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Interview with Laura Van Der Heijden

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1. Did you grow up in a musical household?

My dad is very musical and plays the cello for fun- we have always had music on at home, classical and other genres too.

2. Could you tell us about your early cello training? What was it about this particular instrument that drew you to it?

I started learning the cello when I was 6, and was lucky enough to begin with a great cello teacher (Marina Logie) who lives 5 minutes walk away from us. I now think that the cello suits me, but at the beginning I just enjoyed it without much thought!

3. You achieved Grade 8 in both cello and piano by the age of 10 – can you remember what it was like juggling practice, school, and friends?

It wasn’t always easy, sometimes I wanted to be ‘normal’ like everyone else and to go to school full time, but whenever I could enjoy music with other people, I realised that all the sacrifices were worth it, and of course now looking back, I’m very glad that I spent my time the way I did.

4. One of your most notable achievements so far was winning the BBC Young Musician competition – what was that experience like and how did it feel to win?

During the whole competition I felt very motivated to improve my cello playing, I think competitions always add an extra ‘kick’. I really enjoyed meeting other young musicians and sharing thoughts about our lives and the BBCYM production team were lovely too! Winning was quite a shock, but of course, very exciting - since then I have had many wonderful experiences!

5. What are some of your performance highlights? Are there any memorable moments that stand out for you?

It’s very hard to name one highlight- a performance can be memorable in so many ways. There have been stunning venues, very kind and generous hosts, fun audiences, and fantastic musicians on many occasions, and sometimes even all of them together!

6. What can the Tewkesbury audience expect from your performance?

I would hope that the audience in Tewkesbury will have fun during my performance and that they will enjoy the programme as much as I do!

7. Do you have any pre-show rituals?

I like to take a short nap about half an hour before the concert, eat a banana, warm up on the cello and chant an ancient Inca proverb backwards 50 times just before I walk on. You can guess which one of those aren’t true..

8. As a young musician who has already achieved so much, do you think music, and learning an instrument from a young age, is important?

Absolutely. I think I won’t be able to list all of the benefits here but I will try:
Confidence boost
Learning how to learn step by step
Teamwork in chamber music/orchestra/choir
Having a whole world of colour and emotion literally at your fingertips
Being able to communicate and play with other people with whom you may not share a common language
Learning about different cultures through national musical styles
Connecting progress in the history of music with developments in politics, science, philosophy, technology, maths etc.
Knowing that you have something that will always be there when you need it: music.

9. What do you enjoy doing when not practising? How do you manage your time?

I love going for walks with my dog, talking to friends, listening to music (any genre), reading, watching movies, doing homework (not something I particularly enjoy but I do it anyway..), cooking and most other things that 17-year-olds enjoy doing! Time management is always tricky. I like making a plan of the day in the morning. That way I can make sure to get the most out of my day - although I always plan too much on purpose, because I know that I will manage to procrastinate enough to only complete about 60% of what I had originally planned.

10. Who are your musical inspirations/heroes?

I think that every musician can be inspiring in some way. I love listening to singers like Fritz Wunderlich, Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, Maria Callas and Dietrich Fischer-Diskau. As for instrumentalists my teacher Leonid Gorokhov is a great inspiriation, and so are Jascha Heifetz, Daniil Shafran and Yehudi Menuhin, only to name a few.

11. Could you tell us something about yourself that may surprise people?

I have 12 toes.

12. Is there anywhere you haven’t yet performed and would like to?

There are many places I haven’t performed yet but would like to! I would love to play abroad more, and I’d like to play in the Barbican.

13. What’s the best advice you’ve been given about performing?

I have been given lots of great advice about performing, mainly about how to deal with nerves. One very helpful point (and even though it may seem obvious, it is easy to forget) is that people come to concerts to enjoy themselves, not to judge and criticise, so why not just enjoy yourself too?

14. What would you say to encourage budding musicians who are striving for similar success to your own?

Support and organisation are very important, a good teacher is also vital, but most importantly you have to love what you do. It is not the easiest career choice, but I consider it to be soul nourishing and one of the most exhilarating and interesting worlds to be a part of.

Laura performs here on Friday 30 January and tickets can be purchased by calling our box office on 01684 295074 or online here.

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