician, keen to share his experiences and his love of the violin and the repertoire.

So when we decided to use this global lockdown situation to bring the next generation of fiddlers together for the first ever Friends International Violin Academy online course, Rodney’s faculty wish-list of world class soloists, jury members and internationally renowned pedagogues, who count Rodney as a close friend, was eye watering. He spent a while whittling it down as there were so many he wanted to bring to work with us but in the end he settled on 7 faculty members working daily with the students in groups of 5/6 and 3 guest artists and 4 of the daily faculty ‘dropping in’ for masterclasses and Q and A sessions each day.

Dealing with timezones of students and faculty proved challenging and did involve a few early rises for the Americans and a few late nighters for those in Asia but generally it worked! Totalling over 170 hours of tuition throughout the week, each day a group would work for 3 hours with a different faculty member, everyone performing for at least half an hour of each session  whilst also learning from the other students’s lessons in their group.

‘To get the opportunity to play to such great violinists like Augustin Hadelich and Pinchas Zukerman is a dream come true’ one young violinist said. ‘It has been and eye opening and inspirational experience unlike anything I've had before.’ For the students to be able to pick the brains of a faculty of this calibre is a once in a lifetime opportunity but it was also a lifeline during this global lockdown ‘It felt great to play to an audience for the first time since lockdown’ explains Harry Kneeshaw, student at the Royal Academy of Music in London. ‘The professors kindness, generosity and love of teaching has inspired me to continue to love playing the violin.’

For every person who said ‘what a shame it can’t be in person’, there was another who would be incredibly excited that they could afford to come on a course with such a faculty. The on location equivalent would cost them air fares and accommodation on top of fees which for many would have been insurmountable. From a student stuck in a dormitory in quarantine to a mum with an auto immune disease who battles to get up every day but could join us because it involved no travelling, this course reached out to extremely talented violinists all over the world and gave them an opportunity to learn, perform and make new friends who share the same crazy love of this little wooden box…

Sign up for information on further FIVA courses here

About Nicole Wilson

Principal freelance violinist in London, ex London Symphony Orchestra and English National Opera, Nicole is also a CD producer, TV/Radio presenter and founder of Musical Orbit.

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