Every so often we pose 60 questions to a local or visiting artist in Toronto who has made our classical music community that much more interesting. They pick and choose. The minimum response is 20 answers. A kind of personality test, if you will.
Nicola Benedetti is one of the most sought-after violinists of her generation. Her ability to captivate audiences with her innate musicianship and dynamic presence, coupled with her wide appeal as a high-profile advocate for classical music, has made her one of the most influential classical artists of today.
Born in Scotland, Nicola began violin lessons at the age of five. In 1997, she entered the Yehudi Menuhin School, where she studied with Natasha Boyarskaya.
Nicola has received eight honorary degrees to date and records exclusively for Decca (Universal Music). The enormous success of Nicola’s most recent recording, Homecoming; A Scottish Fantasy, made Nicola the first solo British violinist since the 1990s to enter the Top 20 of the Official UK Albums Chart.
She plays the 1717 Gariel Stradivarius.
Name the musical equivalent to junk food
As with junk food, there’s too much of it around to narrow it down. It’s ubiquitous, sadly. And I don’t much care to know the names or details of any of it.
Default drink/cocktail of choice?
Beer post-concert, red wine with food, hot sake in Japanese restaurants, any cocktail with chili in it
Name your favourite concert hall/venue in Toronto
I’ve only played in the Roy Thomson Hall — a beautiful venue.
Your role models?
Anyone with absolute integrity. They are hard to find, especially combined with energy and leadership.
Your favourite sound?
I hear so much music, I look for silence
Your favourite smells?
The smell that comes with a lot of sun and warmth.
Your least favourite smells?
The historical personalities, both good and bad, that fascinate you the most?
Martin Luther King, Einstein, Beethoven
The dumbest thing that you’ve ever done to your hair?
A perm. Terrible idea
Your first three record store purchases
Maxin Vengerov, the Corrs, Jacqueline Du Pre’s Dvorak cello concerto
If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you?
The strangest place you’ve ever been to?
Oh, I wouldn’t like to offend any place. If I found it strange it’s probably just because I didn’t ‘get’ it. All a matter of perspective
The three books that you read that made an impact on you in your formative years?
Mandela ‘Walk to Freedom’, ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’, ‘Great Expectations’
Whose musical style do you covet?
Covet? I love and wish I could play jazz, but can’t and will never be able to.
Where was the last place you traveled to for work or pleasure?
I’m on a tour of 14 American cities — I’m currently going from LA to Utah
What is your biggest phobia?
Losing those I love the most, and my playing no longer improving.
Where did you go to school?
Scotland, then Yehudi Menuhin School — a music school south of London.
What did you major in as an undergraduate?
I left school at 15
The cliché that you overuse?
I’d have to check with a friend.
The strangest talent that you possess?
No strange talents at all. I’m really regular
Shoe of choice?
Chunky boots. I’m currently wearing Timberlands.
The different career path that you could have gone on?
Politics, activism, hopefully still something creative but certainly trying to make a difference to people’s lives.
Scottish Italian, as far as I know
Your three favourite films?
To Kill a Mocking Bird, Breaking the Waves, and more because I saw it many times as a teenager than because I think it’s great ‘Carlito’s Way’.
Television show that you could tolerate re-runs of?
Seinfeld. Love it!
Under what circumstances would you join the army?
I don’t see that ever happening but anything is possible
Your most regrettable purchase ever?
Most item’s of clothing I’ve bought without my mother or sister present. I’m not really a good shopper.
Your major character flaw?
Maybe oversensitivity, and I take things too seriously. I’m working on it though.
The character flaw in others that you can’t abide?
General meanness, lack of generosity
How do you know when you can trust someone?
You never know for sure. Trust doesn’t work that way – it’s an internal resolution. But people can make it easier or harder for you to trust them by being true to their word.
What was the luckiest moment in your life?
Picking up the violin, being born into a loving family. I’ve been blessed with a lot of luck and many lucky moments.
What are you the most proud of?
I’m most proud of developing as a musician, and maintaining kindness and developing an understanding of people.
What are you the least proud of?
If I ever show signs of jealousy or lack of generosity, I’m really disappointed in myself. I get disappointed not playing well, too. But I am human.
The biggest mistake you’ve ever made?
I’ve no idea. I’m not that impulsive
What is the best thing about your work?
Interfacing with great minds and souls (the composers) on a daily basis.
What is the worst thing about your work?
The irrational feeling of pressure that sometimes surfaces.
The talent that you wish you possessed?
What are you listening to as you answer these questions?
What musical instrument do you secretly long to play?
Cello and trumpet
If you had a motto, what would it be?
Be kind, look outside your own perspective with care, and work hard at whatever it is you like doing.
Have you ever fired a gun? If so, what were the circumstances?
Scariest situation you’ve ever been in?
Being followed. It was nothing though
The thing that makes you the happiest?
A great concert and being in love.
The thing that makes you the angriest?
Watching people choose the path to destruction instead of cooperation.
Three things of no monetary value that you own and will keep dearly until you die?
I can’t think of one thing actually.
Your first memory?
A birthday party, waking up in the garden with the sun in my eyes.
The first three things that you do every morning?
Coffee, another coffee, and another coffee